"He wanted to protect his country. He didn't want another 9/11," said his mother, Binh Thanh Sam, 39. "He said, 'This is our home now, I want to take care of it.' This is the age that they enjoy life. But he didn't even think of himself.".... Ngo, 20, was killed Aug. 27 in Afghanistan when his unit came under fire from small arms and rocket-propelled grenades. As his Humvee passed an orchard, Ngo was exposed as the turret gunner and the enemy directed fire at him, said Brigadier Gen. William Rapp.
I never knew Tan Quoc Ngo, but I did get caught up in his final journey yesterday. On my way to Molalla, I found myself in the midst of the traffic jam caused by his funeral procession as it headed north up I-205 toward Willamette National Cemetery. During my time in traffic, I found myself with time to think about why we are where we are and the people who've laid down their lives over these past few years. Ngo was killed in Afghanistan, which to my way of thinking can actually be justified as a legitimate (if somewhat forgotten) war against terrorism- unlike Iraq, which was and remains a war for oil. There was no terrorist threat in Iraq until we created one...and once we did, of course we had to stay the course and defeat it. But, I digress....
Ngo went to war because he felt it was the right thing to do. Politics and opinions about the war aside, how can we not honor someone who volunteered to go to war and went willingly? The sad thing, of course, if that he left Beaverton never to return...and at the young age of 20, his family is left to wonder what might have been. It's the same story too often told these days- a young person goes off to war intent on defending their country, only to lose their life and leave behind large numbers loved ones to mourn their untimely loss. Tan Quoc Ngo deserved to live a long life surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones. Instead, he died in a faraway land most Americans couldn't find on a map if their life depended on it.
Any untimely death, particularly in wartime, is a senseless death. There can be no rational explanation for why we are where we are today. Yes, 9.11 is certainly part of any explanation, but almost seven years later, we cannot continue beating that same drum if we hope to save this generation.
Tan Quoc Ngo died fighting a war that he believed needed to be fought, and for that I applaud him. It saddens me that someone so young will never marry, raise a family, enjoy his grandchildren, or know and enjoy any of the other aspects of a long and productive life. Ngo deserved better, but in mourning his passing I also honor his choice to defend his country.
It was an honor to be stuck in the traffic jam created by his funeral procession. I can only hope that no more of our children will have to come home in flag-draped boxes.