In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Friday, August 19, 2005

The son of Sammy; the fight for respect

Sammy is one of my best friends. He served with me in Iraq and in this difficult environment, we shared laughs, close calls and toilet paper. Sammy has this infectious laugh that always brightened the dullest moments. In many ways, he was my refuge.

In Iraq, he turned 40, missed his children’s birthdays and injured his ankle on a PT run. Before we left, his son joined the Wisconsin Guard. And now his son is deployed to the Middle East. Sammy Jr. will provide security for convoys, one of the more dangerous missions. Sammy is no longer on the battlefield, but he will now watch the news more closely and cringe at every “U.S. soldier killed” headline.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve followed the news and read about friends being killed. It’s much more difficult to observe the progress from home than it is to witness the carnage. I don’t know why; it just is. And now that Sammy Jr. is crossing the border, my heart hopes he returns unscathed. But I know he will return a man… a man that makes his father proud. I also find myself becoming more and more concerned.

As a soldier, it’s not our job to question the politics behind the conflict. It’s our job to execute. But since I’ve been home, I’ve grown tired of the “Iraq debate” to the point that part of me wishes the war would end and my friends could return home. While I know this is not realistic, I still wonder how much of an impact we are really making on the U.S.-proclaimed “War on Terror.” As our country grows tired of the war, my heart simply aches. With every death, I find myself questioning why.

The reason we went to Iraq was for Weapons of Mass Destruction. Then, it was freeing the Iraqi people. Then, it was fighting the terrorists in Iraq rather than America. I struggle with stomaching the politics behind the war, but I am enamored by the results of our military.

We have built schools, trained security forces and destroyed the hopes of thousands of evil doers, while our fatalities continue to increase. I just wonder when the end will be. Every day, I pray that the killing of Americans will stop, and I hope our society recognizes the trials the soldiers and family go through.

Politics aside, I am most frustrated with the anti-war protesters. I do not believe many of them recognize the sacrifice our soldiers and families make. They march throughout our cities, criticizing our President, chanting “Support our troops; bring them home.” Then, they question the morality of our soldiers after incidents like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. However, I do respect Cindy Sheehan and her views. After all, the war has taken away her precious son. And I guess this is where my frustrations come from… I have lost so many friends. But at the same time, 20 years from now, when I meet with the children of my fallen friends, I do not want to tell them that their father died for oil or for politics. Rather, I will tell them their father fought for their freedom, for all Americans.

I am young and at times naïve to the mood of this country. However, I wonder how close this conflict is coming to Vietnam. It seems like protests are becoming more malicious while servicemen continue to die.

And then, I see another 18-year-old go off to war. A son of a very close friend. While proud of his commitment for the United States, I pray for Sammy Jr.’s safety… and that he may return to a country that supports him. A country that ignores the politics behind Iraq and recognizes the sacrifices of the American soldier.


At 12:23 PM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Good post.

At 12:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an observer from the UK one of the things that strikes me is the inability of both the left and the right to see shades of grey. The left is dire. Many in the left wing seem to think that soldiers are responsible for the situation in the Middle East, which is illogical, it's like saying that a US Postman is responsible for federal policy.

The right is equally dire, but for different reasons. The right tries desperately to paint all criticism of the Bush government as being "anti-soldier". Which is illogical, just because someone dislikes a politician doesn't mean they 'disrespect' troops or anyone else (other than that politician.)

If I were a soldier I'd be pretty pissed off. Both sides are using soldiers for their own purposes. The Left to attack Bush, the Right to stop debate. Both in the name of soldiers and war.

We've got plenty of politics over here. Along similar lines, probably worse. My advice is to try to rise above it, and treat everything skeptically. That's what makes us better than politicians. Because stopping debate in a war that is about freedom seems to be a poor consolation prize for the dead.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Word Grrl said...

One of your best posts yet. Thanks, Smink. This is why I continue to check back every day.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Buffy Balmoral said...

We have built schools, trained security forces and destroyed the hopes of thousands of evil doers... while safeguarding the lives of countless thousands abroad and, likely, at home. Thank you very much.

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous kbug said...

Casanova, as long as there are people like Sammy, Sammy Jr., you, and our countless other service men and women willing to risk their lives to serve this country, a job that too few are willing to do, there will be hope for our nation...despite the politicians. I, too, will pray for Sammy Jr.'s safe return.

At 10:42 PM, Blogger strykeraunt said...

