Monday, February 20, 2006

...And thus, the Chapter Ends.

This will be my last post for a while as I will soon begin the much-anticipated trek back to the States. My mind is spinning as I reflect back on everything that has transpired during my six months here and I hope that this post turns out to be more than a collection of scatter-brained thoughts and comments. It is extremely difficult to meld six months chock full of life-changing events into a few coherent, sensible paragraphs. But I shall do my best. Also, please understand that so many are giving so much here, and I do not want to give the impression that I am doing, or have done anything more than anyone else. We are all knee-deep in our duties here, and we are all facing, or will eventually face, the same realities which I am going to share.

So much has been gained here, so much has been lost. So many memories, so much I wish I could erase from my memory. Iraq will be a different country than it was when I arrived, and I will leave a different person; although how different, only time and reacquainting with friends and family will tell. But I can say without reservation that Iraq is a better country than it was before I landed. I have helped rid several cities of insurgents during all out, multi-week combat operations. It will be a long time before I fully come to grips with everything that has happened to me during these past six months. I have been introduced to and at times, fully immersed in the stark realities of war. I have seen the horrors of war. I have been shot at. I have had cars and buildings blow up all around me. I have walked down streets cluttered with the horrors of destruction. I have seen the necessity of war. I have seen children walking to their newly rebuilt school. I have seen ladies carrying their newborn babies to freshly stocked clinics. I have seen families liberated from captivity by insurgents in their own homes. I have seen both the necessity and the horrors of it, and how much it has affected me and my personality, time will tell.

I have said it before, and I will say it again…Your Marines are some of the hardest working, dedicated individuals that the world has ever seen. We have once again answered the call to duty, and performed some of the most challenging and difficult duties faced by mankind. Some of the men whom I’ve worked with here are not even a year out of high school…amazing. But yet they conduct themselves with a professionalism and maturity that is a rarity anywhere. I wish you all could witness for yourselves what it is I am trying to describe. I have been astonished time and time again by the bravery and selflessness of the boys whom I’ve fought with. Our country is in great hands and I am at peace knowing that I leave our mission here to their charge.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave my brothers here to fight without me. Part of me wants to stay here until our mission is accomplished; but the Corps has told me that at least for the time, my mission here has been accomplished. I will soon be reunited with my wife and daughters and will once again be able to continue my most important mission...being a husband to my wife and a father to our children.

Finally, I want to offer my heart-felt thanks to all those who have prayed, sent letters, packages, and thoughts my way. They have been such a support and encouragement and I can’t thank you enough. I wish you could see the Marines walking from the Post Office with a letter or package from home. It just makes you smile…it made me smile. Thanks again and please stay in the fight…we need you.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Opinion vs. Truth

As most of you know...well, you probably don't know, so let me tell you; I am not one to snub my nose at someone for an opinion that they may have, and I did not intend for this to be a website dedicated to apologetics. But a good friend directed my attention to an issue that I think deserves some attention and some thought.

Personal opinions, more importantly the freedom to express these opinions, are a part of Americana and what so many of us are fighting for. For Pete's sake, our own country's congress is divided (if not in thought and opinion, then in the chamber's seating arrangements) and to stifle the freedom of opinion in America would limit, if not remove altogether, the honest and at times, heated discourse between people of differing opinions. Although (with tongue firmly planted in cheek), while I think that The World According to Tim would be on NY Time's bestseller's list, I am grateful that people are comfortable to voice their dissent with many of my views and voice their own individual opinions. But you have to ask yourself (and this question is the whole point of this post), are you arguing in defense of your opinion, or in the defense of truth? This is a very important question, as we must not waiver in our defense of truth; opinion however, is just that.

I think that where we run into problems is when people opinionate truth. Or worse, replace truth with opinion. By this, I mean when people take truth and spin it to fit their ideas. Within this distortion, the truth found in freedom of speech becomes freedom of action; a license to do whatever you please. Separation of affairs concerning the State and the Church becomes all things State, and no things Church. Liberating oppressed countries from tyrants becomes American imperialism; truths fabricated to suit individual opinions. We have become a nation where many twist and contort the foundational truths of our Democracy to fit their personal paradigms. Listen, truth is not open to personal opinions. If it were, it would not be truth. There can only be one version of Truth. You can believe with all your heart that the sky is brown; you can even convince yourself that the sky is brown. But guess what? At the end of the day, the sky will not be brown regardless of how you spin it.

I am deeply angered and saddened when the future leaders of our nation believe that America's war heroes, my brothers, are not the sort that they wish to memorialize (see highlighted article above). I think that it is disgusting, distasteful and extremely un-American (borderline treasonous). I say pick up a rifle and stand a post. Put your life on the line and then criticize. As far as their campus, the number of memorials erected, etc., this is a valid argument open to opinion and one not in my purview. To propose however, that Col. Boyington et al are not worthy of our remembrance and memorial is insanity. One cannot argue that Americans who died to give them their right to hold opinions are not of the character and nobility to warrant memorial. It's like arguing for the abolition of oxygen on the grounds that it is unnecessary, as you inhale.

