Saturday, September 04, 2004

Good News, but not in the media

A friend of my father in law sent this...

This happened to me this weekend. I would like to share it.

On Saturday, August 7th, I flew to Ohio for my 40th high school reunion. Due to an error in boarding passes, I ended up in First Class, Seat 2B from Atlanta to Dayton, Ohio. As people were boarding, a soldier came on. I said to him that I appreciated him serving. He said thanks and continued to coach. When the door of the plane closed, there was clapping and applause from the back. The soldier was brought to First Class and sat next to me in 2A.

We began talking and he told me he had been traveling for three days from Baghdad. His wife and twin two year old daughters would be waiting for him in Dayton. He was going to be home for two weeks and then back to Iraq for 6 months. This 23 year old man had been in the Army five years. This was his fourth deployment. He has made up his mind to leave the Army and go with the CIA so he can be with his family more while still serving his country. He is a Sergeant in intelligence. Loves the Army, but because of the draw downs of troops, there are not enough soldiers to do the job. If he stays in, he knows he will deploy again in the near future. I asked him several questions and was surprised at some of his answers.

My obvious first question was would we really ever get the job done in Iraq. No question about it, he said. Since the Iraqi's have taken over, things are getting done. Thev US troops are now more of a support role for the Iraq Army (National Guard). There are now 40,000 troops in their Army and 60,000 more being trained plus police and local militia. His opinion is we would be starting the withdrawal by January 2006. The Iraqi's are very upset that the insurgents and non Iraqi's are the ones causing problems. He told me the Iraqi people in large liked the US but wanted the radicals out of their country. Schools are open, power is on, commerce is going, etc.

When an Iraqi unit tries to find a suspect, that always "get their man" because their tactics are a bit harsher then ours.Without getting into politics, I asked him how the troops felt about President Bush. He commented that they totally trusted him because he felt Bush was honest with them. Bush had made mistakes, but admits it.He was at the Thanksgiving dinner when Bush was there. Nobody knew the President was coming. The sergeant had to 'reluctantly' drive 60 miles to get there and was expecting a rah rah speech from a Senator or Congressman. When Bush came out, it made him proud to be in the Army. His reaction was one he really could not explain. Every soldier there without exception has relived that moment many times. Proud to be an American because they knew Bush had risked his life to be there even for a shorttime.

Another subject was the WMD's. His only comment was they obviously had them or had them at one time because they had been used in the past. He also commented regardless of whether they had them, if we had not gone in now, we would have eventually because Iraq had the potential to make and use them and probably would again. He saw many prisoners of the old regime that had been maimed and had seen several mass graves. No question we should be there.

I asked him if they were all getting in their absentee votes. The answer was a definite yes and they were all being done correctly. It appears the military was not happy after the last election when an attempt was made for many of the votes to not count because of "technicalities." He said that would not happen again.

One of my final questions was how he felt about the Spanish pulling out. He jumped right back and said "they are all cowards." He was with them in April when their compound was attacked. They all ran and hid. The 50 US troops were able to drive back the Iraq's with no Spanish help. It took 12 hours. He had been told earlier that the Spanish were going to be asked to go home anyway.

He had been in many fire fights and commented that the only medal he received was a Purple Heart when a mortar round went off in his compound while he was off duty and he was wounded in the leg. He said medals were hard to come by and very few had been awarded in his unit. But he said nobody he knew was there to get a medal. This was a volunteer Army and they were doing their job.

He also commented that the value of life there is far different than in the US. Iraqi soldiers/non soldiers would attack tanks with rocks. Some of them are fanatical. That used to bother him, but he said when it's you or them, there is no choice. That also try and recruit small children because they know the US troops will not fire at a child. If a child comes at you with a grenade, fire away. No remorse. However, much has changed since the Iraqi's have taken over their own government.

My last question was whether he had seen Michael Moore's movie. I was surprised when he said yes. It was treated as a comedy by all who watched it because it was 100% propaganda. His unit wants Michael Moore to come over on a USO Tour so they can "hog tie" him. Had a big smile on his face. I can only imagine what he meant.

While we were flying, he commented he had not had a shower in a week. He looked out at the green countryside and said it was 118 degrees when he left Baghdad. He did have a beer, his first in 8 months.

I know I am not a good writer and have left out some important things, but I was very proud to have spent 90 minutes with this brave individual and wanted to share it. He commented he loved his country and what he was now doing was what he wanted. He reached into his pack and gave me some Saddam dinars (money) as souvenirs.I said that some national media should talk with him. He commented 'fat chance' because all they like is negative stuff and he would only tell positive things. This is being written late on the night of August 8th so I don't forget any details. You may question it and, yes, it is second hand, but I know what I heard. When we got off the plane, I walked by his family because twin two-year-old girls stand out. I said to them he was right behind me. They were so excited. They asked me how he was. I told them 'great." Besides his wife, his Mother was there with tears in her eyes. I had a few myself. What a flight!

Rob Schantz
Jacksonville

10 Comments:

Blogger ~Jen~ said...

Thank you so much for posting this!

4:02 PM  
Blogger 91ghost said...

That's quite a telling anecdote about the Spanish.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Paul G. said...

Redleg,

Thank you for sharing that.
It brought a tear to even my eyes.
It reminded me that on leave at times I felt like I wanted to be completely alone and always found that it was much more satisfying to hear the stories and and interest from someone back in "the world".

4:08 PM  
Blogger redleg said...

Paul

thanks for sharing your isolationist theories from your 2 years of National Service.

5:19 PM  
Blogger redleg said...

Paul

I hate to say this but I apologize for my response. It was hasty. Upon first read I had thought you were injecting your liberal rhetoric into what I thought was a fairly simple piece. I was mistaken. Thank you for your comments.

5:27 PM  
Blogger ALa said...

I love hearing this --and am glad that stop/loss didn't stop him from coming home to his family for two weeks. I can only pray that Michael Moore will take them up on the USO offer! LOL.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Paul G. said...

Rash yes, and forgiven.

One correction the Air Force doesn't have a 2 year enlistment.
I did the full 4 year enlistment.
Understandable, I never bothered to correct your assumption that I was Army.
I'll also take this opportunity to correct your assumption of isolationism.
I'm one of the folks that want to continue our commitment to preventing Germany and Japan from ever creating a significant military presence.
I'm also in favor of using our military capability to enforce our national interests, you and I just happen to disagree on the leaders and the details.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

One thing I want to comment on, I think that we would have had to take out Saddam sooner or later. Maybe some disagree on the when, but I think the necessity was there. We couldn't keep up the pretense and the flyovers forever.

I wonder if anyone ever calculated the cost of those 14 years of fly overs compared to the actual war?

Of course, not a lot of men were lost in the flyovers, but again, I think we were going back one day. Now seemed as good as any.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Jesse said...

Thank you for sharing this story. js

5:58 PM  
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2:02 AM  

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