This is a very good post, and happens to mirror what I have been feeling alot lately. I don't know if I am left or right and it really doesn't matter to me because I have gotton to the point where I absolutely HATE politics. Our soldiers are over there risking their lives every single day and to take a side simply because a person is left wing or right wing is absolutely insane!!

One side of my emotions just wants all of our soldiers to come home. However, the other side believes that the U.S. must keep the resolve. I know our soldiers are doing the right thing and they are winning. The American soldier did not lose the war in Vietnam...the hearts and minds of the American people determined the outcome. I will do my part to continue to support the mission of our soldiers until THEY say its time to come home.

Pulling out now will only serve to enbolden terrorists who want nothing more than to completely wipe out Western civilization. These terrorists show us everyday that evil does exist. If we were to pull out now we will be left to fight them on a different front. I think you and all of the soldiers know that...and this is the reason they continue to soldier on.

I feel for Sammy Sr. as he waits for his son to return home. I personally know how tough it to have a family member deployed in Iraq. And, I believe it is even harder when the person has been over there themselves. A major part of one of my nephew's readjustment problems when he returned from Iraq was due to the fact that his brother was still there.

UK observer, I have met up with quite a few individuals that would be considered left wing Bush bashers. It is not the criticism of the Bush government that gives me the impression that they are anti-soldier, but their blatant anti-soldier comments. It is their sarcasim about and criticism of our soldiers. I have had them look me in the eye, with a wide smile on their face as they say, "lets see what you think WHEN your nephew comes home in a body bag." My impression is that they hate Bush so much that they would prefer that our soldiers fail so they can say they were right and Bush was wrong. Unfortunately, I also believe their hatred has clouded their judgement to the point where they lack a full understanding of the consequences of such failure.

At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strikeraunt (John 'the observer' from the UK), I agree with you that some people would like to see the military, and by extension the soldiers, fail in Iraq. They're idiots.

I've been to America several times in different places and portraying Americans as soundbites, as the media does, gives a totally false impression of them. There may be a lot that Americans disagree about, but there is also lots that they do agree about. The media doesn't do that justice. Because the UK/US/World media is not interested in complextity. That's why I like coming to this website; it's not driven by soundbites and bile, and it's written by someone with first hand knowledge of this conflict.

It's not written by some left-wing pansy with an agenda or right-wing chickenhawk with an agenda. (The standard TV News pundits). Information from people like yourself and others who are experiencing this conflict when members of your family actually serve, and the information from people that have served themselves, is worth *more* than a thousand pundits from either side. I'd trade them for you in the blink of an eye. Because you guys are better than them. Thank you.

I wish you and your families all the best. Anyone who thinks otherwise is part of the problem.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The broken American spirit during Vietnam started with this same kind of introspective self doubt. Now is not the time to go wobbly on the war. Make no mistake, this war started in Tehran, when we let the Shah fall and our Embassy sacked. It has escalated ever since because of the lack of a forceful and punitive response from us. Now that we are in there, doing what we should have done years ago, we need to kick some serious butt, and vote out any hand-wringing politician that stands in the way.

At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share the fear and prayers for Sammy,Jr. Admire him,too.

I would like to disagree respectfully with the "observer from UK".

I voted for Bush and I can think of several times I have disagreed with the POTUS.

I simply do not find that supporters of victory in the GWOT battlefield called Iraq(I am 1) disagree with ANY criticism of Bush,it simply is an invalid comment.

Rush Limbaugh might,but not the average Bush voter,it simply is ridiculous to say that.
As my father probably complained about FDR's conduct of WWII,I will complain when I disagree,BUT I remain loyal not only to America,but her victory over our enemy as my father before me.

What people like me DO SEE is much of the opposition wants or ignorantly doesn't realize that exiting now brings an American defeat in Iraq and the GWOT because leaving early guarantees it. No honest human can say otherwise,IMO.

Losing in Iraq means we recede from global power politics at best,who on earth would associate with a state that started a war and left when it isn't complete?
At worst it means Iraq led by Al Qaeda,a lot of good it would do to transfer al qaeda's base from dusty Afghanistan to oil wealthy Iraq.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

The Media doesn't do a very good job with "scale". The Cindy Sheehan protest does have the "flavor of the Vietnam Era", however, in the Vietnam Era there were thousands of Cindy Sheehans.

The "BIG" anti-war protest in Crawford Texas is being handled by the crawford texas police department, which doesn't seem to be much more than a Sheriff and a handfull of deputies.

The "BIG" anti-war protests in the Vietnam Era required calling out the National Guard.

