Monday, March 24, 2008

Of four thousand: one

The American death toll in Iraq is likely to pass 4000 soldiers in the next week. (Associated Press already estimates 4000 fatalities, including civilian employees.) It is sometimes easy to forget that these statistics are more than just numbers, easy to forget that each of those numbers represents a person, easy to lose sight of the individual lives lost and the grief of the families and friends who knew these individuals not as statistics, but as living, breathing people. After five years of war and so many deaths it is easy to tune out the individual sacrifice until something reminds us.


One

Steven Freund of Pittsburgh, twenty. Dead.
Another of the names and faces
that hover silently, briefly, daily, after the news.
Of two thousand four hundred fifty-five,
his name stands out.
Pittsburgh. I once lived there.
He was born while I studied for my dissertation.
He was three when I moved away.
Did he play army in the sandbox then?
When his parents looked to his future,
did they see him going to the desert to war,
could they have found Iraq on a map?
Steven Freund, twenty, of Pittsburgh.
His name is German for “friend.”
He dropped out of high school,
got a G.E.D.,
hoped the Marine Corps
would straighten him out
and pay for college.
Two thousand four hundred fifty-four
before him crossed my TV screen.
I notice one.
Steven Freund of Pittsburgh.
Twenty.
Dead.

&&