Every now and then, you get the chance to talk to one of the guys that has just rotated home from that mysterious place known to us in the civilian world as simply “over there.”
This particular soldier I have known for some time. As you have guessed by now, “Chris” is in the Army, and I prevailed upon his time to ask him a few questions.
First let me establish as much as possible who this soldier is. Chris is what’s called a mission critical soldier – if he cannot, or in the horrible implication, does not complete his mission, the entire mission fails; usually not just Chris would be injured, captured, or lost.
I asked Chris to take a moment to think about what he would like everyone here in the United States to know about what is going overseas. In this case, I asked him to be specific.
Question: “What’s one thing you wished the people here in the States knew about Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Answer: “The homeless over here have it better than most people over there. One thing I found from places like Kosovo and the Middle East is that our poor live like Kings compared to them. None of our poor live in mud huts with thatch roofs. People who say America is becoming like a Third World country have no idea what they’re talking about.”
Now I think you understand why I did not use Chris’s real name. That statement was a criticism aimed at a lot of reporters today who bemoan the loss of American values, when really what is happening is a loss of perspective among the persons here in the States who report our news on the mass media markets.
The conversation then turned around various other things, like how tactics have changed since the beginning. At the start it was about getting moved from point A to point B with maximum speed with the ability to do maximum damage upon arrival. The main change was that in the beginning, the cordon and search tactic was used: helicopters drop two squads or a platoon at each major intersection around the targeted search area, and the troops then fan out and prevent the exit of traffic or individuals. A second set of troops arrives via ground transport to a) relieve the helicopter-borne troops if they had come under counter- attack, and b.) search the targeted area for persons or weapons caches. Fast forward to now, as Chris notes that the main tactic is simply to drive up to a house with a squad of troops, and kick the door in. The cordoning method is simply not needed; either the neighbors are tired of feeling threatened and turn the bad guys in, or intelligence developed from other sources reveals the location that needs a visit.
Chris conveyed another thought during the conversation: that Bush is beginning to come out from under the dark shadow that the war has cast over his Presidency. The perception among the troops serving alongside Chris was that at least if President Bush said “We Stand Behind Our Men 100%” you knew he did, and that he’d risk his political career to keep the men on the front line supplied, on mission, and staffed up to the point where the mission could be completed. With Obama, the men are not so sure, and there is a distinct feeling among the men that are still over there that the mission is not complete.
Chris and I parted company after this; you see he is home from “over there,” and his time with family is short. This family time is made even shorter by the fact that he is rotating soon to his next duty station. And that duty station is somewhere, “over there.”
Our thoughts go with “Chris” as he prepares for duty once again soon. It may be a combat zone, or it may be in Germany, Japan, or Korea. So, for the “mission critical” soldier, we add to both him and ourselves one more mission: Remember the call to duty that placed you where you are, count off with dignity the days of that separation, and return to wonderful reunion.
A quote from my pastor comes to mind: “God forbid, that I should sin against Him, by failing to pray for you. Amen.”