On a positive front, my former Soldier just started school at a Liberal New England University, from all reports so would appear that there is some sort of "closet conservative underground organization" that offers support at every juncture.

At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Strider said...

Anonymous said:

"The right tries desperately to paint all criticism of the Bush government as being 'anti-soldier'."

Criticising Bush isn't anti-soldier, nor have I heard anyone make that argument. However, spouting off on how the soldiers are murdering innocent civilians, and are the real bad guys fighting "Iraqi" insurgents (actually mostly foreign), and calling them "invading occupiers" suppressing Iraq, seems just a bit disingenuous when they in the next breath say "but I support our troops".

I'm not tired of the war, but I am dead exhausted of a media machine that has been relentlessly beating the drum of defeat and "quagmire" since _before we even went in_.

Our soldiers over there are heroes, doing a job that I would never want to do, but must be done.

Excellent post, Smink. I'm not surprised that you're feeling tired of the Doom and Gloom in the reporting and the politics. Imagine us civilians who've been inundated with it this whole time. You have first hand experience of what's going on over there, while all we have is the media... and blogs from soldiers.

People such as you, reporting directly what is happening over there, is the only real source of information. I have conversations frequently with people who think the situation is _far_ worse than it actually is (judging on what I hear form soldiers and other "alternate" sources of news).

You weren't around for the "There's going to be a draft" furor buzzing around the Presidential elections, which was an absolute fraud against the American populace (as evidenced by the fact that, as soon as the election was over, it immediately disappeared without a ripple).

Sometimes you just have to put blinders on, in a sense. Turn of the nightly news -- they're only reporting the worst of everything.

Commenter "student's dad" makes a great point. The media is taking a single person and trying to turn her into the masses of protestors we had during Vietnam. The woman was a radical leftist before her son ever died, and she's using his corpse to further the exact ideals she had when he was still alive. Ghoulish. The news makes such a big deal over the fact that the President isn't meeting with her, as though he is doing something wrong by not doing so (He _is_ kind of a busy guy, last time I checked). Nary a mention of the fact that he has _already met with her_.

Ignore the news media, Smink. It's just as political as the politicians, if not moreso. Keep in contact with friends "over there" and you'll probably have a better idea of the situation than CBS does.

Then come back here and tell us! :)

At 9:38 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Well done. I'm linking to this.

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've read your blog for months and this is the first post that included a tiny tidbit that rubbed me the wrong way. i've agreed with nearly everything you've ever posted... but iraq cannot in the least be compared to vietnam.

At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Sammy said...


There is no way I will ever call you Smink or Sminklemeyer on this thing. Or anywhere, for that matter.

Thanks for the post, dude. I miss the days of the NCO Alley bunch. I still sit outside and smoke a cigar in the evening. But it's not the same.

Sammy Jr. and his buddies are currently in Kuwait at the same camp we were at prior to convoying north to Mosul.

He's doing well.

Before he left, I told him to take care of his weapons (he's a Mark 19 and M240 gunner on a HUMVEE and also has an M4 and nine mil) and his buddies, drink lots of water and Gatorade, and make sure they all have their radio procedures and nine line medevac down.

As you know, in addition to the established convoy security SOP's, those are probably the main items for most combat soldiers in-country.

He called the other night from Kuwait. It was pretty weird because about a year and half ago I was talking to him from the same AT&T phone bank there.

Gotta go.


At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post...can't help but ask the same questions you do. I found this article today that sheds some insight on the Bush Doctrine and if it is all bs or if the war in Iraq is worth it. It sounds like the fight is worth it. Actually, I want to believe it is worth it. I don't want the deaths and injuries to be for nothing. Everyone wants what they do to matter. Otherwise, why do it?

At 11:41 PM, Blogger strykeraunt said...


Smink let your son into our hearts. Thank you so much for providing us with an update. I am hoping that you will let us know how he is doing again in the future.

At 6:06 AM, Anonymous kbug said...

hey sammy, it's great to hear from you that your son is doing well. He will most definitely be in my prayers from now on...just as you and Casanova were during your deployment. Do keep us posted though, please.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hold your heads high, remain proud of all the good deeds you did while on your deployment...You have brought "HOPE" to a Nation who has had none for 35yrs.God Bless and thank you Smink,Sammy for your Service to our Country.
And I will hold Sammy jr in my prayers with all of our Service Members over there.
proud Soldiers Angel

At 3:42 PM, Blogger David Pakman said...

Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.


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