In 2007, I was an Army lieutenant leading a group on a house-clearing mission in Baquba, Iraq, when I called in an artillery strike on a house. The strike destroyed the house and killed everyone inside. I thought we had struck enemy fighters, but I was wrong. A father, mother and their children had been huddled inside.
In fact, it's been nearly three years, and I still cannot remove from my mind the image of that family gathered together in the final moments of their lives. I can't shake it. It simply lingers.
I know something about this. The deaths that I caused also killed any regard I had for my own life. I felt that I did not deserve something that I had taken from them. I fell into a downward spiral, doubting if I even deserved to be alive. The value, or regard, I once had for my own life dissipated.
In recent months I've been trying to honor the lives I took by writing and speaking in public about my experience, to show that those deaths are not tucked neatly away in a foreign land. They may seem distant, but they are not. Soldiers bring the ghosts home with them, and it's everyone else's job to hear about them, no matter how painful it may be.
We must not forget that LT Meehan was acting in our names, and we have blood on our hands as well. It is good that he reminds us of that fact. We may feel like bystanders, that we were not involved, but whether we advocated the war, or acquiesced in it, we share in the responsibility and the obligation help heal those wounds.
And moreover, on behalf of all the Mister Tristans who will one day grow up to be of soldiering age, the promise to ourselves to never again take lightly the decision for war.