Archive for the ‘letter from Iraq’ category

An American Soldier

March 6, 2008

an-american-soldier.jpg

The following is an email my son sent me from Iraq where he is stationed. In the course of performing his duties, he travels the length and breadth of Iraq every month if not more often. During the four years he has been there, his eyes have seen it all, up close and personal. The good, the bad and the ugly.

How he or the other young men and women who are serving there, are able to function in such an area, is amazing to me. My heart is moved, each time he send me a fresh batch of photos. I am touched by the heroism and bravery of our forces. I am delighted by the historical and often biblical places he chooses to photograph. I laugh at the antics of Soldiers during their downtime, as they seek to find a lighter moment in a very heavy world.

But, I am most touched by the photos of the children that live in a war torn country. I wonder as I look at each small face if they will grow to adulthood. I wonder if they will have hearts that are filled with hate for America or if they will remember the kind Soldiers, who tried to help them and think this is what all Americans are like.

This picture says they will remember us with trust. However, if we leave there too soon and leave them to the fate that will surely await them, they will remember us with a raging hatred, because we deserted them in a time of need.

I wish I had his ability to write it all down with such eloquence. I could never make the words fall into the right order, as he has, when trying to explain what my heart knows to be true. So, read his words and try to understand that there is much more at stake than the bottom line of the cost of war. There is a way of life at stake, and freedom is not free.

An American Soldier 2/25/08

The Soldier in the above photo is not someone I know. In fact, I cannot make out the unit patch the Soldier is wearing nor do I have a clue where in Iraq this event occurred. But that is all as it should be, because I believe this to be one of those signature photos that define a war.

We’ve all seen the photo of the Sailor kissing the girl in Times Square at the conclusion of WWII, the photo that inspired the Iwo Jima memorial, and the footage and still photo of the execution in the middle of a Saigon street.

These images captured the essence of a war and the feelings and emotion that the war elicited. These types of photos do not necessarily bring about a good feeling about a war, but rather they serve to capture what the war is about…the meaning and the spirit. This photo does that, at least for me, about this war here in Iraq.

If you look closely at this photo, you can see debris from an explosion littering the area. It appears to have been taken in a market area and there are many civilians around. The Iraqi civilians are running away, but not the Soldier. He’s moving toward the danger and looks prepared to engage.

But obviously, the most meaningful part of this photo is the boy hiding behind the Soldier. He’s not running away either, but rather seeking safety behind the Soldier. He obviously trusts the Soldier enough to think that his odds are better behind the Soldier than running away. That is telling in my opinion. This is what this war is about…but many politicians don’t get it, and millions of American’s are equally clueless.

They would have us abandon our efforts and these people….cut our losses…say to the Iraqi people “we tried, but we just couldn’t do it”, or maybe “hey, we were wrong for coming and we’re out of here…this costs too much and we have other priorities.” I do not count myself among that crowd that feels this way.

Why we originally came here is debatable, but it is now an irrelevant and ridiculous discussion. It just doesn’t matter anymore. WE ARE HERE! Our actions left this country and her people unable to protect themselves from outside influences. Those outside influences (read Iran and radical Islamism) want to turn Iraq into an extreme theocracy, and that outcome would be bad for long-term American stability.

If we depart too soon, this country will surely drop into the abyss of civil war and the outcome is questionable. But whatever that outcome, we will leave looking inept and surely, no other nation will EVER trust us again in the foreseeable future, and that can’t be good for American security.

The world will point to the violence that is sure to follow our departure and rightfully blame us. The instability brought about by a premature departure of our military would almost certainly turn large parts of Iraq into a safe haven for terrorist organizations, and that too would be bad for American security. Departing now would also signal weakness to other rogue nations that wish us ill, and again…that would be bad for our security.

I say all of that to make the point that we are here now to further long term American security interest. Our uniforms say “U.S. Army” and we fight for OUR nation, not Iraq. But a residual effect is that we are protecting many people, like the young boy below, who would be victims of the violence that would follow are departure should we leave too soon. This boy obviously believes that the U.S. military is a force for good that will protect him. Otherwise, he would hide behind the Soldier.

So back to why this photo was so striking to me. We can’t tell who the Soldier is, nor even what unit he is from. He is just a Soldier, like the Sailor in Times Square…unknown, but yet representative of the many thousands of other Soldiers. He is not running away, nor does he appear to shrink from whatever danger is nearby. He appears to embody all we as Soldiers hold to be important; bravery, valor, and the willingness to stare down the enemy where he chooses to show himself.

A picture says a thousand words. I guess I added another couple hundred here 🙂

Love, ______

When the wolf bites hard, the sheepdog remains steadfast.

September 26, 2007

u19776252.jpg   by Pamela Kay

The following is an email my son sent to his wife. Names have been changed to protect privacy. It shows, as have many others like it, that the soldiers in Iraq are not ready to desert their post and come home. They do not want to cut and run. They want to complete the mission they were sent to do. They are brave beyond belief. I am sure their first choice would be for the world to be at peace and themselves to be at home in the embrace of their families. But since they can not have their first choice, they do what they can, above and beyond the call of duty, everyday. They put their lives at risk to keep us free. They go into harms way, so it will not come to us.

