Military has done its job, and done it well

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The news hit Vicksburg like a blow from a baseball bat to the belly. One of our own, Marine Master Sgt. Brian P. McAnulty, 39, died Dec. 11 when a helicopter in which he was a passenger crashed just after takeoff in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Many knew him. Though he had been gone — a Marine for nearly 20 years — many remembered him fondly and with respect.

From all accounts, Sgt. McAnulty was a Marines Marine — loved the Corps and had a full understanding of its role in protecting the nation. He knew the risks. He accepted the risks.

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Still, his death should make each of us pause. Of the 39 people in military service killed in Iraq identified as having direct ties to Mississippi, McAnulty was the first to have grown up in Vicksburg. He went to Warren Central, graduating in 1985. He went to Hinds Community College. He played on our playgrounds and was cheered for his skills in soccer.

From our perspective, which is one of support for the military, many months have passed since America’s armed forces completed the mission they were trained and equipped to perform in Iraq. By definition, the purpose of having combat forces is to remove an enemy from control of certain real estate and to hold that real estate against any counterattack. Marines like Brian McAnulty completed that mission with consummate proficiency and skill in the opening weeks of the war. Since then, they have been placeholders essentially armed referees between disparate factions in a hostile land.

Early in the new year, President Bush, having heard from a bipartisan study group and visited with Pentagon brass and received the gamut of expert insight on a knotty and complex situation, is expected to unveil what will be an assortment of tweaks and modifications to the nations Iraq strategy. All will be short of retreat. Most will be designed to nudge Iraqis to increase the pace of managing their own country.

We’re eager to hear about the new course, wishing only that Bush had been more receptive to confronting the lack of progress earlier — much earlier. We thank God that there are people such as Master Sgt. Brian P. McAnulty who are willing to fight and win America’s wars. And we pray for civilian leaders to understand its their job, not the militarys, to win the peace. The longer the civilians fail in their role, the longer they leave excellent people like Sgt. McAnulty in harms way.