I'm posting this two days late for Veterans Day, but there is an excellent extended photo essay about one young serviceman's tour of duty at The Denver Post's Captured blog. The photos are by Craig F. Walker.
Oddly enough, people serving in the armed forces right now are actually safer than they were in the peacetime army of Ronald Reagan. Consider this definitely counter-intuitive finding of the economist Steven D. Levitt:
...Fighting two wars must surely be driving the death toll higher for young people, no?
From 2002 to 2008, the United States was fighting bloddy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; among active military personnel, there were an average 1,643 fatalities per year. But over the same stretch of time in the early 1980s, with the United States fighting no major wars, there were more than 2,100 military deaths per year. How can this possibly be?
For one, the military used to be much larger: 2.1 million on active duty in 1988 versus 1.4 million in 2008. But even the rate of death in 2008 was lower than in certain peacetime years. Some of this improvement is likely due to better medical care. But a surprising fact is that the accidental death rate for soldiers in the early 1980s was higher than the death rate by hostile fire for every year the United States has been fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that practicing to fight a war can be just about as dangerous as really fighting one.
—Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner,
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes,
and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance,
(William Morrow, 2009), p. 87
I hope that news is encouraging. I found it something of a consolation. Of course that does nothing to demean the sacrifice of those who did lose their lives in service (whether to accident or to hostile fire—or any other cause), and it is cold comfort indeed to those at home worrying about their loved ones on duty.
Have a safe weekend.
On deck for next week: Two lovely new photobooks, one of which I think is a rare must-have; Ctein on solar telescopes; and at long last, another installment in our ongoing albeit intermittent "Around the Web" feature.
Photo by Mario Tama. Members of the elite Navajo Code Talkers, the famed U.S. Marine unit who delivered unbreakable codes during World War II battles against the Japanese, salute before the start of the annual Veterans Day parade November 11, 2009 in New York City. Thirteen of the 50 or so remaining Code Talkers participated in today's parade for the first time. (Getty Images)
This one is from boston.com's "Armistice Day Remembrances" at The Big Picture.