An Uneasy Truce
Christmas is within a week and my thoughts and prayers go out to the men and women in uniform who are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Whether you support the Bush administration's conduct of the war or not, hopefully, that is irrelevant when it comes to supporting our nation's military personnel in harm's way.
I have had the honor personally to know two individuals who have been deployed. One served a tour of duty a little over a year ago. The other is currently deployed in a support mission based in Kuwait, which involves actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
In several conversations and e-mails with one of them many months ago, he agreed to share some of his thoughts and experiences as long as nothing was written that could be used to identify him.
He is a member of a National Guard unit that was deployed to northern Iraq for a year. For him, this meant giving up the comfort of attending college to serve his country in a combat zone.
By and large, almost all of his friends and fellow students have been very supportive, except for a small minority whose liberalism has clouded their sense of humanity.
Fascinating enough, he is rather philosophical about it, remarking that he respects the fact that some will exercise their rights to be unpleasant - rights that he fought to preserve.
He served as a "Force Protection Squad member. in the Kurdish province in the towns of Tuz and Saluymanbak."
"Force protection squads are responsible for maintaining the vehicles, safe houses, and weapons systems of the A team, as well as supporting during missions. Ever wonder who watched the super elite soldier's backs? Well that was our job," he wrote in an e-mail.
He went on to explain: "The regular infantry mission had two parts. The first to conduct presence patrols and anti-insurgency raids, check points and other operations, and the second is to assist in training Iraqi National Guardsman and Iraqi Police."
"The Special Forces mission is to train the Iraqi National Guard soldiers with the assistance of the regular army troops, and to make contacts with local informants for information. Secondly, to do raids on suspected insurgents, or former Baathist Party members suspected of still continuing or supporting terrorist operations."
In a time when there is an emphasis on the disparaging and sensational accounts about the progress of the war, it is hoped that people will appreciate an ordinary account of regular citizens just doing their job, who, in their service to our country, have earned the right to be referred to as extraordinary.
Both have missed (or are missing) a year of holidays, vacations with family and time with loved ones and friends. They get to enjoy working in 130 degree heat. They wake up and go to bed everyday with a very personal relationship with sand and dust.
For an extra bonus they have a 24-hour, seven-day a week possibility of getting an all-expense paid express trip to Dover Air Force Base in whatever pieces are left and identifiable from a leftover artillery round wired to a garage opener, triggered by a 14 year old, who begged for candy two hours earlier.
In spite of Sen. John Kerry's infamous "botched joke," uttered last October, which many interpreted as disparaging commentary on the level of education, intelligence and sense of endeavor of our fighting men and women, one is a college student majoring in management at a major university and the other has his master's degree.
Both are well aware of the debate raging in the United States about the conduct of the war and both are rather disillusioned about the misperceptions promulgated in the press about the facts on the ground.
In particular, the veteran who served in the Kurdish Province had several opportunities to view CNN reports on actions in which he participated and was dismayed by the slant and spin; to the point where he hardly recognized the events as reported.
It will be interesting to see just how our greater society will be affected in future years by the military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The experience of the politics over the war has caused many of them to lose faith in much of our country's national leaders because they play parlor-politics with the deadly opera of life and death in a combat zone.
And their experience with the news media has caused many veterans to not only distrust, but to disdain the traditional main stream media.
This stands in contrast with the last overseas armed conflict which fermented social and political upheaval on the home front, the Vietnam War. The government got a black eye, but the media came out smelling like a rose.
More observations and anecdotes will be shared in future columns.
Meanwhile, as the war continues with very few viable options coming to light, the country remains bitterly divided upon ideological and partisan-political lines drawn in the sand; and we face the dust of an uncertain future.
With this past fall's elections behind us and the holidays upon us, we endure the exhaustion of an uneasy truce of hope and fear - hope that 2007 will be a year of leadership and consensus, and fear that things will get worse.
As the Democrats are about to take over Congress, many are starting to whisper loudly a concern about a liberal agenda long on unpleasant recriminations and accusations, but short on a plan to bring us together.
Once again, this year's holiday break is brought to you by ordinary people, doing an extraordinary job in a difficult time; soldiers - young and old, who stand rough and ready to watch our backs while we enjoy a break from our everyday routine and the festivities.
Keep our nation's men and women in uniform in your hearts and prayers.
Hopefully we can all spend time with our families over the holidays and take a deep breath of appreciation for what is right in our country and the spirit of Christmas. January will come soon enough.
Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org