I was eight years old and running with a dime in my hand
Into the bus stop to pick up a paper for my old man
I'd sit on his lap in that big old Buick and steer as we drove through town
He'd tousle my hair and say son take a good look around this is your hometown
I grew up in Yonkers, New York and by the 1960s, the city had seen better days. My father worked for The Herald Statesman, the daily paper and commuted every day on the bus to the paper down near the river. When we visited the office or ventured downtown, I was always struck with the steep rise of the hills of the city, rising high over the Hudson. You'd come over the rise and find yourself staring from the backseat of the wagon at these long, strange vistas of mostly empty industrial buildings, run-down three-story houses and the Palisades across the river. In college, I got a a job as a sportswriter working for the same paper as my dad, who toiled in the layout department of what was by this time a chain of newspapers under the Gannett corporate seal. They combined it all into one countywide paper a few years ago, The Journal News, and it was there I read about the death of Army Staff Sgt. Courtney Hollinsworth from my hometown.
Hollinsworth joined the Army at 17 with a required signature from his mother, and was assigned to the 4th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division, based in Fort Riley, Kansas. He died this week in an attack in Baghdad by insurgents using grenades and an improvised explosive device, according to the Defense Department. A career NCO, he was an experienced 26 years old, nine years of service contributed to his nation for low pay and long days and nights.
Last night, Hollinsworth's commander in chief proved yet again just how unworthy he is of that title - how much less of a man he is than Courtney Hollinsworth of Yonkers, New York was.
He sat before the cameras and claimed that a principle he dubbed the “return on success” mandated that U.S. soldiers remain in the hopeless Iraqi meat-grinder - to be released only if and when they "succeed" in pacifying a massive civil insurrection, the sectarian tribal struggle that he alone ignited four long, long years ago. And then the President pledged something that is not in his diminishing power to deliver - an enduring American military presence in Iraq. “The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home,” he promised. Win or die.
Bush's strategy is to run out the clock and dump Iraq on his Democratic successor, to make permanent the greatest American mistake of our generation, our grand national failing of the 9/11 challenge. It's the only card he has left to play, but I think he'll be called on it nonetheless. This will always be Bush's war, Bush's horror, Bush's terror and residents of Crawford and Greenwich and Kennebunkport will feel the local disgrace of having raised such a man and sent him to lead for some time.
The President's supporters are limited now to the few, the proud, the foolish. Consider House Republican Minority Leader, John Boehner who said this week that the war was an "investment" and - as Lance Mannion put it - "that all the dead soldiers and Marines, all the wounded, crippled, maimed, and broken men and women coming back home from Iraq are a 'small price' to pay to achieve whatever goal the war supporters decide this week has been the goal of the war all along."
Of course, the President's supporters also include the entire Republican Presidential field, not one of whom has repudiated the failed and immoral Iraq policy. They're all for the war and the Bush vision of endless occupation, from Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani (who infamously blamed the troops and not the President for the Iraq mess) to John McCain and Mitt "Double Gitmo" Romney. None of them, in my view, can be an American commander in chief. None are worthy of Sgt. Hollinsworth.
Courtney Hollinsworth joined the Army right out of Saunders Trades and Technical High School, a big sprawling box of a school on Palmer Avenue just across the muni golf course a few blocks from where I grew up. He'd done two tours, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, but "some of the people from his platoon were called back up and he felt obligated to be with them so he reenlisted for a second tour," his aunt told the Daily News.
In Yonkers, his family heard from Sgt. Hollinsworth about three weeks ago. "He was down. He said a couple of guys in his unit were killed," his mother said. "And he said that the insurgents had gotten stronger - that they had gotten a lot stronger than before - and there was more violence than the first time around."
His grandmother opposes the war, but naturally supported her grandson. "I'm always on the computer e-mailing senators about it - Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid," she said. And his mother believes the country got lost following President Bush.
"So many lives have been lost - not just U.S. lives but the lives of children over there. You get to the point where you don't want these guys to have died in vain. No, I don't support the war, but I definitely support the soldiers. My prayers are with them."
According to the paper my Dad I both worked for, the Yonkers cops are expected to form up on the eastern end of the George Washington Bridge when the hearse bearing Sgt. Hollinsworth's body crosses the Hudson this weekend. They'll ride as an honor guard north up the Henry Hudson Parkway through Van Cortlandt Park and take the local streets up and over the big hills and down to North Broadway and the funeral home. Then they'll bury a son of Yonkers, New York who wanted nothing more than to be a soldier and serve his country.
Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back to your hometown