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News item: Slovak soldier killed on the weekend when a convoy in Iraq was hit by an explosion.

"Honouring our countrymen"
By Peter Turčík

"Even though my son died, I think we should stay in Iraq," said the father of 32-year-old Rastislav Neplech, who over the weekend became the 53rd Slovak to die in uniform on a foreign mission since 1993. We should respect the courage of this man, whose son was the father of two children. We should stand by Rastislav Neplech Sr., and help him to bear the malicious comments of people who don't understand what it means to be a soldier.

The Neplech family must not be allowed to become a media star for only a few days. Rastislav Neplech Sr. has finally broken free of the excuse-seeking Slovak tradition that the death of one of our soldiers is senseless, and that we don't need heroes. That in itself was an act of heroism.

This country does not honour its fallen soldiers. We have no central military cemetery, nor any general war memorial. The communists destroyed memorials to our First World War dead, while dozens of our men who fought on the Western front against the fascists in the Second World War ended up on communist scaffolds or in Stalin's uranium mines.

We have an opportunity, at the funeral of Rastislav Neplech, to change our dishonourable tradition of insisting that we don't need heroes or a national military monument. Let's honour our real countrymen and warriors for justice and democracy, and quickly forget about the pseudo-patriots.

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