Tolls of War

As early as grade-school history, we were told about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the valley they created, known as the “cradle of civilization.” Legend even links this fertile land, where oranges, olives and dates grow easily, to the Garden of Eden. For American soldiers, this land and the surrounding area have been neither civilized nor an Eden. Its spiritual bounty has been more like wild weeds and bramble, a cradle of horror. Louisiana has suffered, even more than most states, from the tolls of the Iraqi war. Alongside the gentle flow of Bayou Lafourche, communities mourned the loss of five of their sons, all in one incident. Throughout the state, families have answered the door to the worst of all news. Babylonians, Assyrians and Romans, among others, have marched through the fields of what was Mesopotamia. Carrying the shields back then were also young men answering a clarion’s call. Their mothers would grieve, too. Those armies were there to conquer; the American mission is not to plant the flag but to bring order and security to a world as explosive as a suicide bomber. A year ago, those Louisiana men for whom “Taps” was played were likely relishing LSU’s national championship, hungering for a pile of crawfish, planning a career, snacking on boudin, dreaming of a Louisiana Saturday night. Peace has been an elusive dream in the area of the Tigris and Euphrates. For the cost that Louisiana has paid, we can only hope that peace’s time is finally coming. Louisiana’s rivers – the Mississippi, Atchafalaya, Red and Ouachita – have created their own fertile valleys where satsumas, tomatoes, sugar cane, sweet potatoes, cotton and soybeans grow. Those streams form our Garden of Eden, a blissful place, though saddened too often lately by the echo of “Taps.” •

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