As I perused the internet today, I noticed a lot of people talking about the date, 07-07-07, and the good luck they think will come with it. For me, July 7th, 2007 marks 100 days plus 1 year in theater. We are now down to the last few days, hopefully no more than a week, and then we start the journey home. A brief stop in Wisconsin for the 3 P's, poking, prodding and paperwork, known as demobilization. And then we will be back at Fort Living Room, and back to our lives. But our lives have changed so much.
For starters, I'm not going back to the home I left, since I don't live there anymore. And the 2 year old and the 5 year old I left behind are now soon to be 4 and 7. Two years is a big amount of time in anyone's life, but so much more so for a child. My wife tells me happily that they can now get up, turn on the TV, and get breakfast by themselves, leaving her free to lounge in bed on a weekend morning.
Family and friends have all been living their lives for the last two years, and though I keep up on most of it, it seems at times more like a soap opera that I follow. I know the names and faces, but I have as much ability to interact in their lives as I would if I were watching them on TV. Events that would cause joy or sorrow when I am at home, like a birth or death in the family, are now part of the story line that I ofton forget, and have to ask my wife about.
And obviously I have changed as well. I started this deployment as a fairly new sergeant. I'm now a combat veteran staff sergeant. I've spent two years training and looking after the eight other guys in my squad. It will be a interesting time transitioning to being a dad again. My wife has already ruled out giving my kids pushups as punishment.
But one thing that hasn't changed is my commitment to this war. When we talk about 'the war', most people are talking about the war in Iraq. But to me the war in Iraq and the War on Terror are interchangeable, since they are one in the same. The war in the Pacific was 'the war' for most of our Navy vets, but it was part of the larger conflict we call World War II.
Politics aside, they guys who tried to kill me and my men here in Iraq are the same people that have been attacking the US for the last 25 years. It's becoming politically incorrect to call them what they are, but whether you want to say Islamic terrorists or Muslim extremists, they are men who either swear allegiance to Al Qaeda, or have a common cause with them. Men who would revel in killing me, a US soldier, but would find equal joy in cutting off the heads of my children. That, in my mind at least, makes them simply and clearly my enemy. I feel that we are long past the time where we could hope to contain such madmen. We need to seek them out wherever they hide, and kill them.
But folks back home seem to be forgetting what this war is about. I understand the arguments against the invasion of Iraq, even though I don't agree with them. But regardless of what happened then, the simple truth is that we are here now. The enemy we have been fighting openly for the past six years is here in Iraq. It is a sound tactic in war to attack not only targets that your side needs, but to defend targets that the enemy needs as well. It would be worthwhile for us to be in Iraq just for our goals, such as removing Saddam from power and spreading freedom and democracy. But even if those goals were unobtainable, it would still be worthwhile to be in Iraq to deny AQ a new base of operations. And AQ themselves have stated clearly that Iraq is the center of the fight for them.
Most of us like to think we live in times that are unique, having never happened before. But history of course repeats itself. President Lincoln fought tooth and nail to keep the Union fighting, especially in the first half of the war, when it seemed that the Confederate Army could do no wrong. FDR used every ounce of his personal wit and charm to cajole, threaten, and plead to keep the US on the path to victory in WWII.
So I find myself coming to the end of this deployment yet feeling like the job is unfinished. The looming showdown in Congress about the war in Iraq makes me fear that everything my men and I have shed blood and sweat for will be for nothing. I fear that Congress will make the convenient, lazy, and frankly cowardly choice to start pulling the troops out just as the job is nearing completion.
The past two years have seen over a third of Iraqi provinces transferred back to local control. The surge has brought order from the chaos that was Baghdad. AQ still manages spectacular bombings, but these are the exception to the daily life now, not the norm. And here in the Anbar province, the local Iraqis have risen up and joined with the coalition to make AQI a nearly extinct animal. Where once Zarqawi roamed almost unhindered to slaughter civilians and kill US troops, he is now dead and those who worked for him have fled Anbar. Yes, I know the critics will say that they have just moved elsewhere in Iraq, but they have lost their local support, their supply lines, and their freedom of movement in the great open desert. Moving somewhere else means starting from scratch.
There are still problems to be sure. But critics forget that it is not up to the US to solve all of Iraq's problems. Rather, we are here to get them to the point of being able to do it themselves. So even though my tour in 'the war' is almost done, the fight to win in Iraq will go on from home. I've spent most of the last decade and a half being politically aware, but now I am moving towards being politically active. Heaven only knows where it will lead, but I'm sure it will be an interesting journey.