For those who have served in uniform, there is a feeling of family those who haven't cannot appreciate. The family is generational, creating a bond among all who serve -- whether past, present or future. The bond is such that any loss on today's battlefields is felt by survivors of past ones -- for it is still a family member lost.
There is irony in two events that took place, half a world apart, on Dec. 10.
In Washington, an annual charity concert known as "Christmas in Washington" was held. For 30 years the event has been attended by the first family. The main performer was South Korean rap star Park Jae-sang, known as "Psy."
The 34-year old artist emerged out of nowhere July 15 when his YouTube video "Gangham Style" went viral, capturing close to 1 billion views. A somewhat addictive video shows Psy rapping in Korean, performing the "horse dance" as he gallops in place and twirls an imaginary lasso.
But Psy came to the concert with some anti-American "psychological baggage" not made public until two days before the Washington event.
Psy, who attended college in the United States began a 2002 performance in South Korea by smashing a large model of a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle on stage, feeding into public anger over the accidental deaths of two teenage Korean girls run over by a U.S. military vehicle.
Psy claims he was caught up in the emotion of the moment. That incident could be excused -- had it stopped there.
But a far more outrageous demonstration of Psy's anti-Americanism occurred two years later. He performed a song, written by a popular Korean metal band, entitled "Dear Americans." Referencing the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the lyrics clearly left little room for misinterpretation:
"Kill those f____ Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those f____ Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law, and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully."
When these two performances were reported prior to his Washington gig, Psy immediately apologized, saying he fully regretted "using those kinds of words."
Meanwhile, within hours of Psy's Washington performance, Navy SEAL Team 6 was risking life and limb to rescue of American doctor Dilip Joseph, kidnapped Dec. 5 by the Taliban in Kabul province, Afghanistan. As intelligence found the doctor's location and reported he was in imminent danger of execution, a special operation was undertaken to rescue him. The raid was successful and the doctor rescued -- but at the cost of the life of a SEAL team member.
The White House issued a statement praising the mission as being characteristic of U.S. troops' "extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism." Of the lost team member, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "He gave his life for his fellow Americans, and he and his teammates remind us once more of the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong, safe and free."
Psy tried to justify his 2004 singing of anti-American lyrics by being caught up in his generation's political culture of the day. He was 26 at the time -- older than most SEAL Team 6 warriors involved in Sunday's raid; warriors caught up in the far different and selfless culture of preserving the lives and freedoms of others.
Everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance. That argument could justify Psy's 2002 performance but in no way can it justify 2004 -- there is a big jump between exercising poor judgment and wishing death upon the U.S. military and their families. Claiming he is "deeply sorry for how these lyrics could be interpreted" suggests there is room for misinterpretation when there isn't.
More bothersome, however, is what happened after Psy's performance. A newspaper photograph showed Obama with daughter Sasha on stage shaking hands with a smiling Psy.
While attending the program was a presidential responsibility, embracing Psy was not. To an awe-struck Sasha, as well as any other young viewers watching, it gave credibility to a man who maliciously and irresponsibly attacked -- way beyond the realm of what is socially acceptable -- the U.S. our military.
Yet, ironically, as Psy finished his performance, met the president and regained his breath, a Navy SEAL had drawn his last.
It is doubtful Obama will reach out to the family of the fallen SEAL as he did to Psy.
Psychological operations or "psyops" are undertaken against foreign targets for the purpose of inducing or reinforcing behavior favorable to U.S. objectives. Although a different kind of "Psy"op, Obama's conduct on stage was a failure by doing just the reverse -- i.e., leaving a negative domestic impact on youthful minds.
There is another performance on YouTube which, unfortunately, will never tally the hits Psy has. It is a song written and sung by Purple Heart recipient U.S. Marine Capt. Mark Trouerbach, who goes by "Markus 'T'." As the title, "Not Everyone Comes Home," suggests, it is a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He donates all sales proceeds to "Homes for Wounded Warriors Program."
Trouerbach's concern and charity gets back to the family bond mentioned earlier among warriors who, better than anyone, understand the sacrifices made, feeling an obligation to care for those who left a part of themselves on the battlefield.
Tragically, Psy -- as part of a generation never required to fight for freedom won with the blood of their grandparents' generation and the Americans who fought alongside them -- will never understand that.
With the Dec. 10 death of a courageous Navy SEAL, the first line of Markus "T"'s song is sadly appropriate for yet another member of the military family: "Not everyone comes home for Christmas."
Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of "Bare Feet, Iron Will--Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields," "Living the Juche Lie: North Korea's Kim Dynasty" and "Doomsday: Iran--The Clock is Ticking." He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.
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