Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You mourn your heroes and I'll mourn mine

Eight Belles goes down with two broken ankles

Admittedly, among my many addictions (hockey, electronic music, caffeine), I’m also a news junkie. As soon as I pry my eyes open at zero-dark-thirty for work, the news is on. I have 5-6 news feeds tied to my Google start page. On my drive to & from work, I’m either listening to ESPN or talk radio; music is for leisure driving. On my lunch break, I eat in my car to listen to the news.

That said, all I heard yesterday morning was Eight Belles this and Eight Belles that on a continual loop. Every few minutes I had to listen to the same soundbyte of how these horses put their lives on the line and that she was glad to do it, blah blah blah and how PETA wants the jockey publicly stoned and then burned at the stake, yadda yadda yadda. Sure, it’s a damn shame that such a magnificent animal, just three years old, had to be euthanized, but frankly I was getting a bit worn out on hearing about her freakish double-leg break and subsequent destruction in front of a hundred thousand people. I’m sure that there are now hundreds of bouquets of roses and wreaths and stuffed horses and hand-scrawled notes saying “We’ll miss you Eight Belles” piled up at the front gate to Churchill Downs in some grand makeshift memorial to what really was an overbred draft animal, and trust me when I guarantee that while the ownership of the animal is grieving the loss of their little four-legged money-maker, the animal was generously insured, likely for much more than you or I are. I believe I covered this before here:

So, instead, allow me to refocus your sympathy and kind thoughts to another death last week, one that was overshadowed by the death of an expensive animal, sadly under-reported and generally overlooked by the drive-by media.

On April 30, four days before the Kentucky Derby, Staff Sergeant Chad A. Caldwell of Spokane, Washington was killed by an IED in Mosul, Iraq while conducting dismounted combat operations. SSG Caldwell was a squad leader assigned to Troop K, 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood, Texas.

SSG Caldwell joined the Army in 2002 after graduating from high school in 2001. He and his wife, Raechel, met while they were high schoolers and working part-time at a telemarketing firm. They were married in 2002, just before Caldwell entered basic training. They have two boys; Trevor, age 4; and Coen, age 2.

At the time of his death, SSG Caldwell was on his third combat tour. He initially served in Iraq in 2003-4 and also previously completed a tour in Afghanistan in 2007. SSG Caldwell is also survived by his mother, Carol Caldwell of Spokane, his father, Mark Caldwell of Hayden Lake, and his brother and sister, Justin and Krista, both of Spokane. He had planned to make the military his career.

Caldwell was a heavily decorated soldier. He received two Army Commendation Medals--one for saving the life of a pregnant woman in Baghdad in 2003 and a second for saving the life of a lieutenant colonel who was caught in gunfire. He had been featured in news articles in both the USA Today and Stars and Stripes.

So worry all you want about a horse, and I’ll worry about a valiant hero who was somebody’s son, brother, husband, and father. Rest in Peace, Chad.

SSG Chad Caldwell in Iraq

The Caldwell Family before Chad deployed

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