Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Great (Group) Leader

There has been some increased turmoil in Kirkuk lately, such that a sergeant once here with the departed Snake River group exclaimed to me in an email something to the effect of, “What the heck happened after we left???” The locals seem to be having a slight allergic reaction to the change of the guard here.

The last time the 101st came to Iraq, they came in battle-ready poise. I think they will need some adjusting to the more friendly demeanor needed for the rebuilding and “winning of the peace” mode, if you will. A demeanor that seemed more natural to the Idaho National Guardsmen that were here.

Then there is our congregation group leader. A Samoan, he greets us in a fashion similar to the Hawaiians at church, saying instead, “Ta-looooo-FA! We respond with the same. I see him around base and due to his rank he commands a lot of respect. But my respect comes from a different quarter…he works outside the wire shoulder to shoulder with the Iraqi guard…

…my respect swelled for our great LDS compatriot when I heard about his visiting one of his wounded Iraqi Guardsmen at the hospital to see how he was doing and encourage him. The Iraqi, through an interpreter, reacted with astonishment and gratitude for the visit by this ranking American officer.

He has noted repeated expressions of gratitude from Iraqis often in the short time he has been here. In turn, this hearty Samoan encouraged the wounded Iraqi to maintain diligence in his own people‘s destiny, saying, “Your country needs you.” (since there is no contract for the Iraqi Guard, a soldier can join or quit at any time).

I think these are the small things that can and do make a great difference here, and anywhere. And this bond between mentors and learners of liberty that holds this place together. That’s where I think greatness lies. I will share more greatness soon.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving is the Bomb!

A small explosion ripped a hole in the wall of the hooch (living quarters) next to mine. The force blew a free-standing closet off the wall and with a crash it broke open across the bottom of the bed the tenant was sleeping in. But it wasn’t an enemy attack, just a PVC hot-water pipe blowing due to an over-active water heater. I know, because the same thing happened in my hooch 2 days later, flooding my floor. Fortunately I was at work and missed the terror of the experience my neighbor had!

I’m glad that, surrounded by a relatively small American force, the most excitement I’ve had this year is from a locally purchased water-heater. That is just the beginning of my gratitude. Thanksgiving is a holiday remembering the mercies of the Lord (so it will probably be outlawed in America, Land of the Free, soon), not in removing all of America's challenges, but ensuring that we rise above them and prosper still.

In America we put on an angry face to the public, but I am grateful that America is really full of goodness. I think Americans recognize that we are perhaps blessed more than any in the world. With liberty, prosperity, and safety, to name a few things. And because Americans recognize this gift is from God, they give back. How? By serving their fellow man.

Immediately in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, the affected areas were hit with a flood; a flood of volunteers, flowing in from all over America. People took off time from work to go help. In addition, companies like Walmart shipped in free supplies by the truckload and a cruise ship company offered rooms to stay in at its expense.

When the Tsunami hit those poorer countries, an American warship was the first to show up with tons and tons of water, food, and blankets while the UN was still meeting for an additional week, deciding what to do. When terrorism strikes at many countries the world over, America is the one spearheading the reaction, with a volunteer force, no less! Americans are generous, industrious, creative, courageous, and protective. For this, I am proud and grateful. For your thoughts, prayers, and love, I am also grateful. And I am most grateful to God for all of this, and opening my eyes to it. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Conclusion to (my) Veterans Week

Well, I think you get the picture. But in case you didn’t, here are 5 more. The cartoon near the end sums up the nature of our service folks that we send out to do the cruel bidding of war. I hope you have a renewed appreciation for those who sacrifice for freedom.

I know it is now politically popular to magnify the inevitable tragedies of war, but to insinuate that they are representative of our actions and goals is perhaps the biggest injustice of all. Suitably, these heroes join a long line of those who are censured for doing the right thing. Indeed, opposition seems to be a hallmark of good doing. But it is a testament to the excellence of the American soldier, that when one does screw up, it’s (world wide) news!

