Well, today is Thanksgiving Day, and once again thousands of American service members are hard at work around the world. Every base has guards posted, command and control centers still operate, planes and jets are still maintained, battles rage in areas of conflict, and American lives are placed in danger to ensure that your freedom continues unabated. As I sit here, in the comfort of my own home writing this, I personally know more than a dozen airmen and soldiers who are working in and around Iraq. They may get an extended lunch, but most will work a good 10 to 12 hour shift, just as I did on Thanksgiving and Christmas during my tour in Kirkuk, Iraq.
Many people question the importance of our involvment in Iraq and Afganistan. Many want our men and women pulled out as fast as we can get them out. Sadly, many parents, who were proud that their son or daughter joined and served our country, now degrade their sacrifice because they gave their life in that service. How can one honor the fallen, but not honor what they fell for? How can you blame any one person, whether he is the president or not, for the price in lives that our country has paid in this conflict, when each of those that died volunteered for the job they had? The draft was not imposed for this conflict, so how can my service be the fault of the government, or the president? I knew the risks when I signed the paper, raised my hand, swore the oath, and put on my uniform, and I'll guarantee that every member of today's U.S. military knew those risks when they did the same.
Many people say that we had no reason to be there in the first place. In response to that opinion, I ask this: Is your freedom worth more than your neighbor's? The U.S. Constitution proclaims that all men are created equal, and that they have the inherit rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Are the people of Iraq and Afganistan not to be considered men? Are they not also entitled to these rights? Is it not right and good to help lift the yolk of tyranny from that of our fellow man? How can we be wrong in helping those who can not help themselves?
Now the primary complaints that I hear are that the people of the countries we are helping don't really want us there as evidenced by the continuing acts of violence against our people. Better check that line of reasoning with some facts. Over 95% of the violent acts currently being committed in Iraq are not being committed by Iraqis, but by terrorist dissidents that are entering the country from else where, many coming across the border from Syria. As a person that has been there, I can tell you that I have never been treated with more respect and gratitude than by those Iraqis I had the good fortune to meet. You can see it on their faces as plain as day that they have been allowed out of their fear of Saddam and his evil rule and that they can't thank us enough.
To see the places that the children played and learned, you would have thought they must have layed on their bellies the entire time to avoid gunfire. Schools riddled with bulletholes, playgrounds and parks torn assunder by various explosions. One such playground was rebuilt by members of the U.S. Air Force in Kirkuk, Iraq in 2003. The place was swept for mines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices), barbed wire, and the thrashed play equipment removed, and then a group of Air Force Civil Engineers rebuilt the entire playground. The community, seeing that we had ensured safety before beginning work came out to help with the process. The children were ecstatic about the reconstruction.
The tools of war were everywhere. While I was stationed in country, the base I was at had a regularly scheduled detonation of confiscated weaponry every week. Every 6-8 days, you would see a firball rise into the sky, followed by secondary explosions in the same location. In the short time I was there, over 4 tons of munitions were destroyed. For a while, money was offered to locals in exchange for weapons and ammunition to be destroyed. I met with a ten or eleven year old boy who brought in RPGs, ammo and other small arms. These tools were so prevalent that he brought in a wagon load of the stuff every day, and took home in a week a monetary equivilant to what his father probably earned in a year. The program had to be discontinued because the ,monetary cost was just too high. Given all this, how can we not have had reason to be there in the first place?
In my opinion, if you aren't willing to risk your life for some one else's freedom, then you don't deserve your own. Yes, this is my opinion, and I don't not expect or ask others to agree or disagree with me. I don't ask others to fall into line with this line of thinking. As an American, it is my right to have this opinion. As a member of the U.S. Air Force, I live this opinion. My family has served this country for over 230 years, some as teachers, some as preachers, some as farmers, and many as military members. At least one person from every generation as answered the patriotic call of service. My brother just joined this year, making two people from this geeration. My father is a retired Marine, I have a great uncle and two grandfathers who served in World War 2 in the Army, and this list goes on and on. We know the cost of freedom, for it surely is not free. There is a blood price on freedom, and those who would deny that fact are either deluded, ignorant, or both.