It is time to set the record straight, time to realize that soldiers are not statistics or tools to prove a political standpoint. It is time to look at the 437 dead and 140,000 alive as humans, not robotic pawns. It is time for us to understand who, not what, a soldier is.
The average soldier is a college-aged male. Most were lucky to get through high school, though some succeeded in earning degrees from college. Most were troublemakers who liked to party and still do. Some have girlfriends; some even have wives and kids. They all have families.
They feel just like we do leaving. Their only difference is not knowing how to analyze the democratization of Iraq or the economic and political effects of the military occupation. However, they can tell you how to counterattack guerilla forces, how to administer first aid and can disassemble and reassemble an M-16 assault rifle in less than two minutes.
They aren’t soldiers to be political; it’s just their job - a job they chose because they find the idea of defending America’s rights and values important.
The soldiers in Iraq have not seen the latest movies and are not up to date on the latest news; in fact, it is often the case that we know of events before they do, but they still grasp on to what remains of home. In care packages they prefer to receive candy, food that is not a MRE or chow hall standard, and baby wipes to compensate for lack of showers.
If you think dorm life is tough, imagine life in Iraq. You work 16 hours and when rest is granted, you’re awakened by the sound of mortar attacks on your camp or patrols in the distance.
If you don’t live in tents, you live in buildings the size of a garage with 30 other soldiers. Excitement is a night not patrolling, a new chow hall, or a camp with reliable Internet.
When on guard duty, you have a chance to contemplate. Home, women, parties, beer, sports, real food, your car, who you are, why you are there and why your friends are no longer beside you.
You’re called a murderer, but you’re just soldiers following orders in a place where the crude law of “kill or be killed” dominates. You spend your free time homesick and longing for days almost forgotten with comrades long since fallen. You remember the time your friends wired X-Boxes in the barracks and shouted insults across the hall in a mini-tournament; the time your best friend left on a patrol and didn’t walk back into the chow hall greeting you with a hello.
To you, friends don’t die in vain (as some politicians claim), but rather for the cause of liberty and freedom, for preserving the ability of others to enjoy their “given” rights, even if they choose to use those rights to protest or insult you. All you can say to those people is “what if?”
What if no one did what you were doing and America ceased to be? Ask any soldier, and he’ll say, “without me no American would truly be free.”
Most don’t understand the political nature or effects their presence has or know the truth for the cause of the war. To them, it’s a battle for freedom - for Americans and humans as a whole - it’s securing a future, if they ever make it home.
They aren’t afraid to die, just afraid to die without someone understanding and caring that they fought and died in a place they don’t know for a land they love to defend.
They live and die for nobler causes than politics. They die for others they don’t know and for our right to protest a war or mock our government’s party affiliation.
To them, Iraq isn’t what is shown on TV, for that is only a side of the truth. The media doesn’t show soldiers opening schools, teaching Iraqis English, playing with Iraqi children or relaxing in the cities they helped secure.
Deaths aren’t numbers or statistics to prove their point on whether the war is right or wrong. Deaths are names, brothers. Deaths are people they worked beside and shared cold pop-tarts with from home.
They wake wondering if today is their day to be paraded on the news and scoffed at as proof that politics are more important than human life.
As soldiers start to break under the stress of combat, lack of support and homesickness, it’s time to stop and look around.
Did anyone notice that there are no troop-supporting yellow ribbons in D.C.? Isn’t it time we set one record straight out of the chaos of war?
It’s time to support those who fight where we cannot bear to venture. It’s time to support our troops.