I am proud of these men and women for stepping up and doing what needs to be done, regardless of the personal toll it takes on themselves and their family. They do this for the good of all. They are to be commended for not only their bravery, but for their selflessness and their dedication to the United States of America and our ideals of what freedom really is. They are sheepdogs in the wolves’ den, making a difference in this world of chaos and hostility.

Sweetie,

I’m back at the Boondocks 🙂 It was a pretty good trip and Gunner was with me, so we had a few laughs. Things went well until we were entering the IZ this afternoon. Just as we were entering the IZ, our last stop, I got a radio message that we had taken a casualties in the64th and that they were being MEDIVACed to the CSH (which is also in the IZ).

Gunner and I went directly to the IZ and got there just as our Soldiers were being brought in. They are all going to make it, thank God. But the gunner is hurt really bad. An EFP hit the truck and penetrated. The gunner took the biggest part of the blast and pieces of the projectile went all the way through his abdomen. He’s got some extensive damage to his intestines but he’ll recover. I stayed there while he was in surgery …he was in there for4 hours. The kids name is SPC Porter. When they brought him out of surgery he was a mess, but tomorrow they are going to operate again and then they will EVAC him to Walter Reed through Germany. The doctor said he expects a full recovery. They are keeping him asleep until after his second surgery, so I never got to talk to him, but Gunner, myself and a number of his buddies stayed there beside his bed for a while.

The Chaplain for the CSH, who is a good man, came and talked with everyone. He’ll watch out for Porter tonight…and I’m thankful that we have him there. CPT Haden, the commander, was wounded as well. He’s got a broken clavicle, but will be fine. SPC Garcia was also wounded, but returned to duty.

We were blessed…it really is a miracle that no one died in this attack. By all rights, it should have been a catastrophic hit…but somehow it wasn’t. CPT Haden is a very devout Christian, and he certainly believes he had a prayer answered today.

While at the CSH, I had another of those moments that lets me know we are doing the RIGHT thing by being here. In the bed beside Porter was a 5-month old baby. I asked the doctor what happened to him and they told us his mother and father were killed by insurgents. The insurgents also shot the baby, but he survived….somehow. He too will be okay from what we were told. It was hard to think that someone could do something like that. Just because this baby and his family were Sunni, they were shot. How do these people do these things. You know me and kids…but then that’s everyone and kids I guess.

I was really shook up, and that experience coupled with my guys being wounded really hit me hard. It was tough. As I said, when I arrived they had just brought the wounded in. SGT Malory is the squad leader for that squad. Malory is an inch taller than me, and goes about 250 I guess. He’s a BIG man, and HARD. My initial report was that the wounded were serious but stable, but I never trust that anymore because the last two times we had a Soldier killed, I was told via radio that they were “serious but stable”. So I walked in half expecting the worst.

When Malory saw me he just broke down crying…he was inconsolable. I took him outside right away and we sat down on the curb. I was certain that one (or more) of my guys were gone. I just put my arm around this big ole mountain of a man and we sat there while he cried. Finally, he stopped and started telling me how everyone was (as best he knew). Gunner was inside checking on the status of everyone. Judi…I was so relieved when he told me that they were all alive. He said “I’m not crying because they got wounded…I’m crying because they are all so brave.” He went on and on about how ALL of his squad did EXACTLY what they were trained to do.

The vehicle was still smoldering, but the other squad members ran to it and started extracting the wounded…that is extremely dangerous because the ammo inside can cook-off easily killing or wounding anyone near it. But they didn’t hesitate. They got them out, secured the area, called for MEDIVAC and stabilized the wounded. He was, as am I, so impressed with their “calm under pressure” abilities.

When he was finished telling me what occurred I said “Malory, they did all that because YOU trained them…you showed them how to do all this back at Hood.” We talked a little more, and then he was back to himself….hard, big and in-charge. The rest of the squad was there by that time, and so we went to talk to them and tell them that everyone was okay.

I spent about an 30 minutes talking to the Soldiers and telling them I was proud of them. Of course, none of them thought they did anything special. “Just another day at the office.” They were worried, but even in this state, they all made sure that Malory knew that all sensitive items and weapons were accounted for… That the remaining trucks were combat ready…standing there in that hospital parking lot, the team leaders had the presence of mind to brief their squad leader that all was well with the remainder of the squad, and that they were ready to get back in the fight.

I know this gets old, Babe. I know that it’s a broken record…but again I found myself asking “where do we find these kids?” Dirty, blood-covered in some cases, and shook to the bone by a BIG hit…with brothers in the CSH wounded badly…these kids were preparing themselves and their equipment for whatever might come next. That’s amazing to me. I am moved often by their bravery…real courage.

Once again I’m left thinking “I’m blessed to serve beside them…to get the opportunity to lead people like this.” It was a rough day…it was certainly not filled with good memories. But I am in awe of our troopers, Judi. They amaze me.

I’ll be here for a little while and if you have time to talk I’ll give you a call. Let me know. I love you.

Love, Me