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."
-John F. Kennedy (JFK)

May it ever be so. Rush Limbaugh noted that America, in its short history, has sent more of its citizens to free people of the world than any other country in history. JFK seems to agree:

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.
John F. Kennedy

When war is inevitable, who is more honorable, reliable, or more capable, than the American soldier? Thank you Veterans, from the bottom of our hearts. May God bless you and may God bless America.
airlift, Hawaii Posted by Picasa
prayer Posted by Picasa
waves Posted by Picasa
all this in one! Posted by Picasa
into the sunset... Posted by Picasa

Veteran: Sacrifice, Honor, Tradition

Consider these words from Theodore Roosevelt:

The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life. Theodore Roosevelt

How grateful we are that throughout American history, there have always been souls that were willing "to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor" to the battle for freedom. There were also those in the original colonies that were very comfortable and didn’t want to rock the imperial boat, so to speak. While many gave all for the new country, many stood by, shamed the patriots, or even collaborated with the oppressors. In many ways, our men- and women-in-arms today follow in hallowed footsteps.

War is not the path we’d choose, forsooth, it is our last resort! But it seems to separate out the noble from the ignoble, doesn’t it? “Teddy” Roosevelt said, for example, were it not for the Civil War, no one would know the name of Lincoln. Nor would we know the name of Booth, I might add. Although we can’t know all our heroes by name, we can know them by the title of American Soldier.

Hence, I remember them here this week.
wary, but alive and aware Posted by Picasa
return fire Posted by Picasa
kids always know Posted by Picasa
Iraqis recognize heroes too! Posted by Picasa
battle's repose Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Veterans Week Rolls on Here at EGI

That’s EGI for Ernest Goes to Iraq. Honoring the Veterans of the early Iraq engagement with Saddam‘s regime by remembering the things they saw and dealt with. Not all bad, some beautiful, hopeful, positive, or amusing--as you may be able to tell.
boom Posted by Picasa
hurts Posted by Picasa
waves Posted by Picasa

Northern and Eastern Iraq is mountainous and held by the Kurds. They have been safer 10 years under the no-fly zone. Still, during the 90s, Saddam would still sneak up and crush villages with tanks, so Kurds and are quite friendly and grateful for America finally finishing the job started in Desert Storm--getting rid of the Brutal dictator still thriving to the South. A soldier is safe there and many of their cities prosper economically. Soldiers have stayed overnight amongst the Kurds as they guarded the border with Iran or checked on villages to discern water, heat, or building needs. The generous villagers would bring out their best wares and feed the soldiers anything in their meager storage, and even adorn them with flowers. Coalition offensive postures in Kurdistan changed very quickly to helping them recover from Saddam’s abuse and neglect.
new friends Posted by Picasa

Kurds aren’t the only friendly faces. Many welcomed and I think understood the kinder demeanor of the American soldier.
passing lane Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Still Veterans Week Here

Approx. 5 thousand words, if that’s what a photo is worth…
Tough Guys Posted by Picasa

What Rambo is, they are. Don’t they make you proud? An army that doesn't pillage (not even allowed to send dirt home from Iraq!), governed by a Constitution that values your life as much as theirs, a country that invades only to set you free, and then sets you back on your feet. But couldn't we at least get a few gallons of oil at a discount?
keep tanking Posted by Picasa
unexpected gratitude Posted by Picasa

how anyone could not think this effort is worth it is beyond me.
changing palatial decor Posted by Picasa
humor meets tenacity Posted by Picasa

You’ll find some interesting things stenciled and sprayed onto misc. surfaces by the soldiers. Here, a less-than-subtle warning, but also a hinting of a brighter dawn…

Monday, November 14, 2005

More Veterans Week

Hello and welcome back. Continuing to share some fotos from soldiers themselves during the amazing taking of Baghdad 2003. In honor of Veterans Day I wish to share some remembrances of the things they experienced on our behalf and on behalf of all Iraqis and others. Most of these pics speak for themselves today. What do you think?
blast Posted by Picasa
book Posted by Picasa

Can you feel the adrenaline???
pray Posted by Picasa

In Stephen Mannsfield's book, Faith of the American Soldier, the author explains how, in essence, societal evolution has forced a wedge between the soldier, faith, and war. Fortunately, although chaplains are restricted now from saying or even implying that their cause is Just and God supports them, there are still religious services and spiritual counseling to be found. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the thing soldiers want to know the most to help them face what they must face and in sustaining morale. Chaplains are now also restricted from following their soldiers into actual combat, something (although unarmed) they want to do and has lent great strength to soldiers in previous wars. As a result, unique in this war, soldiers form and lead their own prayer and scripture groups. The author also surmises that, by and large, faith plays perhaps even a larger roll than in past conflicts.
boys run Posted by Picasa