February 22, 2008
Iraq War increases election's weightLuke Runyan, 21, went to my church. His mom and my dad grew up together. I mostly knew him through Sunday school and, later, confirmation classes. He went to the next high school over from me, Spring Grove Area Senior High School, so a lot of my friends who went there knew him a lot better than I did.
He joined the Army after he graduated from high school.
Luke died on Sunday in Iraq, north of Baghdad in Diyala Province. He was killed by al Qaeda insurgents.
This isn't the first or the closest connection I've had to the war in Iraq.
My uncle, Mike Sweeney, went to Iraq for a year as a firefighter in 2005. He worked for a subsidiary of Halliburton on a military base as a private citizen. He worked solely on the base and only left it when traveling in and out of Iraq, so as far as security goes, he was relatively safe.
That's not to say that I wasn't terrified for him. Luckily, he made it home safely.
The brother of one of my best friends is currently on his second deployment in Iraq.
Almost 4,000 Americans have died in the war, and as it drags on, it's inevitable that more and more of us will feel an increasingly personal link to the war.
The longer our troops stay in Iraq, the more likely it will be for each of us to have direct connections with the casualties of the war. More people like Luke will give their lives, and more people like me and the members of my church will be left asking why they died.
I don't know what the right course of action is. I can understand the arguments on each side of the issue -- to stay in Iraq until the Iraqis can take over on the one hand, or to leave now before we end up permanently staying there on the other.
I have my own opinion about how we should proceed, and I plan to express that opinion at the ballot box.
I've written before about how important the upcoming elections -- presidential, congressional, state and local -- are going to be, and I'll continue to write about it. If you aren't registered to vote yet, there is still time to do so. If you haven't applied for an absentee ballot yet (and your state hasn't held its primary), there might still be time to do so, depending on your home state.
Luke and thousands of others like him have given their lives for our country. Our nation is at a crossroads, and to not exercise our most basic civil right would be to disrespect their sacrifices.
--Jessica Sprenkle '08
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