Sunday, July 31, 2005

Severely Blogged

What if I told you that, after thousands of years of violence, Iraq is now a peace-loving nation. A great contributor to the world in terms of quality products and a strident ally in wars against dictators and terrorism. Its government and people refined and so ardent about improving that they stabilize the Middle-East. Their people are beautiful and enlightened, educated and productive. They agree that America will not remove its remaining bases from their land.

Well, this has happened! Yes, it has. Not with Iraq. But with Japan. And Germany. And on a smaller scale, many more countries. It’s what we, America, do. We’ve done it decade after decade. The wars that preceded these astounding successes were brutal, harsh, even more unsavory than our current conflict. But we smash a brutal dictator. We then sacrifice additional life to their residual hatred as we stay and pay (big time) to rebuild them. Teach them to be peaceful and productive. And after they can stand on their own, they govern themselves.

Germany and Japan are now all those things in the first paragraph and some of the world’s best citizens. I beg your understanding. Usually I just relay my experiences here, certainly through my perspective, and let you judge for yourselves what it may mean. But in this blog I wanted to sum up the meaning of some of my experiences and studies of the nature of this struggle.

In my fledgling wanderings through the world of blogs I have found many that support these principles that have brought us to Iraq, but there are also many that try to harp on every flailing in it, while presenting no alternative to the necessities that regrettably and irrefutably brought war to us at this time. Such chaffing without balm and without consideration to the evil averted has raised my ire and caused me to recall these examples from history to make this point: What a difference the noble citizens of America have made when answering the fearful call of war. Critics ne‘er contribute.

Taste for yourself this little rant from a Sunni “girl” (LINK). She complains that her air conditioner and washing machine don’t work sometimes now that America has so wickedly attacked her wonderful leaders. Water and electricity were supposedly always on when Saddam was in charge. She claims knowledge that Al-Qaeda wasn’t here until the Americans came; hence it’s our fault they are in Iraq.

For the record: The Sunnis received the benefits of Saddam’s oil money and some graces. The rest of Iraqis often lived in mud and stone huts, (not to mention horrible fear) --how they wish they had air conditioning or even a fridge! And they wash their pots, pans, and clothes in streams and well water. Their neighborhoods are like ghettos. Some of the Sunni leaders have encouraged and sustained Al-Qaeda in hopes to win back dominance over these abused citizens. (Shiites and Kurds are the ones targeted by terrorists). This girl’s (mis)perceptions stem from her little window on Iraq and are fed by the world media. (You will find links to Al-Jazeera and the NY times on her site)

Don’t feel too bad for her. Eventually she will have air-conditioning all day long and be able to wash her clothes at will again. The difference being, so will the rest of Iraq! And I will wager you that the scenario I presented in the first paragraph will seem obvious someday. It will take time, a lot of time probably a generation, but it’s what we Americans do. We’ve done it a lot. We’re good at it. And it’s amazing when you think about it. Do we really turn age-old, murderous countries into useful free citizens of the world? Yes, we do.
"how we live" Posted by Picasa
who has air conditioning? Posted by Picasa
Operation School Supplies Posted by Picasa

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pioneer Day

July 24th, Pioneer Day in the Mountain West. The day Latter-Day Saints commemorate their pioneer heritage. Pioneers went headstrong into the face of danger and the unknown. Following the vision of their Prophet-leader, they blazed a path, endured amazing hardships, and persisted until their goal was obtained. Upon arrival at their “promised land,” they found a barren desert, a lake that was full of undrinkable salt water, and not much else. There they built something that would last but, for the most part, would only be enjoyed by their descendants. And their heritage of faith and sacrifice would inspire their progeny for generations.

Certainly, the soldiers here qualify as pioneers. In a very unique war where all their training in the typical military ways of killing and destroying things has been for the most part accomplished in a relatively brief and surgical thrust, they are instead called on mostly to build. To live and survive in a place where Americans have rarely been and were not welcome. They are blazing a new path.

Their role is in stark contrast to the armies of history. Instead of plundering, they give. Instead of destroying, they build. Instead of ruling, they teach self-government. Rather than to take life, their duty is to protect it. Where Saddam imprisoned children and terrorists target them, the soldiers love and are loved by the children here. Every where they go, these pioneering souls are sacrificing to create something that they will probably never personally enjoy.

The Iraqis also forge a new way into democracy and liberty. Captain Burt of the 148th here in Kirkuk met with the Interim Iraqi President Talibani and said he is a high caliber, driven, good, and gracious man, devoted to the ideal of a free Iraq. Such are the quality and vision of those with the pioneer spirit in this land, for they too must endure severe hardships.

