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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
July 16, 2019

5/8/2006 1:56:00 PM
Guest Column
Crawford County soldier tells his side of the Iraq war

EDIOR'S NOTE: The following was received as a letter to the editor.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official opinions, positions, views or policies of the Department of Defense or any of its components.

My parents recently submitted my picture to the Daily News with a few lines regarding my recent deployment to Iraq. Over the past couple of weeks I have received e-mails from folks back in Robinson, most of whom I haven't spoken with for a number of years. I also received a very nice card from the Crawford County veterans' organizations. The point being, I have had pause to reflect on where I come from and the good things I still associate with Robinson and Crawford County in general.

Just about every success I have achieved has been the direct result of things I picked up while growing up in Robinson. Some of the things that I learned were from teachers. Many lessons were learned on baseball fields. Some were from people I met through my grandfather. Others were from guys who worked with my dad out at Marathon or folks I knew from hanging around the Elks Club when I was home visiting from law school. All of these experiences and relationships formed the core of the person I have become, which leads me to the point I wish to share with you - the qualities which make people good are not unique to any one place, or even the United States.

It strikes me that there are good people to be found just about anywhere you go. Iraq has proven to be no exception to this rule. After I found out that I would be deploying to Iraq, I read everything I could get my hands on regarding the country and the issues affecting it. I also read various European publications to get their perspective. I considered myself more knowledgeable than most on the security situation in Iraq. When I arrived here, I soon realized the mainstream media (both print and broadcast) was not presenting many of the points I considered crucial to the public debate surrounding our country's continued involvement in Iraq.

Let me tell you up front that I am not writing this in hope of changing (or challenging) anyone's political beliefs or feelings regarding our military involvement in Iraq. I am a professional military officer, and as such, have taken an oath which requires me to disassociate myself from the political debate and simply follow the orders of the commanders appointed over me, up to and including the President of the United States, regardless of his or her political affiliation or agenda. This is as it should be. The thing I wish to make clear is that if you are shaping your beliefs based upon what you see, hear and read in the media, you aren't getting the full picture of how things really are in Iraq.

I don't claim to be an expert in foreign relations. I know there are numerous men and women back in Crawford County who have previously served tours of duty over here. They may feel differently than I. These are just my observations from serving in Baghdad. The vast majority of Iraqis are not the screaming, AK-47-wielding militants you see on television. To the contrary, the ones I know are very kind and polite almost to a fault. The average Iraqi is not all that different from the average American, in that they want to work hard at a job that allows them to take care of their family. They want life to be better for their children than it was for them. They want to worship as they choose without fear of persecution and to spend time with their families without having to worry about being shot at or killed in their own neighborhoods.

Life is not at all easy for the average Iraqi. Good jobs, and the things that come along with them, are few and far between. The things we take for granted as Americans are a daily struggle here. Will the kids have enough to eat? Will we have electricity today? What happens if one of the kids gets sick? Will we have enough clean water in which to bathe and prepare food? Will I have to wait in line for eight hours in order to fill my gas tank? Will anybody in my family get killed or hurt today in one of the almost daily acts of random or not-so-random terrorism?

I can't even tell you the number of kids I have seen running around here who don't even own a pair of shoes. The schools are so financially poor, some kids don't even have a pencil. Every time I see stuff like this, I immediately think of my own little girls who are ages six and three. I then think to myself, "Those kids are some other guy's sons or daughters." Just the other day I saw two little girls, probably six or seven years old, walking to school holding hands. The area they were in would make the worst neighborhood in America look great. I just wondered what kind of future these little girls have ahead of them and thanked God that my girls were safe, at home in America.

Good people are good people no matter where you go. Little kids are little kids regardless of whether they are from Birds or Baghdad. Back home, I seem to remember that we helped others who were in need. As Americans, citizens of the greatest nation in the world, we should try to help others who need us most. As members of the human race, we should want to try and make things better for the other guy's kids, even if they are Iraqis. I know that if you could see what things are like first-hand, it would resonate with you as it has with me.

The bottom line is that "Joe Iraqi" only wants the opportunity to work so he can provide for his wife and kids. Right now, it is hard for most of them to find a job that will allow them to do this. There are few jobs because the economy is neither vibrant nor stable. The economy suffers, in large part, due to the lack of private and foreign investment. Investment lags because the security situation is poor. The security situation is poor because of both the frequent terrorist acts of primarily foreign Jihadists and the Iraqi Army and police forces not yet being capable of independently providing for their own internal security. That is why I am here in Iraq. That is why the American military is here.

Our collective actions in helping the Iraqi government and military back onto their feet means that those two little girls, (that but for the grace of God, were some other dad's girls), may live to see the day when the act of walking to school can be done without risk of being blown up. As an American soldier, that is the least I can do for their dad. If I were him, I would be praying there was someone out there who felt the same.

God bless America.

Major Blake Stone

United States Embassy, Baghdad

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