Monday, December 26, 2011

The Year in Review: Wounds

One assignment this year stood out as the saddest moment of the year to cover behind the camera.  Under a cloudy November sky the name of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. David P. Senft was unveiled on the Tracy War Memorial marking the latest casualty from Tracy to die in the war against terrorism.  Senft, a gunner onboard a Black Hawk helicopter shot himself at the Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan during his fourth tour of duty.  He was only 27-years-old.
We will never know the depths of pain and anguish that Staff Sgt. Senft was going through, nor do I wish to add to the pain and sorrow his family feels at his loss.  It is tragic that a young man in service to his country could be so wounded physically or mentally and then neglected by the Army to the point that he took his own life. 
Much has been said and debated about the decision to add the staff sergeant’s name to the Tracy War Memorial which honors those killed in the line of duty to their country.  Most of those who voiced their opposition to adding his name did so cruelly and anonymously from behind their computers on the web comment section.  Some showed their ignorance and contempt with obscene gestures.  Who are they to judge Staff Sgt. Senft?  They will never know the wounds he carried with him, visible or not.  They will never know the pain and suffering he felt to the point where he took his own life.  Most of us will never know the turmoil and terror of war and the effect that it can have on those who fight.  Soldiers suffer and sacrifice so we can live our everyday lives and sometimes they don’t have anything left for themselves.
On Veterans Day the name of Staff Sgt. David P. Senft was placed on the black marble wall of the Tracy War Memorial.  Members of the Patriot Guard Riders escorted the family to the memorial and in a very dignified ceremony the Senft’s name was unveiled.  I have been to several of these ceremonies but the saddest moment of this day to me was when the flag covering the staff sergeant’s name was given to his 5-year-old son Landon.
Whenever I look at the photo I always wonder if Landon knows what happened to his father.  I see him look at the letters of his fathers name on the flag and I hope he grows to understand one day that his father would have wanted to stay with him if he could have.  The wounds ran too deep, the pain too much and a tragic ending to a short life.
I think the War Memorial Association made the right choice adding his name to the wall and applaud their decision in the face of the criticism.  It was a sad day and one I don’t hope to repeat soon.