Trust In Action

Marine Corp. photographer Cpl. Trevor Gift snapped this photo on January 30 in the Iraqi city of Nasarwasalam:

Mom goes to vote; in addition to guarding the voting station, the masked Iraqi Security Force soldier performs the new duties of holding and guarding her baby who, all bundled-up and without a care in the world, rests peacefully in his arms. You can see the full-size photo here. (Photo is HUGE).

There's something visceral about the image of a soldier carrying a baby. Perhaps it's the juxtaposition of power and vulnerability; the idea of a man (or woman) who has been trained in the business of killing being placed in the position of nurturing an infant, even if only for a moment.

This is a Russian spetsnaz trooper carrying a small child after the Beslan hostage crisis. Spetsnaz were (and are, in all likelihood) some of the most dangerous men on the planet - the Soviet Union's version of our Green Berets. Hard men trained to do the unthinkable. The soldier's face - so stoic as to be unreadable - testifies to the will of the man beneath. How do you carry a child out of the horror of Beslan and not weep?

The answer: Because you have to. Because when you put on the uniform, you tacitly accept the fact that those around you will always look to you as an icon of strength.

Even when you feel as though you have none.

The three men in these photos - Iraqi, Russian, American, - have certainly never met and discussed what it means to be a soldier. There's a very good chance that they don't even speak each other's languages. Yet, they share a common experience and a common character that makes them, well, uncommon. Extraordinary, in fact.

The next time I see one of those "God Bless Our Troops" magnets, I'll make sure I pray for all the troops - not just "ours".