January 28, 2007

My Cousin, Kenneth, a Hero, Serving in Iraq

At times, we can get lost in the numbers and strategy over the US conflict in Iraq, and forget that regardless of our political leanings, or whether we think we are on the right path, thousands and thousands of some of the bravest men and women are serving our country, helping others, protecting others and risking themselves. My cousin, Lieutenant Kenneth Curtis, is one of those heroes on the front, who has put his life on the line.

My mother's younger sister, Kathy, started having a family before I was born, introducing three boys into the world in the mid 1970s. Ken, the oldest, has always held a strong sense of duty and was excited about the military from a very young age. While some of us set off on paths that led us to a career behind a desk, Ken kept himself in excellent shape and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. This past November, Ken was asked to join with his fellow enlisted men to serve in Iraq, having completed other missions around the world. Though he told us not to worry about him, of course, we always do. Every day when we see the death toll mount, and wonder if there will be an end to the conflict, his is the face that comes in my mind.

The Curtis family has already suffered through tragedy. Of the three boys I told you about, two are already gone, leaving this world prematurely. Both succumbed to the lure and power of drugs, with Lyman passing away in 1996, and the second, Michael, in 2003. I served as a pallbearer for both, and gave the eulogy for Michael, feeling wholly undeserving to wrap up his life in a few short minutes. That Ken, the only son left in addition to the family's youngest, a daughter, is knowingly at risk in what has been an incredibly difficult war tears at us all.

This weekend, we received an update from the front, as they are called, posted to my mother's blog, Web Robin. Ken is doing well, my aunt Kathy reports. A picture shows him in excellent shape, yet alone, as he tries to catch a nap between missions consisting of 12 and 14-hour shifts.

Ken, in Iraq, during some rare down time

Doing what I do, where I do it, in the safety of Northern California, with the occasional trip around the country, makes me feel disconnected from what our men and women are doing thousands of miles away. If I were asked to serve, I don't know that I would be ready. I don't know if I could separate my anger over how we got into this mess, and the politics, to do what the country asked of me. But, despite the challenges, Ken has said yes.

Another man I know and respect, whom I met at church, has also taken up the challenge. He is enlisting, knowing the country needs more help, in Iraq, and he eagerly awaits a call to serve. The images and stories that strike sadness, fury and frustration to most of us are filling him with a need to do his part and help, and no matter of pleading and counsel from me would get him to change his mind.

It is people like this who bring the war home and make it a reality. That my cousin is on the front line, risking everything, makes it ever more important that the reasons behind him being there be just, and that he be treated with the utmost manner of truth and respect that he has earned. As a family, we will absolutely worry about him, and keep fervent hope for him until we know he has come home in safety. It is our hope that those who perpetuate the wars and govern over the lives of these men do so justly. For the Curtis family, they cannot afford yet another time of sorrow.


  1. Sadly, 'those who perpetuate the wars' are not just and have no intention of being just. That is why we are at war with them. To imply that this is a one-sided war with all choice in our own hands is misguided. To pull back and abandon the people of Iraq to the thugs and terrorists is a short sighted strategy that will not make things better and could well make things worse. Thank goodness for the people you describe who can see the big picture through the fog of misinformation we see in the media.


  2. Beautifully written post Louis!
    I don't feel it is appropriate here to inject political views. So I hope others can find other forums in which to do so.Too bad some feel they have to voice their agenda no matter what.
    Also, the young man you talked about actually already served and is going back for a second time since the Army raised the age requirement for a reenlistment. He and Ken are incredible men.