Monday, May 17, 2004

Names You'll Never Know

May 17, 2004

I know a soldier who made a thousand people smile today.
I know a marine who works 18 hour days, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
I know an airman who helped write the interim Iraqi constitution.
I know a sailor who helped rehabilitate over 300 schools.
I know a civilian who gave up a million dollar company to help rebuild a nation.
I know almost 800 people who died for their country.


I know seven soldiers who abused Iraqi prisoners and shared their pictures with the world.


You wouldn’t even know that Lynndie England exists if she made a thousand people smile or helped rehabilitate 300 schools. You only know her name because she did something horrific. Even those who are killed don’t measure up enough to get their name on the evening news – they’re just a number on a scroll at the bottom of the screen.

As hard as I try to get people to bite at the great things we are accomplishing, it just isn’t happening. But put a leash on a prisoner and you are instantly front page news. I am not trying to disregard what Lynndie England and her gang of ghouls did. They can never explain away those pictures. These soldiers have embarrassed our military and our country, and they have threatened the lives of every person who is working tirelessly to rebuild this country. They have undone the hundreds of thousands of wonderful things we have accomplished over the last year. I am embarrassed they wear the same uniform as the rest of us. They may be punished in a court of law, but fate has punished them forever because they have Nicholas Berg’s blood on their hands. And I’m sure there will be more to follow.

It’s incredibly frustrating to know there is little interest in the humanitarian side of this conflict. Every single day I talk to Iraqis who are happy we are here and who thank us for our hard work. I’m sure they are anxious for peace and want to go on with their lives without Americans overseeing every detail. But that doesn’t mean they hate us – it simply means they want independence. Still, you never see them interviewed for the evening news.


If I seem a little bitter, I apologize. But we are sacrificing so much to be here. Every day, another marriage breaks up. Every day, a child remembers less and less about his mother or father. Every day, soldiers miss the feel of home. Every day, soldiers walk on foreign land and sleep under unfamiliar skies. Every day, soldiers long for familiar hugs. And every day, there are men and women dying. We make those sacrifices because we believe we are doing something positive for the world. If we don’t start focusing on those positive things, we are doing a disservice to everyone who is putting their lives on the line.

I wish I was allowed to talk politics. We are the symbol of freedom, yet that is the one thing we give up when we sign on the dotted line. Ironic, isn’t it? I just finished reading Bob Woodward’s new book, Plan of Attack, and my mind is filled with so many conflicting thoughts. The danger of the last few months also contributes to that – as do conversations I had with people during R and R. When you are over here and this is your life, you have no choice but to accept it - so I have - and I am making the most of it. But I overanalyze a bit more than most of the troops. I want to believe that we are here because Saddam Hussein was a threat to our country just as Osama Bin Laden is. I want to believe our President sent us into harms way because intelligence reports signaled immediate threats to the United States. I want to believe that Saddam Hussein was not only bad for his country, but also for ours. I’m not so sure anymore, and that scares me. But it’s not enough to keep me from doing my job and I’ll never stop being an advocate for the wonderful things we are accomplishing.

Pictures and videos don’t lie. But they don’t tell the entire story. There are great things happening and it’s my mission to make sure those great things continue to happen – and that America sees it. I guess it doesn’t matter if I start to question why I am here. The fact is I’m here, it’s hard, and yeah, sometimes it sucks…but it’s nothing a child’s smile can’t cure.

With Love,


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