The Wall Street Journal
January 13, 2012
Last month I was running the Central Park loop when a runner wearing a U.S. Marine Corps shirt approached. I alerted the two boys in the jog stroller and my eldest, who met this world with a father in Iraq, shouted, “Semper fi!”
The man saw the emblem on my visor and said, “You hear about Doug Zembiec?” If most Americans have six degrees of separation, Marines have no more than two. I nodded and stopped my watch. But all he managed to say was, “That one hurt.” Then he plunged down the hill toward 72nd Street, cutting his own path against the flow.
I tried to make sense of it. Not the encounter but the sheer madness of the surroundings. Runners were chattering about school applications and subprime predictions. Yet most of them told pollsters that Iraq was the single largest anxiety in their lives. Like the majority of the nation, they were exhausted by a war in which they had no role. And they wanted out.
It was 65 degrees in August in Manhattan, about 65 degrees cooler than the temperature in Doug Zembiec’s helmet as he approached a Baghdad target house in 90 pounds of equipment. He and his team wanted to be remembered for how they lived and how they helped others live. Inside was a group that cared only how it died.