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Iraq the model

Originally uploaded by TwoCrabs.

Letter to the Editor from the Orlando Sentinel (which, incidentally, turned me down for a job many many years ago). Published here without comment:

Dear Mr. President:
The only thing I ask is make sure fellow warriors do not die in vain
Charles M. Grist

March 15, 2006

President George W. Bush

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

You recently received in the mail the shoulder boards and the Naval Aviator's wings belonging to Joseph W. DuRocher of Orlando. Mr. Durocher mailed those to you as a symbol of his opposition to you and your policies in the war on terror.

In his letter to you, Mr. DuRocher said that you had "dishonored our service and the Constitution and principles of our oath." Mr. Durocher, a self-defined "disciplined pacifist," forgot that he was the one who had sworn to defend the Constitution, that he was the one who had sworn the oath and that he was the one who would bring either honor or dishonor to his own service.

When I swore my own oath as a young second lieutenant in the Army in 1969, I took on the responsibility to defend my country and its way of life no matter who was sitting in the White House. When my mother pinned on the gold bars of my rank, I began to walk a long road that led through Vietnam. I am proud to say that my service continues today, even a year and a half after I returned from Iraq as one of the Army's oldest reservists.

When we went to war in Iraq, I had my own doubts about whether the time was right. I would probably have preferred to devote our resources to the pursuit of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden until the last cave on Earth has been searched. However, I am a soldier, and I obey my orders. I must have faith in the decisions of my leaders, and I had faith in yours.

Mistakes may have been made in evaluating the pre-war intelligence, but, when I was in Iraq in 2004, there were already rumors that Saddam Hussein had shipped his weapons of mass destruction to Syria. Whether this was true or whether he renewed his weapons program later, this brutal dictator was intent on developing such weapons, and eventually we would have to deal with him.

There are few absolutes in war; there are even fewer certainties. One certainty about the war on terror is that Islamic fundamentalists are intent on destroying our way of life. They have said as much, and their own definition of success will be a world whose liberties and freedoms have been crushed by religious fanaticism and where the quality of life is determined by ayatollahs and mullahs.

As a citizen, I may not agree with everything that has transpired during the war in Iraq or with every one of your policies or decisions. I do know that you care deeply about this country, because I have seen it in your face. I know that you carry the burden of loss for each and every one of our fellow citizens who died in this war, whether in America on Sept. 11 or on the battlefields throughout the world.

My only request of you as our leader is that you make sure that my fellow warriors do not die in vain. There must never be another black wall in Washington with the names of Americans who gave their lives for a politically abandoned cause. You said we would go after the terrorists and their supporters wherever they were and that we would bring them to justice. Your warriors considered that a mandate, and they carry it with them into every battle.

I will not mail my lieutenant's bars to you; I will not give up my sergeant's chevrons. I will not abdicate my duty to join my fellow service members in the defense of my country, either here or abroad. I was a soldier before you were president, and I will be a soldier when someone else is sitting in your office, even if I have been forced to retire.

Unlike Mr. DuRocher, I will never lose faith in my country, and I will never, ever quit.


Charles M. Grist

Winter Springs

Charles M. Grist is a police officer and a veteran of both Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom.