THE CUB, written & directed by riley stearns
Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. In 2004-2005, he was mainly assigned to a Tactical Human-Intelligence Team (THT) in Baghdad, Iraq, where he ran more than 400 combat missions as a machine gunner in the turret of a Humvee, interviewed countless Iraqis ranging from concerned citizens to community leaders and and government officials, and interrogated dozens of insurgents and terrorist suspects. In 2006-2007, Daniel worked with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) through his former unit in Mosul where he ran the Northern Iraq Intelligence Center. His official role was as a senior analyst for the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, and part of Turkey). Daniel suffered greatly from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and several other war-related conditions. On June 10, 2013, Daniel wrote the following letter to his family before taking his life. Daniel was 30 years old. His wife and family have given permission to publish it.
After the shooting and the politics, the Barden family suffers all that’s been lost since the day their son died.
I started reading this Washington Post piece in the car, while my husband was driving us back home from dinner at a popular ramen spot in Downtown Los Angeles. “You have to read this article about the Newtown families,” I said. But he already knew which article I was talking about; he’d been reading it while we stood outside the restaurant, killing time before our name was called from the waitlist. He hadn’t mentioned it at the time because he didn’t want to get emotional about it. He wanted us to have a nice dinner.
I’m frightened. I’m frightened by our collective ability to be consumed by a tragedy for a short period of time before moving onto the next, forgetting our previous outrage and emotion along the way. I’m frightened by the fact that there was a shooting involving semi-automatic weapons at Santa Monica College yesterday, killing two people, and it barely registered for me. At the time I thought, “Oh, that’s awful.” Then, once the situation seemed to be contained, I went back to reading tweets about “The 20 Wardrobe Essentials You Need For Summer” and “Top 5 Affordable Home Décor Trends.”
I’m a person who adamantly supports gun control. I’ve written emails to my congressional representatives and expressed my anti-gun opinions through voting choices and via social media. I went to graduate school at Virginia Tech, a place still very much affected by the events of April 16, 2007. My mentor and thesis director Lucinda Roy literally wrote the book about the tragedy and ways to enact change. During a Form and Theory of Poetry class I had with Bob Hicok my first semester, he paused to tell us that Seung-Hui Cho had been a student of his in a class that was held in the very room we were sitting in. He pointed to the back corner at the desk where his former student used to sit. There was a shooting at Tech while I was there, a gunman roaming the campus while my professors and colleagues stayed on lockdown, holed up in their offices, avoiding windows. I’d been planning on going into campus early that day to grade papers but accidentally slept in. I learned about what was happening from the warmth and safety of my apartment when my husband, then fiancé, sent me a text asking if I was okay. A campus police officer was shot and killed in front of the health center where I was planning to pick up a prescription.
Four people were killed yesterday in Santa Monica. Another victim is brain dead. It’s been said for a while that we’re becoming desensitized to violent events like these, and, if the general reaction I’ve witnessed on Twitter is any indication, that seems about right. This incident seems barely a blip on the LA radar, let alone the national one. Then there’s my own reaction: I heard about it and went on with my day as usual. Me—a person strongly and vocally in favor of strict gun control. A person who cried while reading this Washington Post piece. I’m at a loss. I’m not sure what else we can do to change what’s happening in our country right now. The tragedies haven’t come and gone. They’re continuing, each one reaching, bleeding, into the next and ever after. The tragedy in Newtown didn’t just happen on a day last December; it’s still happening, both for these families and for our country, every moment that all this violence and heartache continues to be for nothing. The only thing that’s changed is we feel a little less shock each time. A little less emotion. Less empathy.
That’s really frightening.