The Least Immoral Choice

By Sally Quinn
Tuesday, January 9, 2007

I am an Army brat. I have seen the effects of war firsthand. My father fought in World War II and in the Korean War. I lived on Army posts and saw or heard about the human devastation of war each day.

During the Korean War my father served on the front lines, leaving us behind in Tokyo. Every day I read in the newspaper Stars and Stripes about soldiers being killed. I fell ill because of the emotional stress of having him at war, and at age 10 I ended up in Tokyo General Hospital.

The hospital was filled with severely wounded soldiers who had been airlifted from Korea. It was decided that having parents visit their sick children would be too disruptive, so my mother wasn't allowed to see me for months at a time.

Finally, after nearly nine months, I was transferred to Brooke General Hospital in San Antonio. My mother, younger brother, younger sister and I were placed on an Army hospital plane with the most seriously wounded soldiers, who were to fly back with us. There were no seats on the plane, only three rows of litters, five high, all filled with badly wounded and dying soldiers, most of them still kids themselves. I was strapped to my litter, as they were, but my mother, brother and sister were ambulatory.

The thing I remember most vividly is the soldiers screaming in pain and crying out for their mothers. My mother went up and down the aisles holding their hands, stroking their brows, giving them sips of water. My sister helped light their cigarettes. Many of them were amputees. Some had no stomachs, some had no faces.

The soldiers in the litters above and below me both died, blood dripping from their wounds. Many other soldiers died while we were in the air. We had to stop in Hawaii overnight to refuel and to leave the bodies.

I hope that when President Bush discusses sending more troops to Iraq, knowing that we will have to pull out sooner rather than later, that the conversation comes around to the human suffering. Does anyone at the table ask about the personal anguish, the long-term effects, emotional, psychological and financial, on the families of those killed, wounded or permanently disabled?

When I hear about the surge, all I can think of is those young soldiers on the plane to Texas. We have already lost more than 3,000 soldiers, and many more have been wounded and disabled.

We have three choices here. All three are immoral. We can keep the status quo and gradually pull out; we can surge; or we can pull out now. When I think about those young soldiers on that plane coming back from Japan years ago, I believe pulling out now is the least immoral choice.

The writer is a co-moderator of On Faith, an online conversation on religion at

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