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.