I blogged about Mark Daily before after hearing his story on the Hugh Hewitt Show and reading his “Why I joined” statement. (Also here). I also included several images of him in my 2007 tribute video.
Before he deployed with the First Cavalry Division, Mark posted a brief statement on his MySpace page, titled “Why I Joined.” The entire piece resonates even today, in a post-surge America and post-Awakening Iraq, because it puts on display the type of individual that made these movements work in the first place. “Consider that there are 19-year-old soldiers from the Midwest who have never touched a college campus or a protest,” Mark wrote, “who have done more to uphold the universal legitimacy of representative government and individual rights by placing themselves between Iraqi voting lines and homicidal religious fanatics.” Mark channeled idealism into action in a manner that seemed natural to him, but remains all too rare in our modern world.
Why’d we sometimes disagree? He saw the best in people; I feared the worst. He was inspired by Hitchens; I called Hitchens a chicken hawk. Although he was sympathetic to antiwar statements and arguments regarding Iraq, he instead focused on the opportunity we had to instill democracy in the heart of the Middle East. I, uh, didn’t. Mark also became the first person to tell me to stop concerning myself with how we ended up in Iraq — it didn’t matter anymore — and to instead focus on what could be done since we were already there. And he was right. We were second lieutenants destined for the war regardless of our personal opinions, and the decisions made in 2003 were now as irrelevant to our lives as they were to the Iraqi people living in the midst of it all.
With the passage of time, and through my own deployment to Iraq, I’ve been able to focus on the good times with Mark: laughing about being covered head to toe in mud while fixing a tank track; ganging up on political fascists and berating them into intellectual submission; drinking beers at Irish pubs in Louisville, reminiscing about field exercises, talking about them like they were actual war stories. He was a driven mind, less of an oddball than me, and I genuinely liked and admired him — things that aren’t always the case with battle buddies.
In retrospect, I think that I was even a little jealous of Mark’s rugged optimism; young men like him weren’t supposed to exist anymore, except maybe in the minds of our Greatest Generation grandparents. But he did, and all of us who were there with him at Knox are better off because of it. Even then, we knew Mark to be the lieutenant we wanted our platoons to think we actually were. He set a high standard and gave us something to aspire to as leaders — something I suspect lingers in all of us, whether we’re still in the Army or not. I know that it remains the case for me.
See you at Fiddler’s Green, Mark.
I encourage readers to check out his “Why I Joined” essay. A bit more background on it from Teresa Watanabe writing for the LA Times, linked in my 2nd post, in 2007 (I believe this was around the time of the “Surrender” Resolution being debated in Congress, post 2006 midterms):
that essay, in recent weeks, has ricocheted throughout the Internet, taking on a life of its own. It was read on the U.S. Senate floor and posted on the websites of columnists and talk show hosts. It has prompted hundreds of letters from strangers. Daily’s words, his astonished parents say, seemed to resonate with all kinds of folks, stirring a common altruistic impulse.
He wrote it in just 20 minutes, his parents say, as he chatted with his family in his packed-up El Paso apartment near Ft. Bliss, Texas, where he was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.