Pioneers tamed the West, championed women’s rights, went to the moon, and a million other things that the critics said never could be done. Iraq, your future has never looked brighter. Happy Pioneer Day.
Working together for a safer Iraq Posted by Picasa
much better days! Posted by Picasa
teaching American hand signs--some get it, some don't Posted by Picasa
Friends let friends borrow sunglasses Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 22, 2005

Credit Due: Part II

But to give credit where credit is due, he told me of another time his group came under heavy fire in the Sunni Triangle. They entered a city with HumVees, Bradley’s; he and his squadron on foot. Those on foot would walk between and behind the Bradley’s for protection. When the heavy fire surprised them, the tanks and HumVees retreated, leaving the foot-soldiers with only their vests and helmets to protect them. As he put it, “you’d be surprised to know how fast you can run the ‘Mogadishu Mile’ in [full gear] when you need to!“ That’s about how far they ran from a rainstorm of bullets with NO CASUALTIES.

My point? I will shamelessly repeat it again since we are so often showered with the negative news. For every soldier hit, thousands escape. The extremely low number of casualties in this conflict is nothing short of miraculous. Nothing short of thousands of miracles. These stories I hear over and over make it a very difficult environment for Atheism to survive in. The facts stare you in the face. Hearts change.

I also receive letters from many of you letting me know of the prayers of your families, congregations, and others for the welfare of our dedicated soldiers. It works!! I thank you! They thank you.

Unfortunately, Sunday was again one of those sad, solemn times when a soul is taken home. The base seemed deserted as many gathered for a “Ramp Ceremony,” the entry of the fallen onto air transport for their final trip to family. We continue to hope that such times are the exceptions, rather than the rule in this war. And that those taken are in God's care.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Credit: Part I

Last Sunday I gave a ride to a soldier going my way. Noting my civilian attire, he asked what I did. After explaining how our Add-on Armor (AoA) crew puts on the turret armor and thicker windshields he gratefully said, “That stuff really works!” I asked him if he had any personal experience. Did he! His 1025 HumVee had just run over an IED and then they received a volley of about 40 rounds to the windshield and ten to the front of the turret. The bullets were deflected off the turret’s front shield and the windshield held. The rest of the armor protected those inside and the mortally IED-wounded HumVee ran just long enough to get them out of harm’s way.

He thanked me for what we do and I returned the gratitude, “Hey, thanks for what YOU do!” I guess we all make a pretty good team. The other half of our group does basic services: lubes and filters and so on. Now soldiers aren’t as excited about an oil change as they are about getting armor added-on, but both are equally important to the happy ending in the soldier’s story. Part 2 next…
Beware the burning wrenches of death!  Posted by Picasa


Rob went home for a little R&R and when he came back, he showed us this. Now, there is a man who loves his career! Sorry, Mom!
AoA crew and up-armored HumVee Posted by Picasa
or, our personal favorite... Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Safety Issue

The other night I was on the way home from the gym when a rocket flew right over my vehicle. I had the stereo up pretty loud but the “Whoosh” was even louder. Like an over-sized bottle-rocket. Which is what it is. Over-sized bottle-rocket “with report.” That is, they are supposed to explode.

I watched as the truck behind me swerved over and turned around, heading for the nearest bunker I suppose. The rocket had already landed and not gone off, just behind the medic‘s bunker. No report after all. The second one was also a dud, but started a fire after landing. Right next to the Air Force fire station.

The military boys came out and set up lights to find the first one. Once found and carefully removed from the ground, it is almost unceremoniously blown up. A warning comes over the “loud voice” system announcing a controlled explosion in 5 minutes. Then, 20 minutes later, after you have forgotten about it, you are scared witless by an explosion that shakes buildings on the other side of the base. All part of the life here.

I am not shaken a bit, really. In fact, I found the fact that a little rocket attack resulted in a deadly projectile whizzing over my hood amusing, now that I know what it was! But as a National Guard recruiter pointed out, more of his soldiers die in car accidents in America than in Iraq.

Did you get that? I’ve mentioned all along how I feel safer here but there are the facts: This war was so well executed and safe that it is actually more dangerous to drive in America than fight this war in Iraq. See the article at:

http://washingtontimes.com/national/20050712-104006-8582r.htm

Add in dangerous crime in America and you must conclude that if it is safety you seek, Iraq is the place to be. But I won’t hold it against you if you continue to pray for myself and especially my comrades-in-arms. Or join them in their prayers for the people of Iraq. It is they who suffer most at the hands of the terrorists, and who have suffered for 3 decades under a miserable and blood-thirsty tyrant. That’s the safety issue here.
"if only I could shoot back..." Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 11, 2005

Rick Clay

I have been reading a register -only blog by civilian head-contractor Rick Clay (www.rickclayblog.com). Part of his job is to work with villages on construction projects. They gather the local tribal leaders and find out what projects they could use. They then hire sometimes more than 1000 locals to work, bringing pride and needed pay to the people of the villages, along with the new building and infrastructure (water, roads, etc) projects. They train them in the more up-to-date American construction ways.

The usual forces that try to disrupt and intimidate the villages that are progressing in this manner try to kill children and workers to scare the villagers. But when the local leaders and villagers see the projects getting completed and the workers paid, they are very grateful. Often the perpetrators are turned-in and captured. Sometimes high-value targets are also turned-in and processed.

In this way, village by village, person by person, the Iraqi’s learn that indeed the coalition is here improving their lives and that swift and certain action is taken against those that seek to kill and intimidate Iraqis. Iraqis are trained in modern construction knowledge. They gain skills to help pull themselves out of poverty.

There are tragedies along the way, but it is interesting to see Americans like Rick Clay with great talents and valuable skills give up perhaps safer and greater opportunities to do something for people often formerly considered America’s enemies.

Another interesting note: Mr. Clay tells about the women really like Americans because they are kind and respectful towards females. I can’t help but think that they, as mothers, will also influence the next generation to respect women and Americans.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Return Trip

Sharjan, Arabic Emirates

Stayed here on my way back from Germany. It is a providence-like country next to Dubai with it’s own distinct rules and culture. A very conservative place; alcohol and shorts, for example, are not allowed. You can get 2 years in jail for being caught intoxicated or shoving someone. Here people from Yemen, Iran, India, and all over get along just fine. Americans are safe walking down the street. Pictured below are some sights from this little place.
Fishers of Sharjan Posted by Picasa
A park for kids... Posted by Picasa
Ministry of Petroleum Posted by Picasa
Skyscraper section of Sharjan Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Wunderbar

Well, I enjoyed my last few days in Germany relaxing from all that running around lakes and mountains and rollerblading to see different parts of the cities. My feet were tired and my eyes and heart were happy. Certainly my pallet wasn’t dissatisfied either. An immensely satisfying experience. But before I go back to the heat, these pictures…
hikers of all ages and types Posted by Picasa
Oberstdorf Posted by Picasa
Rapunzel's Home? Posted by Picasa
Evening arrives on [lake] Bodensee Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 04, 2005

Bregenz, Austria

Continuing on my vacation--I unwittingly rode the train into Austria looking for a place to stay. With some nomadic teenage girls laughing at my ignorance, I stepped off the train. Wondering if I could get around, I was relieved to find out that everything was still written in German: I could still understand the language. Then I began to smile, because not only was the place beautiful, with lots of mountains, water, and the sun setting…but everyone was on skateboards and rollerblades! “Welcome Home!” I grinned to myself. Since I had picked up a pair of blades on sale (one of many, many little sweet blessings on my trip), I smiled, donned them, and glided, camera blazing, into the [another] sunset…
A late afternoon view into Bregenz Posted by Picasa
On the lakefront approaching sunset Posted by Picasa
Bregenz, daylight waning Posted by Picasa

4th of July--Location: Iraq

How amazing to be here as Iraq gains its independence. Freedom in America cost the blood of valiant souls before our time. I believe that at any time, any place, liberty commands a high price. Then, as now, there are those who complained or wanted to stick with the Status Quo in the original colonies and sided against Independence. Those who side against freedom were wrong then and are wrong now.

How amazing, and I can only speak for our group at church, to hear their testimonies of grace. Today in church I heard soldiers thank God for their protection. I heard them pray for the Iraqi people, that they might know independence and peace. Then I heard soldiers confess that despite the hardships, they feel they are supposed to be here, and that they are trying to do the right thing.

One soldier that spoke today got engaged just before being called up to deploy; his fiancé waits. Another laments that his daughter is growing up without him. Others were called away from things dear to their souls. Not their first choice, but they answered the call to duty. They serve well. They want to serve the people of Iraq as well as America and pray for both those that appreciate their presence and those that hate them. Who better to trust with this arduous task?

It is groups like this that make me proud to be an American. I think their hearts have been softened by danger, purified in some ways by the heat of war, lifted to purposes greater than self, and ennobled by the fate that has befallen them. I feel many are of the salt of the earth. And you won’t find a better sermon about these at worship and their work than in the National Anthem:

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

Francis Scott Key

Amen!