(Associated Press photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivalis)
This photo underneath the commander-in-chief yesterday shows the late Sgt. Amy Krueger of Kiel, Wisconsin, one of the 13 Fort Hood soldiers who was slain last week by a gunman who was almost certainly deranged, his mind possibly warped by poisonous teachings in the misguided name of religion. The death of Krueger and her comrades on U.S. soil has captured the nation's attention, but in many ways her sacrifice is no different than her brothers and sisters-in-arms who died in Afghanistan or Iraq, or in the long line that stretches back to the American Revolution.
Although President Obama's eulogy yesterday was controversial -- just like everything else he does -- I think the president was right to focus his talk manly on the soldiers that we lost in Fort Hood. Both yesterday and today -- Veterans Day -- are the right time to focus on the basic decency and values of the typical service member, both those who gave their lives and those who did not. As I listened to the retelling of Krueger's path from small-town America to Fort Hood, I was struck by how she was both so remarkable and yet so typical.
According to news accounts, Krueger was initially interested in a career in social work, but abruptly shifted gears in the hours after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While the remains of the World Trade Center will still smoldering, she and a friend walked into an Army recruiting center and enlisted:
Jeri Krueger recalled telling her daughter that she couldn’t take on bin Laden by herself.
“Watch me,” her daughter replied.
Kiel High School Principal Dario Talerico told the Associated Press that Krueger graduated from the school in 1998 and had spoken at least once to local elementary school students about her career.
“I just remember that Amy was a very good kid, who like most kids in a small town are just looking for what their next step in life was going to be and she chose the military,” Talerico said. “Once she got into the military, she really connected with that kind of lifestyle and was really proud to serve her country.”
As noted earlier. Krueger's story is on one level incredible, yet in another sense she is so representative of so many of her peers -- someone from a tiny corner of America who was searching for ways to get out into the wider world and somehow make it a better place. That's why Veterans Day is a good time to remember the soldiers like her and their sacrifice, but to also to ponder the enormous responsibility that our leaders -- in this case, President Obama as well as his leading policy advisers and his top generals -- carry with them. They have under their command the enormous positive energy of volunteers like Amy Krueger, and it is their solemn duty to make sure that it doesn't go to waste, that is used for missions that make sense and with the simple purpose that Sergeant Krueger carried with her until the day she died, to improve life for other people. There'll be other days for debating and arguing what that mission is, particularly in Afghanistanm but today, Veterans Day, is also a day for praying that our leaders get it right.