photo taken by SSgt Francisco Tataje
With the recent declaration that all troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, this excerpt from an email from to my brother in September of 2005 seemed apropos.  One funny side note, later in my deployment we all thought we might get sent home early as the promises of getting out of Iraq began to surface.  I don’t think we ever took it seriously, but it still cracks me up that there was even the hint of it SIX YEARS ago and it’s only now that are we really withdrawing troops. 
I wrote: Things are good here.  I have been in Iraq for almost 3 weeks already.  My job is very interesting most of the time and my Marines are smart and motivated.  I am very lucky there because most Marine Officers spend their time babysitting Marines because they are 19 year old trouble makers.  Fortunately, my Marines had to be extra smart and capable to get the job they have, so they tend to be pretty good kids (and by kids, I mean half of them are older than I am).  I have 3 Staff Sergeants working for me (a 35 year old, a 32 year old, and a 28 year old), 2 Sergeants (30 and 27), one Corporal (23), and 2 Lance Corporals (both 20).  Mike and I are “together.”  I put that in quote because he is stationed in Hawaii and I am here, but we are trying to make it through this deployment.  It will be a big test for our relationship, no doubt.   
Anyway, I have regular email and typically work 11-14 hours a day.  It will be nice to come home with lots of money, though, since I can’t spend anything out here.  There are many pretty parts in this country, but where I am is in the middle of nowhere and very dusty and desolate.  Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ramadi are all along the Tigris and Euphrates respectively, so they are lush, green cities…unfortunately, according to what I’ve been told and some things I’ve read, Sadaam Hussein dammed up most of the other smaller rivers in the country and that is why the southern half is so dry now.  People always just assume it was naturally like that, but it wasn’t until Sadaam decided only he and his sons could use the lakes and rivers etc and dammed them off to everyone else in the country.  Real nice, huh?
Here is a paragraph from an email to Dad in response to some of his questions about 9/11.  I’m not trying to start a fight with you or anything, but I figured I’d send you my opinion since I am here in the middle of this.   “That movie about Flight 93 sounds good.  I’ve never heard of it or seen it, though.  I haven’t really seen that much footage, period, on 9/11 post-9/11.  I can’t believe it was 4 years ago that that happened.  It doesn’t seem that long ago at all.  Speaking of documentaries – there is one here that we watch to remind us why we are here fighting.  It is hours of footage from when Sadaam’s regime was in control and shows him torturing and killing his own men.  Very disturbing, but reminds us (even those of us that really wonder why we’re here sometimes) that whether the presence of WMD was exaggerated, or whatever specific issue you may have with why we shouldn’t be here, that we are here and we are trying to help these people in Iraq.  Sadaam Hussein was a horrible man and regardless of him having WMD or not, we did the right thing by removing him, his government, and capturing him.  I wish people could understand that.  Our President, his officials, and our government are not infallible; but that doesn’t make our presence here or what we’re doing inherently incorrect or morally wrong.  And it’s more than just “supporting the troops” to say “well, ok, I don’t agree with the war, but I support the troops.” Do more than that!  Support the ideal!  Support democracy!…trust me on this, we are trying to do a good thing here and many of the people and the towns are turning the tide.  They are tired of being trampled on – either by Sadaam or by the insurgents.  Unfortunately, we can’t be everywhere at once and always help these people in every circumstance….but we are trying…we are trying.  I don’t think people truly realize what a daunting task this is that we are undertaking.  So many people back home make it sound like we are evil doers and trying to rule the world.  But when you really think about it, how is what we’re doing here meeting that supposed end to rule the world?  By sacrificing young American lives and peoples’ money and resources to spend months at a time in a bereaved country trying to find IED’s on the side of the road an insurgents hiding in houses just to save a life or two, or just to try to make it safer for the Iraqis to vote – how does that help us rule the world?  We are not here to stay.  We will leave.  But for now, we need to be here to save these people, and do this knowing the risk is it may not work, and they may not thank us, and the world may call us names.  But you know what?  We do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. ”
In closing, I finished reading The Postmistress a couple weeks ago (speaking in current time now ;)).  This particular passage struck me:  “All that time over there” – her finger slid along the rim of the glass – “getting it down, getting it right.  But it can’t be gotten – the story just whispers off in the dark.  What happens next? What happened?  I can’t bear it.”  I often wonder…what has really happened to the people we thought we were saving, helping, or otherwise extending the life of?  I, too, often wonder about the people… about those who we thought we “saved” and about the families of those we didn’t.