Last year, I knew two people who died. I wasn’t exactly close to either of them, but I knew them. Neither one of them slipped away peacefully after a long illness. Actually, both of them died violent deaths.

I had known Kevin since we were nine years old, knowing each other in the way that next door neighbors do, attempting Morse code communications via flashlights at night as kids and nodding curt hellos in the halls of high school because even though we weren’t friends, being neighbors still counted for something. He graduated from high school a year ahead of me since he was born in August and I was born in December. While I applied to colleges senior year, he entered and exited college–I heard through the neighborhood grapevine that it “wasn’t for him.” When I went off to college the following year, he went off to boot camp. 9/11 happened that year and Bush needed him in Afghanistan. Kevin’s parents staked a sign in their yard that read, “Support our troops,” and my pacifist family edited it in our conversations to, “Support our troops: Bring them home alive.” Kevin came home alive and departed for war again multiple times. He came home (alive) for good in 2008, and he came home to a suburb where no one talks about mental illness or PTSD. He was called a hero, but he wasn’t shown that that meant. He still functioned until the night before Valentine’s Day 2009 when he shot himself in the basement of the home he grew up in. If you ask me, he was a casualty of war–both the war he saw in Afghanistan and the war that he fought in his own head. He came home alive, but once here, there wasn’t much to keep him alive. He wasn’t alone, either. And just like that article says, to most people who heard about his death, there was no context for it. Let me provide some context right here, right now, as we honor all vets, under all circumstances.

The other death in 2009 was Dr. Tiller, who was assassinated on May 31 in his church by an anti-choice monster. I never met him but friends and co-workers of mine were friends of his. When my clinic couldn’t help a woman, we sent her to him, knowing with certainty that he could and would help her, and that he would surround her with compassion and care. He was legendary and a rockstar to those of us who work in the abortion field. He was murdered for doing work that is completely legal and completely necessary. He wasn’t the first one and he probably won’t be the last, but he was the first doctor who was murdered since I started working at the clinic. He wasn’t afraid to go to work, and neither am I, but I am enraged that it’s even a possibility to be afraid to go to work and that anyone could argue that his death wasn’t terrorism. He’s been gone for a year already, and other doctors have stepped up, clinic workers are still working, women still seek out abortions at many points in their pregnancies, but a great man is still gone and the threat of violence is still there as long as good people are silent, and I will never be silent.

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