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Not for the medals

By Nancy Salvato
web posted September 6, 2004

I was overwhelmed by sadness as I watched footage of the teachers and half naked children being carried away from the Russian school building where they were held hostage by terrorists the last 3 days. Many children had not been allowed to even drink water in the near 100 degree heat of the gym, where they were locked up as hostages. Although Vladimir Putin refused negotiations with the terrorists, it is unclear whether the Russian forces attempted to storm the gym or if the hostages decided to try an escape.

A volunteer carries a small child after special forces stormed a school seized by heavily armed masked men and women in the town of Beslan in the province of North Ossetia near Chechnya on September 3
A volunteer carries a small child after special forces stormed a school seized by heavily armed masked men and women in the town of Beslan in the province of North Ossetia near Chechnya on September 3

In the early hours of the morning, the terrorists set off bombs and shot hostages attempting to flee, then used hostages as human shields as they ran out of the school yard. There were dozens of deaths, this in the wake of a previous disaster; two planes which were exploded mid air by bombs apparently planted in the toilets. This, too, the work of terrorists who left behind a little under one hundred scattered remains of dead bodies.

This is the enemy that President George W. Bush is trying to flush out by saying that he will continue America's fight against terror in any country that harbors these forces of evil; who make no distinctions between child or adult, civilian or soldier, right or wrong. President Bush doesn't want to see these horrific acts happening on U.S. soil, or anywhere else in the world.

Those who protest the war against terror and claim that the deaths of our soldiers are in vain should reevaluate the premise on which they make these assertions. Our military forces do not fight against Islamic militants for oil or for money to line the pockets of the Bush administration. Our President has committed our forces to do battle against those whose goal is to terrorize the innocent and make unsafe our world so that we don't have to again experience these types of atrocities on U.S. soil.

President Bush made it clear that this type of evil can only grow in countries where people aren't free to develop a sense of purpose, or hope or allowed dignity. These forces of evil have been bred to hate. There is no negotiating with a person void of conscience. There is no way to fight a more sensitive war against this type of personality. We need to weed out this evil at the source. Otherwise, we will be afraid to send our own children to school. We will be afraid to go to New York. We will hole up in our homes and forget how to live.

Of all the issues that President Bush wants to address: school reform, the tax code, tort reform, Medicare, social security; they are all trumped by one important concern and that is the security of our country. Our President has the foresight to build a safer world so that all of these issues have meaning and relevance. If we cannot step outside our homes for fear of terrorist attack, then none of it matters anyway. We will have lost our own sense of purpose and hope and dignity.

I don't want to turn on the news and find out the terrorists have succeeded in putting the countries of this world on the run. I have faith that the United States, under President Bush's leadership, will put the terrorists on the run and that every last spider hole harboring every last terrorist will be uncovered and that once again we will be able to take for granted that our streets are safe from the evil that had been allowed to grow for too long before we were under Bush's watch.

I wonder how many of the children who were able to walk out of that Russian school building alive will ever be able to see school as a place to learn and grow and make friends. The acts of a dozen terrorists may have completely shattered their childhood. They may always be plagued by haunting images of their classmates and teachers being shot or blown up; shell shocked and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder for the rest of their days. Children are supposed to be our hope and our future. We should be willing and committed to fight for their future.

Too many of us take for granted that we, too, are the beneficiaries of those who put their lives on the line for our childhoods and our futures. Fortunately, we are a country that breeds heroes who found their strength and calling in the wake of 9/11. We are the strongest nation in the world –the last superpower, and have been compelled to take the frontlines in this historic battle of freedom against evil. And we "shall prevail". Heroes will step forward…for the sake of our children, not for the medals.

Nancy Salvato is a contractor with Prism Educational Consulting. She serves as Educational Liaison to IL Sen. Ray Soden. She works nationally and locally furthering the cause of Civic Education. Her writing has been recognized by the US Secretary of Education. © Nancy Salvato 2004

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