Life of a soldier
Dear Editor:My niece has a 20-year-old son serving in Anbar province in Iraq. Bill had wanted to serve in the military since early high school days and was an eager and enthusiastic enlistee. He distinguished himself during training as a navy corpsman, always performing to the highest goals. Last September, he was ordered to join a Marine unit in Iraq. He subsequently was wounded in a grenade attack but, even after being hit, pulled an unconsciousness marine comrade out of a possible line of fire to attend to his wounds. Bill was awarded the Purple Heart.This letter is the result of learning more about Bill’s situation while working with Marines fighting in the streets of Iraq. Bill is not a complainer; he understands the circumstances that brought him to where he is today and is ready and willing to do the job is called upon to do. He tells a story of life as a fighter there, however, which is appalling. First, he is not a big guy, although with all the muscle and bone of an accomplished athlete and long distance runner. He left for Iraq at a “fighting trim” weight of about 140 pounds. Since beginning action there he has lost between 10 and 15 pounds! All of his unit has lost weight. Field rations just can’t supply the calories necessary. His unit operates on only occasional snatches of sleep wherever they can find it, usually on the ground or in the streets where they are operating. They have not had more than 12 hours of down time in weeks. They have not been back to base to a bed in over a month. Their physical condition is completely run down. They are not operating at the physical and mental conditions necessary for their safety. They are supposed to return to base to recuperate every two weeks or so, but have been unable to do so.In fairness, Bill’s situation may not be representative of all units operating in Iraq. However, in this case and others like them, how can we expect our military to do the job asked of them and hopefully return home safely when they are operating under such stress? On Iwo Jima or the beaches of Normandy there were no alternatives. In Iraq there are. Soldiers can and should be rotated so as to keep fresh troops in the field. If there are not enough troops to do the job, then send more. If we are unable to supply more troops, then ask less of those serving there. That would be “supporting our troops.” Iraq is not worth the senseless loss of these brave young men by asking them to fight to exhaustion.Everett PeirceAspen
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