"I must study politics and war so that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy." -John Adams
I woke up this morning to the walls of my hooch shaking and the unmistakable "thud...thud" of mortars being fired and impacting. I wasn't totally convinced that I had not dreamed the sounds and shudders so I laid there giving the wall that, "Are you playing with me?" look. Nope..."thud...thud...thud...thud", this time accompanied by SAF (small arms fire). After a quick kiss from my girls [' picture], I donned my "battle rattle" and headed out to take a look-see. Bingo voiced his objection to me leaving him inside, certain that once again, he was going to miss out on all the action.
I'm sure I was a sight in my green PT shorts, green sweatshirt, untied boots and beenie on my head. But darnit, if Haji wanted to come play in our house, I sure wasn't going to be late to the party. So there I stood...waiting for the call to arms. "Thud...thud...crack...crack...crack". Closer this time. "Wait a minute..." I realized that the barrage sounded awfully close to the range. "You dummy! It's Marines on the range!" As I adjusted my gear, I of course gave the casual "machismo" look around as if to say, "Yep, just as I thought...my gear fits just as good outside as it does inside". I ducked back inside as fast as I could.
A good friend of mine returned yesterday from a coalition hospital in Baghdad. He was injured in a roadside blast from an IED. And although his wounds were not life-threatening, they were serious enough to warrant evac to Baghdad. It was great to see him return, and I wanted to share his story with you. Let me tell ya', when you drive down the roads here, the pucker-factor is very high. Some of you probably don't know what the "pucker-factor" is, but those of you who do, you can appreciate it. At any rate, as you travel down the roads here, your greatest threat is from the IED's. You are constantly on edge. And for Sgt V., I'll call him, to have this fear validated, to have looked your worse fear in the face and come back for more, is either the mark of a very courageous Marine, or a masochist. Without a doubt, Sgt V. rated the purple heart, but he did not want it. Why? In his words, "I was in the right place at the wrong time...why should I be awarded for that? It's my job." He is a great example of having the right motives. He does not do his job in search of glory or fanfare, but rather for the intangibles; those rewards that you cannot see, but in your heart, you can feel.
This story has been told many times since this war began. The names and circumstances have been different, but the moral has remained consistent. We are not here on a glory-hunt. There is no medal or piece of colored ribbon that could even come close to meaning more to us than knowing that at the end of the day, we did our jobs and accomplished our missions. Sgt V's story is a microcosm of the bigger picture here. Your Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are accomplishing our missions while continuing the highest traditions of military prowess and soldierly virtues that has made our enemies fear and respect our nation...whether they care to admit it or not. War is a terrible thing and is without a doubt should be a nation's last option. But when a country is given no other option for a peaceful resolution to conflict, it's all or nothing. Rest assured that America's men and women are giving it our all and we will continue to do so every time that you call on us.
Say what you will about our war, but I challenge you to look into the face of any one of the Marines whom I've had the pleasure to go into combat with; search their souls and try to find anything in his eyes other than a dedication to his country. You would be wasting your time. Be proud America. Stand a little taller tomorrow when you go to work and if someone asks you why, you tell them that you live in the greatest nation on the face of the planet. Tell them that today, there are young men and women a world away fighting to preserve your way of life. Tell them that you are proud to be an American. If you disagree with this war, that is fine. No one can berate you for exercising your rights which we are fighting to defend. But unite under that banner which we call "Old Glory"...a banner which I would gladly go to my grave to defend.
(Linked at radiobs)