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thedrifter
04-13-06, 09:12 AM
In Iraq, brave troops and a noble cause

By Maj. Kevin Kelly

I have seen many incredible sights living and flying in Iraq the last two months. Two things, the bravery of our soldiers and the importance of completing our mission and building a free Iraq, prompt me to write today.

Let me first tell you about my visit to the hospital on the base at Balad, where all serious casualties, both American and Iraqi, are treated. An increasing number of the casualties are new Iraqi soldiers and policemen, as well as civilians. Viewing the wounded was very difficult and left me a bit shaken.

We took some Tastykakes (thanks, Mom) for the injured soldiers. I wanted to thank the troops on the ground that have been bearing the brunt of our efforts in Iraq.

We talked with several of the American soldiers, and, thank God, none of them were critically injured. One of the Army privates had been shot through the hand by a sniper while he was drinking a Coke. The bullet went right through the can and then through his hand. We joked about how angry the sniper must have been when he saw the Coke explode. The private then thanked me, because, he said, "When you guys show up overhead, we all breathe a little bit easier because we know the bad guys are scared."

Here's a guy who takes a bullet that misses his head by inches, and he's sitting there thanking me? It put things into perspective and, quite frankly, made me feel a little unworthy. The kids who are serving over here are the best America has to offer. Their bravery is evident in their capacity to perform professionally even when scared half to death. They make me proud.

We then went to the ward that cared for the Iraqi citizens. To describe it as "horrible" would not be adequate. The ward was filled with police and civilian casualties from a car-bomb attack that left almost every patient missing at least one limb, and many missing several. Despite the heavy sedation and pain medication, most were conscious, screaming and groaning in agony.

Now, if you ever have any doubt that you live in a thoroughly good, decent and moral country, just recall what I'm about to tell you: In the next ward, doctors and nurses were working just as diligently on the very animals who commit these despicable attacks. I scratch my head when so many back home are unable to make the moral distinction between the ideology that gave birth to the greatest country on Earth and the ideology of our enemy in Iraq. I am sometimes fearful that this moral blindness may one day lead to the downfall of our republic. I only hope I'm wrong.

Let me mention one other thing. When we lose one of our brave Americans, before their bodies are carefully loaded on a C-130 aircraft for transport home, an e-mail goes out for volunteers to serve as the honor guard. Along with the members of his unit, volunteers have the privilege of assisting with the conveyance of the flag-draped casket. It typically happens late at night, on the flight line, with the C-130's rear platform lowered and the engines off. Unless you respond immediately to the e-mail, many others beat you to the chance.

As the supervisor of flying the other night, I was able to witness the ceremony. The silence was deafening, the precision was astounding, and the reverence and veneration were complete. I was moved beyond words. I wept openly. Our soldiers are sacrificing to build a strong democratic Iraq and to help ensure the security of all Americans.

Contrary to what you may hear in the media, there is no "civil war"! I fly over every inch of this country both day and night. Is there serious political tension? Yes. Is there sporadic sectarian violence? Yes. Are there those who are willing to blow themselves and innocent Iraqis up in order to prevent a democratic Iraq from becoming a reality? Yes. Should that be the determining factor as to whether we throw up our hands and give up? Hell, no!

Since when has America been intimidated by bullies? We have a responsibility to the people of Iraq and our own greatness as Americans to finish this righteous cause. This is to say nothing of the myriad other reasons why it was a spectacularly good thing to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his rapist heirs.

The vast majority of Iraqi people are incredibly grateful to the United States for saving them from a bloody and brutal dictatorship. There are, granted, those who do not share this same gratitude, namely the former regime and those who benefited from it, as well as foreign militant Islamists who see Iraq as the battleground for their extremism. That's who we're fighting, not the majority of the people of Iraq.

The democratically elected government of Iraq is our ally, and we are helping the Iraqis with their fledgling democracy, just as we helped Japan and Germany after the Second World War. What we have done in Iraq and what we are doing here now are among the noblest things we have ever done as a country.

We truly are the last best hope of the world. We dare not quash that hope in Iraq, and, in the process, destroy our valiant, struggling friends - and their desire for peace and happiness.

---Maj. Kevin Kelly of Philadelphia, an F-16 fighter pilot with the New Jersey Air National Guard, is deployed in Iraq. Contact him at kevin.kelly522@gmail.com. The views expressed are the writer's and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Air National Guard or the U.S. Air Force.