- The Washington Times - Monday, July 11, 2005

Do we have such a hard time comprehending the unfathomable toll of death caused by war, violence and destruction that we are numb to the numbers?

Not a day passes that we aren’t hit by the heart-wrenching numbers: 45 dead in Baghdad violence, 52 dead and counting in the London bombings, 10 in Cuba killed by Hurricane Dennis.

The death toll was so high during the Indian Ocean tsunami that it blew our minds. The genocide in Darfur continues unabated.

Here are a few startling statistics. Since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, the American military counts 1,752 deaths and 13,336 wounded. And there have been 91 U.S. civilian deaths and at least 22,787 Iraqi civilian casualties, according to the Other Paper, whose sources include the Defense Department and the private British Web site www.iraqbodycount.net.

Sometimes we lose track of the rising body count even as we digest the daily diet of “live” news that replays ad nauseam on bigger, more expensive flat-screen, high-definition televisions. Worse, the wounded barely register. We simply disconnect.

One standout group, the Wounded Warrior Project, does not want Americans to forget thousands of wounded soldiers returning from Iraq. It helped sponsor the cross-country cyclists Solider Ride 2005 that arrived here last week.

These veterans, led by Heath Calhoun, 25, and Ryan Kelly, 24, former staff sergeants wounded in Iraq in 2003, should be commended for their individual and collective commitment to overcoming their own physical challenges to demonstrate how much they care about the wounded troops.

They are cycling more than 4,200 miles — from to Santa Monica, Calif., to Montauk, N.J. — to raise funds and awareness for other men and women disabled in the Iraqi war.

Last year, they raised $2 million. This year, however, they reportedly have raised less than $400,000 even though more soldiers have been wounded.

A Long Island, N.Y., bartender, Chris Carney, 35, founded Soldier Ride after raising funds for an injured soldier and then witnessing wider disabilities at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District.

“I don’t think finance should determine whether a mother can visit her son in the hospital,” Mr. Carney told The Washington Times.

More folks can follow Mr. Carney’s example. He exemplifies the ideal that one person can make a world of difference.

For each faceless name on the lists of fatalities and casualties of war and violence, no one knows how many more lives are forever altered.

Watching the wailing London mother crying out for “my Anthony,” her missing 26-year-old son, is a grim reminder that we, the human family, live in a world at war. If we survive, we will not remain unscathed.

One mother’s grief becomes the tears shed by all mothers.

You’ve heard of the play “Six Degrees of Separation”? The play’s premise is that everyone knows everyone else in the world through the connections of six other persons.

In our global, multicultural society, I don’t think it takes so many personal connections to go around the globe anymore.

Here in the District, for example, there is such an indigenous “Cuzin Network” where somebody-knows-somebody-who-knows-somebody — only three degrees of separation involved in every event or sector of the Washington region, including the military.

Who doesn’t know Cuzin So-and-So who has a son, a daughter, a spouse, a sibling, a niece or nephew in the armed forces? If it’s not a relative’s connection, it’s a co-worker with a loved one living in harm’s way, or surviving from the harried experience.

Lest we forget, almost every day an American soldier loses his life or a limb fighting a war, whether you approve of it or not, that has no immediate end.

While we must continue to go about our daily routines, we would be remiss to act as if we live in a bubble bath. We don’t. So we need to lend a helping hand wherever, however we can.

Do you know why we like to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life,” starring good guy Jimmy Stewart, every Christmas? It’s because we’d all like to think that our little lives have a positive and productive effect on at least one other person in our family, our community and our country.

We cannot forget that as members of the human family we are interconnected. Those who would attempt to maim and destroy the faceless masses must be reminded that every individual represents many and each life counts to someone and, eventually, what goes around comes around.

Donations to Soldier Ride can be made through www.soldierride.com or by calling 866/743-3441.

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