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Posted on Nov 18, 2010 at 02:31 PM

Five years ago this month I touched down again on American soil after over a year tour of duty in the Iraqi theater of operations.  As we were going into Kuwait in October of 2004 the Marines were preparing their second advance on Fallujah.  At great cost they had halted a previous advance to give the Iraqis an opportunity to form their own brigade to provide security in the city.  Perhaps only some Americans realize the sacrifices the Marines made as they went house to house establishing the security which eventually led to the Iraqi Awakening movement in Anbar Provice, a movement which rallied Iraqis to fight for their country against Al-Quaeda intrusion.   


The situation in Iraq after our intervention was never as bad as the media reported here, and the situation before we toppled the former regime was much worse than reported.  One of the most under-reported stories of this century is the former regime's practice of executing Iraqi citizens and burying them in mass graves.

Kurds we visited in the north estimated that 200,000 of their people disappeared at the hands of the former regime.  In addition, there were the thousands who died from chemical weapons used against them as Saddam Hussein attempted to ethnically cleanse the north of Kurds so Arabs could be resettled there.  


Due to poor reporting, Americans miss that our country is held in high esteem and considered a source of hope.  I recall going into a neighborhood in Tikrit -- Saddam's home town -- to meet with a sheik, and virtually every resident came to the street to wave.  Iraqi children in particular ran to our convoys, and members of the Iraqi Army I met were very friendly and positive.  Once after a meeting with Kurdish leaders, their interpreter pleaded with us, saying. "Please, please...when you return home thank the American people for standing with us in our hour of need." 


Many Iraqis also found employment on our base, and one day I pulled "guide" duty keeping an eye on a group of Iraqi boys who were hired to do cleaning and janitorial work at one of Saddam's palaces that we used as a command post.  They were age 15-16 and as I supervised them I would asked them about the Arabic alphabet and the translation of key words to Arabic.  One boy, Abdullah, spoke english quite well so we were able to communicate freely.  They were enthusiastic and also seemed to enjoy getting their work done. 


Several weeks later I was sent to the palace as a courier, and when I entered the foyer just inside the building entrance I could see Abdullah and his friends across the room waiting to be assigned an Army guide so they could begin their workday.  As I walked toward the hallway I needed to go through, Abdullah saw me.  His whole face lit up and he ran toward me saying, "Sabaah al-khayr, sabaah al-khayr (good morning)."  When he reached me he looked up, smiling and asked, "Are you going to be our guide today?"   I grinned at his apparent joy at seeing me, and replied, "No, I'm here on another mission, but your guide will be here soon."  His face fell a little but he still smiled and warmly wished me a nice day.


As I walked back to my duty post from the palace I thought of our exchange.  There was something about the genuineness of his greeting that made me pause and reflect.  Walking alone where no one else could see me for a moment I wept.  His offer of friendship was a welcome relief from the constant criticism of the media and sometimes taunting questions or remarks from family members and friends.


Before returning to the U.S. I stayed several more weeks in Iraq in November to help clean the palace so it could be returned to the Iraqis.  During that time I have occassion to see Abdullah again.  In the six months or so since I had seen him, he had grown several inches and his beard was beginning to come in.  He had become a young man and was somewhat more reserved, yet I could feel in his handshake and see in his eyes and smile that our bond of friendship remained. 


For that and for the warmth of human kindness I was very thankful as I returned home in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.  For the blessings of friendship and freedom  I hope I will always be thankful.

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Posted on Nov 19, 2010 at 08:46 PM

John, Michelle, Tinkerbelle, Timberoo,


Your expressions of support for our country are appreciated.  I think often of West Point graduates Emily Perez and Andrew Pearson and many others in the "Long Grey Line", among service academy graduates and in the enlisted ranks, people who are truly heros

Tinkerbelle, you are right that the UK and US have accomplished so much together.  Both Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Blair provided great inspiration to those who value dignity and humanity.


Timberoo, thanks for bringing out the red, white and blue.  The US has many shortcomings that we need to address.  Yet those colors remain a source of hope for all.



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Posted on Nov 19, 2010 at 10:09 AM

Buongiorno Andy. Com e stai. Tutto bene spero..... Why is it that when our respective governments send troops abroad to fight for freedoms we seldom see support from those with the loudest voices, namely the press and even in some cases the general population. Freedom is an inalienable right for all people although few actually experience it. We may as civilians not allways agree with the choices made for us by our governments , but we need to respect those putting their lives on the line in the name of their country and in the name of justice and freedom. So often have our troops, both yours and mine come home to an atmosphere of apathy and disinterest and even in some cases condemnation. I salute all in the military, I do not allways agree with what they are doing but im allways mindful of their dedication and sacrifice. God bless America and the United Kingdom. United in war and peace .

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Posted on Nov 18, 2010 at 07:18 PM


I and many, many oters salute you for a 'job well done!'

God bless,

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Posted on Nov 18, 2010 at 05:45 PM

Really enjoyed reading this! Thanks for sharing it!

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