Monday, July 23, 2012

The Aurora Theatre Massacre: A Veteran's Take

I was up early last Friday morning when I first heard the news of a shooting at a movie theatre in Aurora, CO via Twitter. Soon I saw the news on CNN and MSNBC with more detail. To my horror the updates kept getting worse. There was the cell phone video footage from the scene showing people covered in blood. There was the news that the apartment of the...person...who did this being booby trapped with explosives. Those details and others disturbed me as I fell asleep.
It got worse when I woke up.

That's when some of the those that died from this massacre were identified.

Among the most prominent was a young woman named Jessica Ghawi, who was an aspiring journalist that loved the sport of hockey. Most people knew Ghawi as Jessica Redfield since she went by that name in her bylines and Twitter handle. It was learned that Ghawi wend by the moniker Redfield as a tribute to her grandmother who wanted to become a journalist but never got the chance.

The worst parts of Ghawi's death was her brother Jordan live-blog finding out about his sister's death and seeing her boyfriend, Jay Meloff, tweet his heart about.

Another prominent death was Veronica Moser, who is the youngest victim. She was only six years old. Her mother Ashley was also wounded in the massacre and has faded in and out of consciousness at the hospital she's in asking about her daughter. She found out about her Veronica's death Saturday.

Counting Ghawi and Moser, there are currently 12 casualties in this massacre. Three of those casualties hit home to me. The reason can be seen in this article's title.

I am a U.S. Navy veteran, an experience that I've come to appreciate more as the years go by.

The deaths of U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third Class John Larimer, U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, and U.S. Navy veteran Jon Blunk all hurt the Armed Forces community in many ways.

We have a volunteer army in this country, meaning one has to choose to serve. Veterans and active duty personnel consciously know that they are giving up some civil liberties in exchange for wearing the nation's uniform. Subconsciously though, these two groups acknowledge two things when they take the oath to serve for the second time. Those two things are that they are willing to kill and are willing to be killed in the line of duty.

Even as we acknowledge this, those in the Armed Forces expect those things to happen in the battlefield.  We don't expect them in our off time from duty known as 'liberty.' It's during liberty that we unwind a little and try to at least gain some normalcy of a civilian life. That's what these three men were doing that night. They, separately with their own groups, went to see the new Batman movie, one of the most anticipated pictures of the year. Instead they watched tear gas canisters being thrown in their theatre and this...person...begin to shoot innocent people. Luckily in this chaos these men proved to live up to the motto of the U.S. Navy, something that can be applied to all the branches of the Armed Forces.


These men didn't run away while they were shot at. They instinctively protected the ones they were with. In the cases of Latimer and Blunk, their girlfriends. In Childerss's case a work colleague. In doing so they sacrificed their lives.

Part of me is sad to hear this. Another part of me grew more angry as the details of how the arsenal (a 12-gauge shotgun, two .40 caliber handguns, and an AR-15 assault rifle loaded with a 100-round drum) to commit this massacre. That part of me is still angry.

I'm angry that the National Rifle Association, whose leaders don't seem to listen to their members, have co-opted one major political party and have scared the other party into not even daring to discuss sensible gun control laws. (By the way, I do believe in the Second Amendment so don't come at me with the 'you want to ban all guns' bullshit.)

I'm angry that hack politicians are using this massacre for their purposes or are mocking it. Take for example Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX), who said that if more people were armed in that theatre this tragedy would have been stopped (Yea, let's have more people with guns in an environment where the instigator has already gained the tactical advantage of having a gas mask on while throwing tear gas canisters at his victims. That won't make the situation mare horrifying...) There is former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, who said this massacre happened due to lack of religion in our schools. (Yea...) There is former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce, who wrote a Facebook post with similar sentiments as Rep. Gohmert.

One part that many people I know are angry about is how the media has and the public at large have reacted to the...person...who committed this massacre. It's no secret that the Black and Latino communities have felt that when one of their own commits similar acts to this massacre, the suspects are viewed differently than a White suspect. I will agree that there are indeed racial elements that bring their ugly heads up when something like this happens. However, now is not the time to address them. That will come later.

For now families and communities have to grieve. No one has been buried yet.

For the Armed Forces community, right now we have to mourn for our lost brethren.

May fair winds and calm seas bring you safely home Mr. Blunk, Mr. Childress, and Mr Latimer.

Rest in Peace

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