(cross posted at Daily Kos)
It was a morning, not unlike this morning, at a stateside military base not unlike the ones you’ve seen on TV dozens of times.
Preparations were complete for a visit by the Commander in Chief, not unlike dozens of other visits he’d made during his tenure.
A large conference hall had been reserved and over 450 men were present. They were active duty personnel scheduled to be rotated soon to Iraq.
Some sat on the stage in front of a row of American flags and behind the lectern now decorated with the Presidential seal. Many more of the audience sat on plastic chairs in front of the stage, quietly talking. Scores more stood along the walls and in the aisles. In the back were pool reporters from all four major news networks.
Those personnel who had never met the president were excited. Perhaps they’d get to shake his hand and even say a few words to him. The excitement was palpable.
Presently, the band struck up Hail to the Chief. President Bush entered the hall and mounted the stage, not unlike the way he had dozens of times before. The men stood and cheered. The room was illuminated by a staccato of strobe lights. The applause died down and the men sat.
After some introductory remarks, George W. Bush delivered an upbeat message about the situation in Iraq.
“Iraq is now a different place from one year ago,” he said. “Much hard work remains, but levels of violence are significantly reduced. The surge is working.” The men applauded and cheered.
“Hope is returning to Baghdad, and hope is returning to towns and villages throughout the country.” More cheering. But much work remains. And this is where you come in.”
“It is with great sadness and reluctance that I must inform you that every one of you seated and standing here today will be dead before the end of this year.”
There was a stunned silence. It was broken only by the noise of the motor-drives on the cameras. The sound was like hundreds of trapdoors opening and closing under the 450 men sitting in plastic chairs and standing in the aisles.
The president continued, now suddenly serious, in a soft, sing-song voice, glancing frequently at his notes, pronouncing every word carefully as though he were speaking to a classroom of first graders.
“Our wars have won for us every hour we live in freedom. But the cost has been dear. Our wars have always taken from us men like you — ” here he looked at them, then back at his notes — “and today I want to honor your sacrifice.
“I want to recoginize, today, every hour of your lifetimes that you had hoped to live, but will not.”
There was some murmurring in the audience.
“I speak for all Americans when I say our thoughts now turn to you, our fallen comardes in arms. In the coming months, we will think of each and every one of you with lasting gratitude.”
“We will miss you with lasting love. And we will pray for you. And we trust in the words of the Almighty God: ‘I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish.’
“Thank you and God Bless America.”
With that, the Commander in Chief turned and strode from the room, the TV cameras with their bright lights, following him. As they left, the room went dark.