The ‘Greatest Casualty’ Leaves Me Scratching My Head

A charity’s slogan about “the greatest casualty” makes me want to change the channel before I have to hear it again!

There’s an important charity that helps American troops who have suffered injuries while serving the country and face seemingly insurmountable odds. Needless to say, such a charity shouldn’t be viewed in a negative light because that work is so important to our country: not only to the troops in need but to those who aren’t but want to know that if the worst happens, they will be remembered and helped.

I cannot stress enough the importance of such efforts.

But the slogan is a little perplexing: “The greatest casualty is being forgotten.”

In fact, the first time I heard it, I was so distracted by it that I missed the rest of the spot’s message. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, the spots are repeated often enough that they’ve now become nearly impossible to miss.

Well what, exactly, is “the greatest casualty?”

In 1945, while sitting for a portrait in Warm Springs, Georgia, President Franklin D. Roosevelt complained of having “a terrific headache.” These were his last words before he slipped into a coma and died of a cerebral hemorrhage. When he used the term “terrific headache,” he was using an older meaning of the word terrific: “of great size or intensity,” not what the word has more recently come to mean: “exciting” or “very good, splendid.”

Greatest has a similar confusing set of definitions. It can mean “of an above-average extent, amount or intensity or quality.” It can also mean “excellently, very well.”

In this case, we surely are relying on the former definition: greatest, in this usage, must mean the most substantial or significant.

But then we get to casualty and have a much bigger problem.

A casualty, particularly in military usage, is “a person killed or injured in a war or accident.” The term does not mean a fatality, although many seem to think so.

If you work in the insurance business, you may well point out that in the insurance business, the word has a slightly different meaning. And you’d be right: the dictionary tells us that in insurance circles, casualty means an accident, mishap or disaster.”

But is that what the slogan means? “The most significant disaster is being forgotten?” That isn’t what they seem to be saying. What, after all, is the worst disaster and how do we determine that? More importantly, what does that have to do at all with the individual who has suffered the kind of injury that the charity exists to assist with?

Nothing at all.

If we keep things strictly within a military circle, however, a casualty is a person, not the manner in which the person is injured.

So who is the most significant person injured? There doesn’t seem to be a meaningful or relevant way to measure that, either. Every individual is important, after all. None of the men and women who’ve served our country should ever be ignored. Not a single one.

Sometimes, we are faced to decipher the meaning or words or saying based on how they seem to be used within the context of the message being expressed.

I may be wrong, but what the message here seems to be is that these brave men and women have returned suffering significant damage because of that service, and that they are being overlooked by the very society they sacrificed so much to serve.

I would imagine that at least some of the people who’ve lost both legs because of an improvised explosive device might eagerly choose to have their service go unnoticed if they could rewind and prevent the incident that caused the loss of their legs. But psychologically, there is something very damaging to our troops to have their service, and more specifically, their experience discounted by those around them.

They need to be thanked. They deserve to know that the rest of us appreciate them. And they need to be taken care of when they come back suffering from wounds because of the sacrifices they were willing to make on our behalf.

To not have that, the context of the message seems to say, may even be worse than the physical wounds.

If I’m interpreting the message correctly, then, the slogan ought to be: “The worst injury is being forgotten.”

I think that would send a much more powerful message.

And I hope no more American soldiers are ever put in a position to find out how true the message is.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.