3,085. That is the number of brave American men and women who have died in Iraq since the first sensations of shock and awe shook Baghdad on March 20, 2003.

106. That is the number of postings that have appeared over the last nine hours on the message board of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine dedicated to Barbaro, the horse who was euthanized Monday in Philadelphia.

Roughly 260 postings a day, over a span of five days, puts the tally at approximately 1,300 postings since the famous racehorse was put down.

Is it just me, or have we lost our sense of perspective here?

You can call me soulless, you can accuse me of mutilating small animals in my spare time, but I do not care that Barbaro died. In fact, I’m glad the old steed is gone. Maybe now, some of the people who have spent the last six months agonizing over Barbaro’s recovery will quit acting so asinine and shift their focus back to the concerns of their fellow man. But after checking out the madness on the message board, I am dumbfounded by all the hyperbolic hogwash over a dead horse.

Check out this gem from Jean, a 35-year-old New Yorker:

“Barbaro, you are an ANGEL OF GOD!! We love and miss you very much. Have fun up in heaven. Thank you for reminding us what love is. You will forever be in our hearts.”

Yikes.

Or this poetic prose from Pamela:

“Barbaro was an inspiration to all of us at a time when we need it most. He displayed courage and the heart of a champion.”

This stuff is real. So is the posting from the guy who vows to name his first-born after Barbaro. And the 57-year-old-woman who claims she cannot look at pictures of Barbaro without breaking down in tears.

It is one thing for Roy and Gretchen Jackson, Barbaro’s owners, or Michael Matz, his trainer, to grieve. Trust me, when my black lab dies a few years from now, I will be inconsolable. But these people on the message boards have no ties to Barbaro other than that they felt, for some bizarre reason, the need to yoke their emotions to the bridle of a racehorse.

“Sometimes people escape from larger tragedies into smaller ones because the latter are more personal and easier to comprehend,” Georgetown Psychology Professor David Crystal said. “There may be more tragic events taking place in the world, like the war in Iraq, but identifying with and feeling sorry for Barbaro may be easier than identifying with the American solders who keep getting killed anonymously in a distant country like Iraq.”

OK, so maybe it is easier for people like Jean and Pamela to identify with a racehorse in Pennsylvania than an infantryman in Fallujah. I am guessing that Jean and Pam have probably never been engaged in an intense firefight with insurgents and probably do not want to imagine what that is like. But at some point in their lives, they more than likely lost a race on field day or turned an ankle playing hopscotch, and can therefore feel Barbaro’s pain. Not only that, but grieving over a dead animal shelters people like Jean and Pam from thinking about real issues like Iraq.

I wish these people would saddle up and be as brave as their beloved horse hero by writing a letter to someone like Maj. William aples, who in between combat stints in Iraq ran a 135-mile ultra-marathon around Camp Tagaddum in the Iraqi desert. Maples finished in 37 hours and 59 minutes, and only stopped once, briefly, when insurgent missiles obstructed his path. Maples deflected the small amount of praise he received upon finishing, instructing his supporters back home to send supplies to needy Iraqi school children instead.

“Barbaro” does not really jive well with “Jones” or “Smith,” so maybe that guy on the message boards could name his baby David, after Army Capt. David Rozelle.

Rozelle was steering his Humvee down a crowded Iraqi street in 2003 when an anti-tank mine obliterated his right foot. A little over a year later, Rozelle crossed the finish line at the ING New York Marathon after running for six hours and 46 minutes on a prosthetic leg.

Those who find it hard to keep a dry eye while looking at images of Barbaro’s broken leg may want to try viewing a photo of Rudy Garcia-Tolson.

Garcia-Tolson, of Bloomington, Calif., was born with a crippling leg disease called Pterygium Syndrome. As a child, Garcia-Tolson endured 15 surgeries before finally telling his doctors to amputate his legs rather than spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair with lifeless limbs. “I wanted to go out and play,” Garcia-Tolson told Runner’s World in 2006. Fitted with two prosthetic legs and a determination that makes Rudy Rudiger look like a quitter, Garcia-Tolson went outside and willed himself to run.

These days, the 18-year-old clocks a 5:57 mile, has competed in an Olympic-distance triathlon and has his sights set on the 2007 Hawaii Ironman, a taxing trial consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.

My money says Garcia-Tolson crosses the finish line in Hawaii. But I will have to follow him personally, because, unlike Barbaro, there are no message boards comparing him to a seraph, no forums dedicated to his fortitude, no postings to track his progress as he tackles this seemingly impossible task with valor.

Men and women across the globe offer countless other stories of courage just like Garcia-Tolson’s, parables of perseverance like Rozelle’s and tales of bravery not unlike aples’.

I would love to write about them all, but unlike on the Barbaro message board, my space is limited.

Besides, I have never been one to beat a dead horse, anyway.

Harlan Goode is the features editor at THE HOYA and is a junior in the College. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com.

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