The AP has a pretty decent story (never thought I'd be typing that) about some Pennsylvania guardsmen and their tour of duty in Iraq..From the looks of this article, it reads like these soldiers were stationed at or very near to where my son, Doug is stationed. This next part really hits home for me, because it sounds a lot like what my son Doug likes to do (I mean play with the children and give them treats):
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) -- They are returning home with a sense of accomplishment, but also with feelings of anger and frustration, even despair.
They speak proudly about building up the Iraqi security force, restoring electricity and watching Iraqis walk miles to vote.
But they wonder whether it will be enough to secure Iraq's future, and at times, express bitterness toward the people they wanted to help.
"They're using our good will, our good-nature policy against us," says Sgt. Bobby Walls, a 38-year-old Pennsylvania National Guard member. "The fact that we fight as the good guys sometimes turns around and kicks us in the can, you know?"
Such are the swirling emotions for troops returning home from Iraq. Among the most recent of those returnees are members of the largest contingent of Pennsylvania National Guard troops deployed to a combat zone since World War II.
Fifteen from their ranks of about 2,000 were killed during the nearly yearlong deployment in Iraq's Anbar province, a huge swath of land that's a stronghold of insurgency. Two others are being investigated in connection with the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian earlier this year.
For the rest of these part-time soldiers, it can be a struggle as they return home this summer to regain the sort of normalcy they knew before spending a year with their lives in danger wherever they went. During stopovers at Camp Shelby in Mississippi on their way home, some talked about their experiences.
Walls felt helpless and furious as he stood at ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001, one of several Philadelphia police officers who on their own drove New York City to help. He vowed to become an infantryman and get even, so the father of three went off inactive status in the Navy Reserves and joined the Army National Guard.
At boot camp, the other recruits - many just 18 - called him grandpa. He lost 45 pounds in basic training and scout school that followed. Then his unit was sent to Ramadi, which he nicknamed the "meat grinder." He worked as a sniper, usually with just one partner.
At night, they'd sneak into rural villages and urban areas, tracking suspected terrorists for hours at a time. Sometimes, they'd kill them.
Back at the base camp, Walls became hyper-vigilant. He'd fear if he went to sleep, he would die.
"You start realizing how vulnerable you really are all the time," Walls says. "You're not safe anywhere in that damn place, and that's a bad feeling. Too many guys got hurt or killed just walking to chow ... or running to the bathroom, and they don't come back."
Walls is proud of the work he did as a sniper. He said he killed "upper-tier insurgents" who would have likely killed or injured other American soldiers if they had tried to capture them.
He wonders, though, about the future of the Anbar region. The people "will not be pacified, they will not work with us. I don't ever see it happening," he says.
Walls says insurgents wear civilian clothes and use women and children as shields.
"If you're going to fight the enemy, there are two ways to look at it. You either become just like them, fight them on their own terms or you take the heavy burden like we're doing it right now and it's going to cost American lives. It's a hell of a price to pay but if you fight them on their terms, you're no better than them.
"That's the true dilemma of the soldier right now, to get his sanity and keep his morals, keep his integrity. And it's hard. It's a ... minute-by-minute struggle ... over in Iraq."What is really different about this AP story that is far too-absent in the MSM reporting of Iraq is that they include information like this:
Children looking for handouts of candy would often approach 1st Lt. Anselm T.W. Richards and the men in his platoon. The soldiers would oblige them, then ask for information.
Sometimes, the children would tell them who made bombs and dealt in weapons. Everybody in town seemed to know the answer.
One day, Richards says, the parents of a 12-year-old boy told him their son had been beheaded by insurgents because he accepted a soccer ball as a gift from soldiers.
"We said to the parents, 'You tell us who did it and we will get them.' They said if we talk to you, they'll kill us as well,'" says Richards, a hedge fund broker from Philadelphia.
"That's the fear in which these people live. That's probably the biggest hindrance to them moving forward."
Like Walls, Richards believes no one should be too quick to judge the small group of Marines being investigated in the Nov. 19 deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians, including unarmed women and children, following a roadside bomb that killed a fellow Marine.
"My question is why are people so curious and so eager to find fault with the Marines or soldiers whose lives are on the line," he says. "Why is it their behavior that's being questioned, not the behavior of the guy placing the IED, or the bomb."
He adds: "If it's because children were killed or women, it's understandable, but you know what, those Marines who are killed are children of someone as well."
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Regarding our guardsmen...and why I started this blog...
I posted this over at my personal blog, Psycmeistr's Ice Palace; I guess I'd like to post it here as well, just as a reminder to myself (and hopefully others) why I started this blog: