What We Owe Them
"The kid was scared this time," said his father, David Schiavoni, formerly of Haverhill and now of Ware. "He was burying his friends ... They were getting buried all around him."
He was due to return home in February.
The family plans to hold a funeral service in Haverhill when Schiavoni's body is returned, which should be in about 10 days, family members said. Funeral plans are still incomplete because the family does not know exactly when the military will return the body.
Schiavoni earned a Purple Heart on his first deployment last September when a bomb exploded near him and sent shrapnel into his elbow.
His father remembers his son smiling earlier this year and saying nonchalantly: "Hey, dad, I get free license plates for the rest of my life."
"I said, 'Yeah, but you put your life on the line for that,'" he said, breaking into tears. "The poor kid."
The article that describes Marine Lance Corporal Nickolas Schiavoni's life - and death - is simply titled: Fallen marine returned to Iraq 'for his country'.
Lance Corporal Schiavoni was afraid to go back, but he went back anyway. There is no shame in fear. The only shame lies in giving in to it. In the face of horror the reasonable man is right to be afraid. But the honorable man straightens his shoulders, stiffens his spine, and carries on. You see, there was a job that needed finishing. America gave her word, and there was once a time when that counted for something in this world.
Doing your duty isn't always easy. I don't know whether Lance Corporal Schiavoni was afraid all of the time, or only in the still of the night. Or perhaps, only when he held his children tight in his arms. It must have been hard saying goodbye that second time. So often, even when things turn out perfectly fine, we have premonitions of disaster. I hope he was able to enjoy some time at home with his family. He was owed something, for the brave service he gave us.
And he and his family, and the families of over 2000 American service men and women are owed better than what they have received at the hands of Representative John Murtha. They must find his lack of faith in them disturbing:
The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We can not continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
John Murtha is a former (and I do mean former) Marine reservist. It is oft said that there is no such thing as a former Marine. The Marine Corps may well wish to rethink that old adage. Mr. Murtha has heaped shame upon over 200 years of Marine Corps history with his defeatist diatribe and while I honor his Vietnam service, I deplore his sentiments with every last breath in my body.
John Murtha has introduced a bill in Congress calling for the immediate withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq. The significance of this act, by a former Marine, is almost impossible to overstate.
It is an absolution declaration of complete and unconditional surrender to al Qaeda.
It is an abandonment of the Iraqi Kurds, an ethnic minority who were brutally slaughtered by Saddam Hussein and will almost certainly be targeted in the ensuing violent breakup of Iraq.
It is a betrayal of the coalition nations who bravely stood with us when no one else was willing. Never again will we be able to ask nations such as Britain, Poland, and Australia to stand with us. Why should they? We cannot be trusted.
It is an admission that we lack the political will to see our foreign policy objectives through, and the end of the US as a global superpower.
It is the final act of Mogadishu.
And perhaps most gratifyingly, Senate Democrats will finally be able to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that BUSH LIED when he said he would bring democracy to the Middle East. Because he didn't bring democracy. And so very, very many people died to make that happen. Those people: they died for a dream America once believed in: the belief that people have the right to determine their own destinies by peaceable means. The belief that democratic, representative government is the way of the future: that it can work for everyone - not just white Anglo-saxon Protestants of European descent. People of all faiths, colors, nations, and political beliefs died to make that dream a reality.
People like Lance Corporal Nickolas Schiavoni, United States Marine Corps, who went back to Iraq, and served bravely, and ultimately died for his country.
Corporal Jason Dunham, United States Marine Corps:
Lance Cpl. Dean told those assembled about a trip to Las Vegas the two men and Becky Jo Dean had taken in January, not long before the battalion left for the Persian Gulf. Chatting in a hotel room, the corporal told his friends he was planning to extend his enlistment and stay in Iraq for the battalion's entire tour. "You're crazy for extending," Lance Cpl. Dean recalls saying. "Why?"
He says Cpl. Dunham responded: "I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive. I want to be sure you go home to your wife alive."
Sergeant Rafael Peralta, United States Marine Corps
"I was just doing my homework and there was a knock on the door," said Ricardo Peralta, 14. "The moment I saw them, I knew."
In his letter to Ricardo, Rafael said he was doing something he had always wanted to do. He asked Ricardo to be proud of him because the Marines were making history in Iraq.
And Corporal Jeffrey Starr, United States Marine Corps:
"Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
These men will flank you when you make that long, final march on the Judgement Day, sir. Perhaps you will be able to explain to them why they paid the ultimate price for a country that does not honor its promises? A nation that no longer believes those fancy words about democracy and freedom are worth the paper they are written on?
Because for the life of me, sir, I cannot. I should be ashamed, even to try.