Saturday, July 24, 2004

Finding Purpose

July 24, 2004

“Breathe deeply,” they say. “If we are going to be extended, we will drive on with the mission and do what is required of us.”

Yeah, no kidding. Of course we will do what is required of us because what else are we going to do out here? We can’t just throw our hands in the air and give up. We can’t abandon the mission. We can’t give up on the people of Iraq, although at times it seems the people of Iraq may be giving up on us. We can’t book a flight to go home and we can’t complain to the Chain of Command because it falls on deaf ears. Driving on and giving 100% every day is easy to say and a lot less easy to do. I’ve been here for over eight months and although I have learned and grown so much over that time, and am so incredibly grateful for the experience, I am growing weary. Someone asked me today what I think is the biggest lesson is to come of all this. I said that if the government is going to require the Army to serve a one-year tour of duty, they should set definite dates for that tour and stick to that date - no matter what. The military is supposedly so highly organized, yet no one can seem to give a definitive answer on anything, except to say, “we will prevail no matter what.” They can only say that for sure because they know their soldiers are not going to abandon the mission. The military is doing what is asked and demanded of the government, but is the government doing what is asked of the military?

We ask that we are given what is needed to succeed and to survive. We ask for the truth. We ask for guidance. We ask for faith.

Many soldiers still don’t have body armor and many humvee’s are still without up-armor. Many more believe less in the basis put forth by the administration for going to war. Even more than that believes there is a failure in leadership from the highest level. And almost all of us believe there is no end date in sight.

It seems to many of us that if the government is going to juggle with our lives they should do so less recklessly than they are. Many soldiers have been here well beyond their required year and they still don’t know when they are going to go home. Many of us have civilian careers on hold and many still have to finish college. Many have their own failing businesses. Many are losing the most important thing of all – their families. Marriages deteriorate and children forget what they love most about mommy and daddy. You can argue that we knew these risks before we signed up, and that this is all part of the deal we made. But does it make it right? Should the government play recklessly with our lives because they can, and because they failed to plan for after the fall of Baghdad? I don’t think so – and many others agree with me.

Having said all of that – let me get to the point of my diatribe. In spite of all the frustration and anger we feel at times, we are all in search of a purpose – something we can focus on and believe in. I’ve found mine and I think it will get me through whatever curve balls are thrown at me before the end of my tour. My ‘Kicks for Kids’ program is taking on a life of its own and I just couldn’t be happier. It is becoming a lot bigger than I anticipated but that just shows the willingness of the American people to reach out and help others. So many people have said that they want something they can actually do to help and ‘Kicks for Kids’ is giving them that opportunity. You have no idea the impact you are going to have on the lives of these kids. Perhaps when they grow older and they are being recruited in to militant groups, they will think back to the Americans who put shoes on their feet and they’ll know we aren’t the enemy.

I received my first box of shoes yesterday and it was the coolest feeling. They are ‘tangibles’ for the kids I see everyday in addition to the standard smile and handshake. If I get this same feeling with every box I receive, the rest of my tour will be a breeze because my purpose is now clearly defined.

With Love,

(Special shout outs to Al Roker and Senator Jay Rockefeller – Thanks for making time for us this week. You two are class acts all the way.)


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