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Fallen warriors remind us why whiny celebs are irrelevant.

The battle of Iraq may be over but the warriors for peace struggle on. Theirs is not an easy road, particularly, we hear, in the entertainment industry, which is packed with notables fresh from their vocal campaign against the war, the president, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney--objects of scorn in all the best circles, from Paris to California.
Now, it appears, some celebrities worry about damage to their careers. The Dixie Chicks have taken a hit. Sean Penn thinks his views have cost him jobs. Tina Brown, whose main concern about the war seems to be that it caused the postponement of her new TV show, announced last week that it would soon air and that she planned to decorate the set with an American flag bigger than anyone else's. She had to scrape up as many core American values as she could, declared Ms. Brown, "to have any hope of being allowed on TV at all in the current climate of punitive patriotism."

No fear. Americans aren't likely to concern themselves much with Ms. Brown's flag--in the event they actually encounter her program. Most of them have matters more pressing on their minds. For some, these days, those matters include funerals and mourning rites for people they have never met.

On April 14 in Vermont, for example, mourners gathered for the funeral of 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Mark Evnin, killed in action on the drive to Baghdad. A thousand people attended the rites at Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, at which the Marine's grandfather, a rabbi, presided. Reporters related how the Marine Corps League color guard and local firefighters flanked the walkway into the synagogue, where mourners included the Roman Catholic bishop and the governor.

Crowds lined the streets in salute--some with flags, some with signs--everywhere the funeral procession passed. But what struck the Burlington Free Press reporters most were all the strangers who had been impelled to come to the cemetery to honor the young Marine. One of them was a mother who had brought her two young children and stood holding two American flags. "Every single man and woman out there is my son and daughter," she told the journalists. "He could have done a lot with his life. But he gave it to the nation."

Two days later came the funeral mass for 25-year-old Marine First Lt. Brian McPhillips of Pembroke, Mass., killed not far from Baghdad. Three Marines died in the firefight at Tuwayhah described by Dallas Morning News embedded reporter Jim Landers. The 2nd Tank Battalion had run into an ambush by a band of Islamic Jihad volunteers--Syrians, Egyptians, Yemenis and others. Lt. McPhillips went down firing his machine gun.

The knock that brought the news home in the early hours of April 6 had caused the walls to reverberate, his mother recalled. His father, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, knew at once what the 5:00 a.m. visit meant. They never come because somebody's been wounded: "They want you to know as soon as possible."

Neither of the McPhillips was surprised at Brian's choice of a military career. His father had served, his great-uncle had fought at Guadalcanal; and Julie and David McPhillips had been the sort of parents who wanted to imbue their children with a consciousness of history--that of their country's not least. So they took them to places like Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg and other national shrines.

David McPhillips nevertheless used all his powers of persuasion to keep Brian from enlisting in the Marines right out of high school. Heeding his parents, Brian went off to Providence College, a Catholic institution, where he thrived, compiled an academic record most people considered enviable, his father included, and looked to the future. Shortly after graduation in 2000, it arrived, with the commissioning ceremony that made him an officer in the Marines. He would go to war, his father reported, carrying his rosary and his Bible.

At his funeral service at the Holy Family Church in Rockland, where Brian's mother attended daily Mass, David McPhillips recalled his son's generosity and enterprise. Mrs. McPhillips would deliver a eulogy of her own, afterward carried in the local papers, on the subject of her son's life and death. She saw herself, Julie McPhillips said, as one of the fellow Americans for whom he had given his life. It had been her great privilege to be his mother: "To you my dear and faithful son, from earth to heaven I salute you . . . ."

As at Cpl. Evnin's funeral, crowds lined the streets. Brian's uncle Paul Finegan pondered the problems getting to the cemetery in Concord--a 150-car cortege traveling 50 miles on the busiest highway in New England. He had, it turned out, nothing to fear: 50 state troopers, many of them coming in from days off, had closed most of the road for them, a stretch of 35 miles.

Then came another sight he could scarcely believe. At the side of the road, near their halted cars, stood streams of people, standing at attention--paying their respects.

"They stopped all these cars, and people got out to stand holding their hands over their hearts," he marveled.

He should not have been surprised. Scenes like this are the reason all the celebrity protesters can stop worrying about public wrath and punishment. Americans have other things on their minds all right. September 11, for one. What they have on their minds, too, since the just-concluded remarkable war, is the consciousness of who they are and what this society is that it should have produced men and women of the kind who fought in that war and died in it.

People got a powerfully close look at their fellow Americans in uniform these last weeks. This is what impels them now to stand at roadsides in tribute, heedless of where else they had to go. And this is why strangers flock to funerals.


Thanks Dorothy





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