This past Thursday, Major Andrew Olmsted became the first war casualty of 2008. Olmstead, 38, was also a husband and prolific blogger. Olmsted blogged at AndrewOlmsted.com from 2002 until last February when he signed off due to the Department of Defense mandate restricing e-communication from active duty soldiers. Last spring he began blogging for The Rocky Mountain News.
In the event of his death, Olmsted had written a final blog post and given it to a friend to publish should the need arise. Olmstead's "Final Post" went up yesterday, and I implore you all to read it HERE. In the post Olmsted touches on a number of things that he cared about including blogging, serving in the military, being a soldier, the role of government today, the impact he hopes his death will have, and his family.
Olmsted's death not only underscores the power of blogging as a medium and a means of self expression, but also calls attention to the "digital lives" that so many of us lead and the large online community we touch as a result. Hundreds of bloggers have linked to Olmstead's post in the last two days, as military bloggers who knew Olmsted reacted, as did others touched by his story and powerful method of communication.
One of the most important points that Olmsted made in my eyes, was that Americans - unless directly touched by the war - tend to think about it an academic and theoretical way that may have lead us as a country to a place that we did not foresee or intend to be.
I think that many of us in America have forgotten that war means death and suffering in wholesale lots. A decision that for most of us in America was academic, whether or not to go to war in Iraq, had very real consequences for hundreds of thousands of people. Yet I was as guilty as anyone of minimizing those very real consequences in lieu of a cold discussion of theoretical merits of war and peace. Now I'm facing some very real consequences of that decision; who says life doesn't have a sense of humor?...That is part of the cost of war, any war, no matter how justified. If everyone who feels this pain keeps that in mind the next time we have to decide whether or not war is a good idea, perhaps it will help us to make a more informed decision. - AndrewOlmsted.com, "Final Post", January 4, 2008
Olmstead "died doing a job I loved" and did not want his death "to be politicized", or those that knew him to be "maudlin" in their rememberances. I think that Olmsted understood the power of using his blog as a vehicle for this, his most important message. In putting his thoughts out to his online community he ensured that he was reaching friends and supporters he had made in the digital space, as well as a much larger group of people who would not otherwise have been exposed to his experiences and thoughts. And, whether his points reaches you online or off it is something we all need to remember - it's a shame it was forgotten in the first place.
EDIT 1/12: Here is a list of the over 500 bloggers that linked to Major Olmsted's final post, via Obsidian Wings, a blog he contributed to.