Kevin Ryan on a soldier’s choices

A soldier’s moral compass constantly tested
Stars and Stripes
April 2, 2012
Commentary by: Kevin Ryan, Belfer Center executive director for research
Topic: A soldier’s choices

“On March 22, a fellow soldier gave his life for a little boy on a dirt road in Afghanistan. He rescued him from the path of a 14-ton armored vehicle, sacrificing his own life in the process. There have been many acts of heroism and selflessness during the war in Afghanistan, but this most recent one stands out: not only because the life that was saved is so pure and blameless, but because this act contrasts so sharply with the murder of 17 sleeping children and adults by another fellow soldier earlier in the same month.

How do we reconcile the acts of our two comrades? On one hand, a protector of life and on the other a taker of life. Because of one we feel pride and a brotherhood of purpose. Because of the other we feel shame and revulsion. Yet they are both our comrades. We trained with them, ate with them, laughed with them and cried with them. What does this mean for us? Are we capable of doing what they did.” 

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