Many of these same individuals would argue that we are needlessly and haphazardly sending America's sons and daughters into harms way in Iraq. Mrs. Cindy Sheehan has asked, "How many more sons and daughters?" My answer to her? Ma'am, as many as it takes! But I digress...If her opinion is that America has waged an unjust war, again, as ignorant as I believe she and her opinion to be, I cannot criticize her for exercising a right which I fight to defend. She may have crossed certain boundaries as far as etiquette is concerned, but I am strictly speaking on her expression (and others like her) of the war and on issues open to opinion...not truth.

What I fear that we have lost in this country, is the ability to see the difference between truth and opinion. "Live and let live". "Truth is whatever you think it is." What result, other than anarchy, should we expect when everyone thinks that their opinion is truth? America is making her bed. My fear is that we will wake up too late to realize that we are sleeping with fallacies and misguided notions of right and wrong. Have your opinions. Argue them till you are blue in the face! I am fighting for this right of yours. But please, for America's sake, at the end of the day, sacrifice your opinions on the altar of truth. Just one man's opinion.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I wrote the following poem after returning from a particularly "challenging" mission.
I’m a man whose been torn in two;
giving all to my family and the job that I must do.
It is my hope that one day they will understand,
it is for them that I fight in this foreign land.

I fight for a peace that I may never see;
but to do nothing will lead to anarchy.
I hope against all hopes that we are right;
for a lasting peace, this is why we fight.

I look ahead and stare into the hollow;
I look behind me and see that my brothers, they follow.
We walk on knowing not friend from foe;
seeing the stare of death that only we can know.

Our fear of the grave long since passed;
as a childhood dream that was never meant to last.
We live now not in a world of fantasy,
but rather in the gravest of reality.

I pray only for a tomorrow, for it is guaranteed to none.
“Dear God, courage grant me. This I ask, Your humble son.”
“And if in the morning I shall rise,
onward shall I march toward the prize.”

Legions of angels gather ‘round about me;
for in His name, my enemies shall flee.
His shield I bear in battle as I go;
filled with a peace only His children will ever know.

And if on the field of battle my blood is shed,
these things I ask about me be said:
To my family, my God and my country I was true;
a man of my word, just as my father taught me, as he was too.

That I gave my life in the same way that it was lived,
in service to others, giving all that I could give.
That I left behind the most noble legacy,
a life lived for others, being all that I could be.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

My Mind...My Weapon

Sleep is always elusive on the eve of a mission. On these nights, my mind is constantly going over scenarios, "what if's", IA (immediate action) drills...and over and over and over. It is a cruel combination of my survival instinct and training, and it can be extremely frustrating. But one thing is certain and will be for as long as I am over here: I will ALWAYS be mentally prepared. It's the intelligent warriors who win wars; those warriors who study their enemy's techniques, tactics and procedures; who have mentally prepared themselves for any number of circumstances and who are never, I repeat never caught without a contingency plan and a backup for the contingency.

Our minds here are the most valuable weapon that we have and are also at times, the most difficult to maintain. It's almost a battle within a battle. You fight to maintain focus, clarity of thought and mental acuity so that you will be an effective weapon on the battlefield. The world we live in, like any combat zone, is filled with life-or-death situations which require split-second decisions that must be made under the most demanding of circumstances. The time to prepare your mind for this eventuality is not when the first round cracks, for by this time, it's too late. The time to do this is when you're lying in bed staring at the ceiling replaying routes, actions on the objective, contact drills and evacuation procedures over and over and over in your head. This is what keeps your most valuable weapon in the fight when the rounds fly and what will eventually get you and your brothers home.

I will be the first to tell you that this takes its toll. I return from every mission mentally exhausted. Even after the mission is completed and I have returned to the relative safety of the wire, my mind replays the mission's events like a broken record. Every step along the way to the mission's completion is filled with lessons, reminders and unfortunately at times, mistakes. Snapshots of choke-points, possible sniper hides, rubble piles, rooftops, freshly unearthed dirt...the list goes on and on. If ignored, these images will become nothing more than mental clutter which will dirty your weapon and leave you less prepared for the next mission...if you make it to another mission. Organized however, this collage of images can assist you in becoming more cognizant of your surroundings and allow you to have an incredible amount of focus.

It's an incredibly tough task attempting to put into words the mental processes involved in fighting a war, and this may prove to be one of those entries better suited to be included in the personal journal. The reason I chose to share this, albeit somewhat ineptly, is because I feel there is a great life-lesson to be learned from my experience here...although I fear it may have been lost in my rambling. At any rate, in everyday life we all have our own battles to fight, we all have our own "missions" to accomplish. Mental preparedness coupled with ferverent prayer are, I believe, the most important ingredients to being successful on the battlefield here, and on the battlefield of life. They have both worked for me thus far, and I pray that they will continue to do so.

-Just the thoughts of a simple man.