Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Map

Today's Palm Beach Post has a map, providing a geographic depiction of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. The map consists of an outline of the 48 contiguous states, with colored circles depicting the number of dead from each city or town. Readers can zoom in on specific locations, allowing them to access the names of dead service members from those municipalities.

At first, the number of circles seems surprising, even shocking--and that is clearly the intended effect. The Post is a predictably liberal outlet, and the map seems designed to reinforce the notion that many military members have died (needlessly) in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But take a look at the map's legend. The red circles (indicating the greatest number of casualties) represent areas that have had up to 29 service members killed since October 2001. While those circles represent unspeakable tragedies for the families of the dead, they also reflect casualty totals that have been surprisingly low, thanks to improved tactics, advancements in protective gear, and quick access to life-saving medical care. I wonder if the Post would publish a similar map for World War II, Korea or Vietnam, which collectively killed more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel.

I can only imagine what the WWII map would look like. What sort of circle would be used to represent the casualties from Company A, 116th Infantry Regiment of the Virginia Army National Guard? The 116th was one of the first American regiments to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Of the 170 soldiers in the first assault wave, 91 died on D-Day; 21 of the dead were from the small town of Beford, Va (population 3,200), home of Alpha Company. It was the highest per-capita loss of any American community during World War II; nineteen of Bedford's soldiers died within 15 minutes of hitting the beach.

As the nation celebrates its birthday, it is appropriate to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in defense of our freedom. But a sensationalized map in a liberal rag does nothing to honor those fallen heroes.

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