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Readers Write - A Decade of War

The war in Afghanistan started 10 years ago yesterday. Hard to realize we have been at war for a decade. Think about it — a 13 or 14 year old has never known our nation when it was not on a war footing. Think about how many dependents-spouses and children-have been changed by their partner or parent going off to The Sandbox not one or twice but sometimes 3 or 4 deployments. Think about those that did not make it home at all or the ones with physical injuries that will be part of the rest of their adult lives. It is the hardest thing just to wrap my brain around the immensity of these statements.

Regular readers know I am a huge fan of those kids we send off to fight the wars of old men. Both of mine have been there and done that — my daughter is still active duty Air Force. I am intensely proud of their sacrifice and commitment. Even so saying, I cannot see our interventions in the Middle East making much headway against blood feuds that have been going on for centuries….. and I question our motives. You cannot suck the oil out of the Middle East through the barrel of a gun.

I went to Italy to see my daughter and get acquainted with my new grandson a few years ago. It was a wonderful once in a lifetime trip and my head is still filled with great memories. One memory stands out that has nothing to do with family. We were at the Aviano BX and I was sitting out front on a bench by myself on a beautiful Sunday morning watching the comings and goings. We could have been at any suburban grocery story in any mid-sized town and the settings would have been familiar. American made cars in the parking lots, moms scooping kids out of back seat restraints to balance them deftly on a hip, wire carts clattering out the automatic doors with plastic bags of groceries piled high; every day business under a cloudless summer sky. But then there was the incongruity that spun the whole scene right around. Most of the kids didn’t look old enough to work at a fast food joint but the pimply faced blonde kid that coulda been from San Antone or Brooklyn walked out the door in a camo uniform with a black rifle slung muzzle down on his back. A Humvee with the menacing snout of a 50 cal in the turret cruised through the parking lot. A pair of F-16s screamed off the runway few scant miles away and streamed a black tail as they bee lined off toward the Dolomite Mountains. You could almost taste the intensity. It was all about completing The Mission. I heard it over and over…and I just kept thinking ‘Where does it come from?’ What inner strengths do these kids draw on that gives them the courage to carry The Mission forward?

Most of the time I am just a cranky old bastard that cusses every time Miss Kathy gives me her iPhone to take a call or look at something. If it is a phone call, I guarantee you I will hang up on the caller or put them on hold. If it is a picture, I just cant get the ‘scrunchy’ finger thing down that makes the pic bigger. If she wants me to read an email, I usually manage to forward it to some Nigerian scammer dude before she can snatch the iPhone back in frustration. You get the idea– sometimes all this new gadgetry just don’t set well with a codger like me. One of the things I make no bones about is the scope of the web when it comes to a blog. It is routine for me to interact via this blog with with an interesting group of folks each week and I love it.

Just such an interaction has come to pass over the last two weeks. A young man made a comment on one of the posts and then we corresponded back and forth via email. He is an RVer and got around to asking about the Desert Tan Babies (DTBs)  He had the same concerns as I did the first time ’round about buying gov surplus virtually sight unseen.  He went on to say he wanted a DTB when he got back from this deployment in Iraq/Qatar.

Then I got this email from TSgt. Ron….


Being out in Iraq and Qatar now I am partial to the desert colored ones (talking about the DTBs) .

I saw you had a few pictures of your daughter in the Air Force.  Thought you might like this.

TSgt. Ron defending MY freedom...

I have enclosed this picture.  I am the guy on the right.When I got on the plane September 11th I saw a box with these helmets in it.  After some asking around we found out these firefighters helmets were used on scene for some first responders to the tragedy on 9-11.

They wanted them flown on a combat plane for the 10 year anniversary They were just in a box in the corner of the plane.  I thought that’s just not enough of a tribute so we wore them for awhile while flying the plane and working in back.  After words we laid them on the flag until landing.   They flew 10.8 hours on combat flight #Ixxxx over Afghanistan as we searched and captured insurgents.

Quiet. Unassuming. What have we, as a nation, done to earn the sacrifice of this young man? I emailed him back and asked him if I could use this in a blog post.

His reply:

Hi Andy

Only have a min off to fly.

As for the picture and story go ahead and use it. I never found out the exact name of that hero who hats we flew. Maybe the picture will find him and I’ll figure out who they were.

Off to work.


Well neighbors, I got a thick old hide on me but this sorta chokes me up; even re-reading it now. Why aren’t our young people fighting for us not the lead story on Brian William’s Nightly News every night? Do we care more about the latest Michael Jackson tapes? Or why we don’t need a PSA now?

Who decides that the latest presidential candidate polls are the lead story? Are we not a year away from the elections. Christ, that whole mess is just going to boil down to choosing the leper with the most fingers at best.

I owe a debt to every man and woman who has ever put on a United States military uniform for the last 225 years. If you have ever received an email from me, did you notice the line under my signature?

“The right to be left alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms.”U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

I can make that bold statement simply because people  like TSgt. Ron do what they do and they have been there to do their job unerringly for the past 2 centuries.  I just feel small next to these every day heroes.

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4 comments to Readers Write – A Decade of War

  • Ken Harris

    Dang, you ain’t supposed to make me tear up this early in the morning. Great post, great sentiment, great touching story from our heroes. SALUTE!!

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  • During my military career, I did a half dozen short tours through the war zones and every time I came hope impressed with our guys and gals out there on the front lines.

    I’ve made several visits to Bethesda Naval Hospital visiting the wounded troops and almost every one wanted to get back to the fight as soon as they were able to.

    Truly the next “Greatest Generation”. We are a nation lucky to have these people.

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  • don

    Wow! What a great post. And you are right about those young men and women being just amazing. I think there is something about living here and being free that breeds these wonderful people.

    Ten years of war! Isn’t it just sickening. And for all that blood and suffering the minute we leave the whole situation will revert to what it was before. Different folks maybe but just as greedy and crooked as the ones before.

    BTW, I just got a smart phone; my fingers aren’t particularly big but that keyboard kicks my ass every time. Maybe it’s a guy thing?

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    • admin

      It might just be an OLD guy thing. I ‘ll keep the one with the broken screen and the clear tape on it for now. Works JUST fine.

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