Monday, June 06, 2005

Soldier Heroism

Mudville Gazette relates a story of Marine heroism, and it made me start to think of some of the soldiers I met in 2004 during a short tour (of admittedly soft duty) in the Middle East. I found a note I had e-mailed back to friends and family here, and I reprint it below:

I appreciate the care packages and heartfelt notes that some of you have sent. I take them down to the R+R building and use the opportunity to ask some soldiers how things are going in Iraq. You can learn more from a few minutes talking to a private or specialist than you can reading hours worth of official reports, and I would like to relate one story.

The soldier I spoke with was pulling security at an Iraqi police station when the station came under attack. I had read some reports about the attack, and knew that the fighting had been pretty heavy. This soldier was on the roof of the station, and while he did not offer the information up until I pushed him, he has been nominated for the Silver Star for his actions that day. (Even with medal inflation, you still need to do something special for the Silver Star).

He was very humble about his heroism, and as he told the story it became clear that he was more concerned with the details of the mission and the technical aspects than he was about what had happened to him personally. (In short, he did not seem like the type of character who would put himself in for Purple Hearts due to minor wounds in order to leave the theater. He also did not seem like the type who would throw his medals, or ribbons, or someone else's medals, or ribbons, away).

I wanted to check if the items in the care packages you have been sending met the needs of the troops in Iraq, so I asked him what else they could use. He misunderstood my question as his mind was still on his duty and that day on the roof of the police station. He paused for a while and then said, "We had what we needed, but we could have used some more ammo, and it would have been nice to have a 240" (he was referring to an M240 machine gun).

He did not make that comment gleefully or with any sense of bloodthirst. In a few short months he had been transformed from your average young American into a soldier who was focused on his duty. He reminded me of the soldiers described in Rick Atkinson's new book "Army at Dawn." The book relates our landings in North Africa in 1942, and Atkinson illustrates the transformation of those soldiers from inexperienced boys to the men who would lead us all the way to Germany. I shook his hand and wished him luck.

As you have seen from the prison abuse pictures, not all of our soldiers are like this guy, but most are, and they are doing great work.

Thanks for those of you supporting them. Please distribute this to anyone having doubts as to whether we will get the job done over here.

Thanks - Scott

Blackfive also has a story of heroism worth the read.