- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

A soldier’s perspective

Yesterday I returned home from a one-year tour in Iraq, where I served as a military advisor to Iraqi forces. Although nearly a quarter of my 40 years have been spent living outside the United States during my military career, returning home to the land of the free and the home of the brave remains an emotional experience.

Words fail to convey the sincere appreciation felt for the immense support received from the American public. On our journey home, the aircraft stopped over at several locations. In one country an American citizen saw us and pressed a $100 bill into the senior non- commissioned officer’s hand and asked him to buy us something for our thirst later on. In Portsmouth, New Hampshire the entire town came out to welcome us upon our arrival at the local airport as though we were rock stars.

From the near-constant flow of Girl Scout cookies to letters and packages, the showering of attention is truly a humbling experience that I and many others are eternally grateful for. Describing how pleasant on the eyes everything here at home looks is difficult to convey. The green of trees and grass seem to draw my constant stare, as does the simple order, cleanliness, and functionality of the surroundings. It simply overwhelms the senses when compared to the landscape of Iraq and the hardship of the people there. I consider myself and my family extremely fortunate to be Americans, and I am highly appreciative for the bountiful lives we lead and my distinct privilege to serve our great nation and her people.

As an indication of how much I have missed my life here in the United States, I gladly look forward to my 90-minute one way commute into the Nation’s capitol. I won’t be riding to the train station with armored windows rolled up, sweating profusely in body armor and helmet, carrying two weapons while incessantly scanning the shoulder of the road for trash or disturbed earth indicating a possible improvised explosive device. I will travel among you relatively unnoticeable, with the exception of the strange look of occasional satisfaction for the simple pleasure of being there beside you with no worries to mention when compared to being in Iraq.

My euphoria of returning home to my family remains somewhat dulled in the recesses of my mind as I recognize many of my brothers continue our work in Iraq. I was reminded of the continued sacrifice in my final hours in Iraq as I waited to fly out. I bumped into a few OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilots we had worked with us a few months earlier.

These two warrant officers typify the service and sacrifice of members of the armed forces. I mentioned to them our appreciation from the ground guy’s perspective, for their constant presence and in particular their unique aviator ethos. In the city they flew day and night moving to “the sound of the guns” in seconds when trouble raised its head. Unfortunately, one of their aircraft went down and two of those great Americans lost their lives, and three children lost their fathers. In my mind the cliched word ‘hero’ fails to do justice to these larger-than-life men. Others like them continue to ‘get after it’ from the mountains of Afghanistan to the cities of Iraq on our behalf.

With regard to the war in Iraq, the work is hard and progress labored. The magnitude of the task at hand is of such complexity that it cannot be exaggerated. Rest assured, though, contrary to the situation portrayed on the news, the sky is not falling every other day in Iraq. While home for two weeks in February, I was startled by the seemingly emergent ‘civil war’ as portrayed in the media, yet returned to find little had changed in the area I operated in. As I frequently told my Iraqi counterpart, the television is the world’s most powerful weapon because of its ability to shape people’s perceptions and influence their minds. Resist the Orwellian temptation to internalize all the shouting piped into your homes about Iraq from TV and for that matter all of the other pressing scandalous crisis-like issues beamed to you on a nightly basis (“A Sunni terrorist’s manifesto of despair,” Editorial, Friday).

I recognize it may appear difficult in our daily lives to remain persistently cognizant of the threats that exist to our nation and our way of life. Rest assured there are folks out there coming for our lunch money. I wish our common interest in preserving the longevity of this great nation, our prosperity and our way of life, could transcend the rancorous debate and circus-like folly swirling on a host of other issues across the country. Together our people will never be vanquished, divided we lie susceptible to those hungry for our demise.


United States Army

Warrenton, Va.

Analyzing U.S. infant mortality rates

In the article “U.S. newborns’ survival rate hit in rankings” (Nation, Wednesday), the fact that the United States ranks next to last in infant survival rate among industrialized nations is discussed. Numerous causes are mentioned, including our racial and economic diversity, our lack of national health insurance, “short” maternity leaves, teenage pregnancy rates and our obesity epidemic. One factor, which I believe was left out of the equation, is the higher incidence of older women having children as well as our increased use of fertility techniques, along with the concomitant rise in the birth of multiples. The increase in the age of childbirth of American mothers as well as the increase of artificial means to achieve childbirth has led to an increase in infant mortality.

While some of the other influences mentioned in the article, namely lack of universal health insurance, economic diversity, as well as obesity, probably do play a large part in our relatively high infant mortality rate, the trend of older women giving birth plays a part as well.



Eroding our freedom

We all want the government to monitor the bad guys, but it must be done legally and with the oversight of both the courts and Congress (“Bush denies report of ‘trolling’ by NSA,” Page 1, Friday). We must have those checks and balances to avoid serious abuses. Having the president merely “brief” Congress is no different than the relationship of parent and child: She has no real input, just as Congress and the courts have had no input into the unilateral actions of the executive branch.

Our nation must be protected, but so must the Constitution and the inherent rights of Americans. Those are not mutually exclusive concepts. They are, in fact, what makes us different and better than every other nation on the planet. We don’t want to be a nation whose leaders at their whim can decide to monitor the actions of the people and cloak it in a veil of “we’re protecting you.” That’s China. That’s North Korea. That’s not the United States of America.

Those who would say “I have nothing to hide so I have nothing to fear” need to remember that abuses of government power often sweep up and injure the innocent. Who is deemed a threat and worthy of monitoring is often a political decision.

Political winds shift and what is an innocent activity one day can be deemed subversive the next. That is why the Constitution provides for the protection of citizens from unwarranted governmentalintrusion. The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Our president swore an oath to uphold our Constitution. It is not only clear that he has violated it, but it is clear that he is proud of doing so.

Those who do not cry out in outrage at this violation of our most treasured freedoms do not truly understand the principles that this country is founded upon. We forget this at the risk of losing all our freedoms.


Iowa City, Iowa

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