Commentary: Welcome to Berkeley, Casey Sheehan’s Mother By Alan Christie Swain

Tuesday December 20, 2005

Let’s all join together to welcome Berkeley newest citizen. Welcome Casey Sheehan’s mother. We honor your son, his sacrifice and the mother he made famous.  

United States Army Specialist Casey Sheehan of Vacaville was a full grown man of 20 when he volunteered for the Army. He had the right and the duty to make his own decisions. In fact, he re-enlisted in the army in 2004, some news reports indicate he wanted to make a career in the Army. Sadly, he was killed in Baghdad on April 4, 2004 after he volunteered for a mission to rescue other American troops that were under attack. Specialist Sheehan was most likely aware of the grand strategy for the war in Iraq, most American fighting men and women are, this is in plain contrast to the history of most other militaries around the world.  

In fact, the melding of moral force and military power has given the U.S. military a significant part of its fighting power from the Revolutionary War through to today. Only the cynical expenditure of American fighting men in a war of attrition in Vietnam shows what happens when that connection is broken. In fact, for many Americans, the campaign in Iraq has always had a moral aspect to it. Deposing a dangerous and brutal dictator who had invaded two neighboring countries and used chemical weapons on his own citizens is important by itself. But the campaign to introduce democratic rights to a nation of than 28 million and perhaps to a region of hundreds of millions more is the moral connection in this war for the U.S. military and the millions of Americans across this country that support it. 

Beyond the history and the strategy there is always the question of why. Why do soldiers risk their lives? Why do men, and women faced with horrific circumstances do their duty, and beyond their duty? Historians and researchers say that most soldiers do what they do for their comrades, for other soldiers. Soldiers in combat are part of a living thing greater than themselves and they know well each of the other members of the unit from the commanders to the lowest private. They also know that if they fail in their duty or give less than their full effort other members of the unit may well be killed. So, soldiers in combat do what they do for their country, for themselves, but mostly for the other men they know and rely on, whom they know would do the same for them. 

Casey Sheehan lost his life one day in Baghdad doing more than his duty for his country, for himself and for his buddies. It is a terrible tragedy that his mother is so convinced that he died for nothing. He was an example of the best America has to offer. He was, undoubtedly, a fine young American and any mother who could raise a son like that is very welcome in Berkeley. 


Alan Christie Swain is a UC Berkeley graduate student.