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Letters from Iraq

Staff Sergeant Christopher E. Alley
United States Army
Emmitsburg Native

"I have full confidence in your courage and devotion to duty and skill in battle.
We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God
upon this great and noble undertaking."

Dwight D. Eisenhower
D-Day Message 6 June 1944

June 2007 - It has been Sixty-Three years since "Ike" wrote those words and they still stand today in all our endeavors be it here in Iraq or in Afghanistan or even in our personal daily lives. So much can be learned from history, yet our society seems to push history aside in schools, politics, and even personal decisions we all make every day. So much can be learned from centuries of writings and points of views of how things have happened in our pasts. From wars, to economic ups and downs, to even the moral lessons used today for rules of law, people today forget to use this as a resource and look back on ways to solve today's problems, instead people feel that they must reinvent the wheel.

As I write this "The Awakening" is starting from al-Anbar providence to Western Baghdad. The Iraqi people, Sunni and Shia, are rebelling against al-Qaeda and their tortuous ways. Sheiks and common people are calling for and joining the Coalition Forces here in Iraq to route al-Qaeda from their neighborhoods and providences. Some ask why after four years, over three thousand American dead, and thousands more Iraqis who have stood up and died to show their will for freedom, is this happening? The answer? History! Iraqi history and the Middle Eastern culture as a whole are not like Western Civilization. The culture here is family/tribe based, not to mention we also forget that the art of barter and trade has strong roots in the region in and around Mesopotamia.

The "Awakening" has happened because our men and women in uniform have become one with the Iraqi people. They live now, among them instead of "Super Bases" of tens of thousands on the outskirts of cities. Our Soldiers and Marines have become the Iraqi's neighbors, which leads to neighbors talking and sharing ideas and information. A feeling of trust has started to grow but it comes with a price. The majority of Iraqis want the basics; water, electricity, and security. These items are neither outrageous nor over reaching, but they are known as the cornerstones of all peaceful civilizations today and in the past. The problem though is that the insurgents and al-Qaeda know this as well, and they will do whatever it takes to stop the progress of getting this country back on the road of civility. Daily, the insurgents attack police, high tension electricity lines, bridges, and even one of the most basic forms of civility, the destruction of houses of worship. The enemy here has no compassion and believes in intimidating people to mold and form this land into their views of the future. The "Awakening" though is a seedling which needs to be nurtured until it can bloom again into the once proud civilization it once was. This is the task at hand and must come with patience and resolve because the compassion that is in each and every one of us needs to be spread and defended. If not, then other civilizations will fall slowly to chaos. Some could argue that it is already happening just by reading the headlines in our press of: Violent Riots, Murders, Greed, and the forgetfulness of lessons learned, a.k.a. History!

The Countdown Continues

My time here in Iraq is coming to an end but even with the packing of our Container for shipment, the downsizing of our rooms, and the talk of replacements it still hasn't hit, that next month I will be home enjoying family, unlimited choices of foods, live sports, and yes even cutting the grass. There have been times here that the calendar never moved and there were times the calendar flew and I didn't know what month I was living in.

Now we wait for our replacements so we can give them a crash course on life in the International Zone. We will have about two weeks to complete what we call a "left seat, right seat ride". This term is used because for the first week of overlap we teach and show them the ropes of our jobs, then when we think they are ready, approximately a week later they do the tasks and we accompany them to make sure that the work or tasks are performed properly. The goal though is to get them going as fast as possible so we can whine down and finish whatever packing we have left.

As I mentioned before our Sea Container has been packed and inspected by customs and safety personnel to make sure that the container is travel worthy for the trip home. If everything goes as planned it should be there before we get back to our base. If not, it will get there when it gets there and we will meet on a drill weekend and unload it. Just because of the uncertainty many from our unit have decided to mail home footlockers of our belongings we have acquired in our tour of duty here. So for about $40 for seventy pounds, the locker will be brought to your home via USPS in about 2-3 weeks. I'm sure the Postal employees appreciate our gift of a fitness workout while they are at work. I'm going with the split option. I sent all my non-essential military gear, books and other things of weight in the container, and I will send out all my personal belongings next week or the week after.

Quick Hits

On May 31st I was awarded the Combat Action Badge (CAB) for engaging or being engaged by the enemy. My qualifying event was my little incident near the pool back on the 26th of March. To date I am only one of two people in my unit to receive this badge, which honestly is one I would rather not have had been afforded the opportunity to receive. It is a symbol of pride though and I was afforded the rare honor of having my orders personally awarding this to me by GEN. Petraeus, Commander of all Coalition Forces here in Iraq.

Memorial Day 2007 is one that reminds me why we celebrate this day. Memorial Day is much more than BBQ's, swimming pool opening, and beer drinking. It is a time to remember the men and women who have through out history given the ultimate sacrifice for the nation and the land we live on. The ceremony was held here at the Palace and it included all the Armed Forces and the Coast Guard (try to find one of those guys/gals in Iraq) presenting the colors. Speeches by the Ambassador and GEN Petraeus reminded me a lot of the speech given by GEN. Eisenhower before the D-Day invasion which, besides the timing, is why I used it as an opening for this edition of The Baghdad News.

In closing much like this letter I ask everyone to reflect on not only the sacrifices Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and the families of the for mentioned make but also the Men and Women of our rich history have made. Through out our short history as Americans we have led the world and set the example for Peace and Democracy. There have been hiccups throughout our history but we have endured and persevered in our endeavors to try to afford the rest of the world what we have been blessed with by being Americans.

Keeping my head down for approximately 33 more days!


Read other Letters from Iraq by Sergeant Christopher E. Alley

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