As horrific as it's been to see the list of casualties from Afghanistan and Iraq growing day by day, I found out yesterday that it's worse when one of those names belongs to a friend.
Last week, Colonel Ted Westhusing became the most senior officer to be killed in Iraq. There are still no details about how Ted died - the Army is only saying that it was from non-combat related injuries, which could mean just about anything. I read about his death at Eric Alterman's Altercation (read through Maj. Bateman's letter from Iraq). When I got to Ted's name I froze.
Ted and I graduated in the same class at West Point: 1983. We spent many hours together; most of them studying for and in Russian Language courses over the four years. But there were also the times we spent "out in the field" during our summer exercises and the times we spent drinking beer and laughing.
When I read that my friend had died I could immediately see his face although we hadn't spoken since graduation.
Ted was a brilliant man. I read that during the intervening years he'd gotten a Masters in Russian, philosophy and military history. But he was also - and my memory is sharp on this - a very kind person. In the highly charged and competitive atmosphere at West Point, Ted was always ready to lend a hand, to help someone through a difficult lesson - whether the kind in a classroom or in life. And it was just that spirit that drove Ted to volunteer, from his rather comfortable position as an English professor at West Point, to help train Iraqis to help themselves. It is more a shame that such a life would be wasted on a misadventure such as this; one entirely avoidable and unneccessary.
His family and friends are not the only ones missing something from their lives now. The whole world is a poorer place without Ted Westhusing.