For most Americans, the impassioned debate over war with Iraq is an academic one. That is not so, however, for the thousands of Utahns of the National Guard, Army Reserve and other branches of the Armed Services who have been called to active duty. For them, and for their families, the prospect of war is very personal.
    Like their fellow and sister Americans, these Utahns may have strong views, pro and con, about the war. But regardless of what those opinions might be, they must lay them aside. Their duty to their country must come first, before their obligations to their loved ones, their children, even themselves.
    In a time when individualism, the care and feeding of the self, is the most conspicuous value, Americans should pause to appreciate these soldiers and sailors and air crews who place above all the commitment they made when they signed a contract to serve their nation. It can't be easy to fill that contract now, but they are doing it. And we, the beneficiaries of their courage, should be thankful.
    Many of these folks are among the 250,000 U.S. military personnel on station in or near Iraq, waiting for the storm clouds of war to break. It is an anxious time for them and for those who care most about them.
    For some, though, the time of anxiety is past. The family of John Daren Smith of Taylorsville met to honor his memory Monday. The chief warrant officer was killed last month when the Black Hawk helicopter he was piloting went down in a sand storm in Kuwait. Three other soldiers died with him.
    Smith left behind a wife and two young daughters. His children will struggle to understand the meaning of his sacrifice and to carry on in life without the father who was taken from them.
    It really is quite simple, though. Smith heard his nation's call, and he answered.
    As thousands of other Utahns do the same, the rest of us owe them a salute of gratitude.