No one can tell grieving family of city Marine how to feel

THE BALTIMORE family of Staff Sgt. Kendall D. Waters-Bey, killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in southern Iraq, took some heat over the weekend - from talk radio, what else? - for suggesting that the 29-year-old Marine died in an unjust and pointless war, not in a noble cause to make the Middle East safer or to free an oppressed people.

Apparently it's unpatriotic - if not tacky - for the presumably grieving father and sisters of Waters-Bey to say such things, to veer away from the measured, predictable comments we're used to getting in sound bites and to take their kin's death into some thorny political place most Americans would rather not go. Certainly this is something we'd rather not think about, the relatives of a Marine openly blaming the president for his death and claiming a Marine died for "oil and money."

I don't know where it's written that the grief-stricken must follow a script or where the family of a young man who volunteered for military service must support the government that sent him to war. Thousands of military families have experienced such awful loss and pain. In this case, there's loss and pain compounded by a cynical view of the effort in which the loved one died, and that's an emotional burden deserving pity not scorn.

I wouldn't presume to tell this family how to feel or what to say.

Perhaps the best counsel for the surviving sisters of Waters-Bey came from their nephew, 10-year-old Kenneth, who said of his father: "He was fighting for his country and doing what he had to do. And he'll always be my hero." Maybe the surviving sisters will live with that some day. It sounds like little Kenneth already does.

Flag waving

This hate-France thing is a little more than annoying. A TJI reader reports a neighbor - apparently a French person or Franco-American or Francophile or some other subversive who supports the French view of the Iraq question - posted a French flag on the side of his house. Think of it!

"Now what the #$$#* is THAT????" writes this apparently apoplectic reader. "I just had to share my disbelief. Honestly. Some people!!!"

Yeah, the nerve of some people - to have a different point of view and on the same street! What kind of country is this anyway?

Peaceful distractions

What I've noticed in mail from readers and comment in travels of the last week - an even split on the war, less support than what appears in national polling. Something else I've noticed in the mail - people want to think of other things.

There's a lot of that going around.

"As I drive around Baltimore, I look for something to lift my spirits," wrote a reader last week. "A beautiful field of crocuses at the corner of University and 41st street, children with lacrosse sticks, and the mother of all potholes on Falls Road near Cross Keys has been patched."

"Last night around midnight, I took our mutt Bailey out for a little last-minute relief," wrote another reader on the eve of the war with Iraq. "It was quiet and peaceful, for Baltimore City, and I heard the sound of geese overhead. I could barely make them out, even though it was a full moon. They were heading north, and letting everyone know they were coming. Sometimes, a gaggle of geese can make you feel just a little more human."

Bump in road for signs

If there's any room in the budget - Ha! - do you suppose we could add spell-check software to the State Highway Administration's flashing commuter-warning signs? Last week, the one on the Jones Falls Expressway, just south of Ruxton Road, advised drivers to "aviod deleys."

Marty Sharrow and Eugene Lipman share the TJI Nya-Nya Award for being the first of many readers to point out the goof. For the sake of Marylanders everywhere, I hope the persons responsible for these signs know how to spell "orange" and "red."

A spicy debate?

This could start a fight. I'm a peaceful man. I shouldn't even go here. But here we go: Joey Amalfitano, official TJI food taster, claims to have found the best crab soup in the Patapsco Drainage Basin.

"RJ's Bar and Grill in the Glen Burnie Village Shopping Center, just south of the District Court in Glen Burnie," Joey says. "I hooked out of work last week and went cycling on the B&A trail and stopped in to this bar-with-food to see if the crab soup was as good as I remembered, and it was. Tomato-based, spicy, lots of fresh vegetables and some nice hunks of crabmeat. The best." That Joey, such a troublemaker.

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