Sunday, October 6, 2013
Casualties of War
I have recently been reading an historical account about the American military campaigns in North Africa and Italy in World War II. In it, much discussion centers around the decisions made by the American leadership, and whether the high level of "casualties" suffered by the Americans in various battles were worth the strategic benefits obtained. Until recently, I found it curious how a "war casualty” is calculated. A “casualty of war” is defined to include those killed, injured or displaced by war. I previously felt that the casualty of war figure was misleading because, in measuring the impact to a particular side of a particular battle, the number of soldiers killed is an altogether different impact than the number of soldiers injured or taken prisoner. But having lost a child (albeit not in a war), I believe that the "casulty of war" definition is in fact appropriate. As the particular account I have read demonstrates, the collateral damage to war extends far beyond simply those who died. Those suffering physical injuries during a battle (a) might not be able to return to battle at all and (b) regardless of whether they do, the impact of their physical injuries will impact them for the rest of their lives. Apart from physical injuries, how many thousands of war veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, either diagnosed or not, by reason of their involvement in the war. Trully, the negative impact of war experiences lasts a lifetime. Simillarly, it is nearly impossible to calculate the emotional and relational impact that a child’s death has on friends, families, communities. Just as I ignorantly limited a “war casualty” to a solider killed in battle, so also would it be ignorant to think that the only persons adversely impacted by the unexpected death of a child are the immediate family members. Grandparents of the deceased are left powerless to bring their child back from the dead, or to fully assuage the grief of their own children, the greiving parents. Friends and family members, who might previously have enjoyed close relationships with the greiving parents, lose the same ability to relate to their friends, the grieving parents. Work colleagues of the parents lose the drive and desire of the grieving parents as the mom or dadd shift their mental attention away from their careers in order to grieve. Even the physicians treating the child wonder how a life could have been saved had the child been treated differently. As we seek to minister to our fellow greiving parents, I think it is helpful to remember how broad the death impacts the communities and, as a result, be open to how the Lord is not only using a child's death to work on the hearts of the parents (certainly one "casualty") but also the broader community, many of whom are also "casualties" of the death of the child.