Used Books and War Heroes
As I flipped the pages, a newspaper clip gently fell into my lap. It was undated and the publication unknown. But clearly it was an obituary on Puller who apparently committed suicide. The obit spoke about Puller's book and the Pulitzer Prize he received for it in 1992. Before the clip fell out, I wondered what Puller was doing now, some 15 years after writing his book. Kerry said about Puller’s demise: “He had to will himself back to life [after his injuries]. Tragically, in the end he was not able to give himself the lift he gave to those who read his book.”
Enduring injury—having your flesh, limbs, or organs compromised—while in the service of one’s nation has always been associated with the highest of values. And when the compromise is “ultimate,” there is special remembrance offered. The earliest forms of literature include elegies of military heroics. There’s a universal appeal to courage in the face of battle. From the epic Greek poems to modern film, heroes draw us in. Muslims enjoy the stories of the Companions of the Prophet in their victories against tremendous odds, enduring injuries with complete personal abandon; and Biblical praise of war violence is legendary. When a person gives his “ultimate” sacrifice, he or she is called a martyr (in multiple contexts, religious and secular). In Islamic parlance one is a shahîd, literally a witness or one who gives testimony: witness or highest demonstration of one’s commitment to the defense of one’s nation; testimony of one’s complete selflessness; or witness to God’s pleasure, which immediately enwraps the souls of those who fall in battle.