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Even the West Point parents in attendance couldn't help but snicker at these proud ranks being decimated by a hat. But watching this, I finally was able to articulate something that I had only vaguely sensed before: This thing that West Pointers do parading in unyielding formation, shining already gleaming boots, enlisting to sacrifice their lives on some unknown and unloved territory far from home is not done out of ignorance, but out of faith. They have faith that the American values and resourcefulness do not lend themselves to meaningless death. They have faith that not only is freedom worth fighting for, but that we do not fight for any lesser end.
What do we owe them in return? An honest debate and some tough questions that soldiers by definition cannot outwardly ask or answer. Many of her classmates, like Lushenko, see Perez's death as a reason for more resolve in the fight. And one imagines that Perez, who was not given to second-guessing herself or her mission, would agree. This election season has featured Democrats obsessed with blaming their opponents for getting into the war and Republicans mistaking discussion for sedition. Instead, we should be asking straight questions: Do we have enough troops? Is the war winnable? Should we redeploy to safer bases or should we be a more muscular presence on the streets of Iraq? "Emily was just a problem solver," says one of her fellow cadets. Iraq may have defied solution so far, but we owe her a continued, honest effort.