03 March 2008

What A Difference A Year Makes!

We're getting closer to Ramadi, our final destination. Still safe and sound (Thank God!) The weather continues to be favorable, although we had a "Mars-like" twilight most of the afternoon. Winds stir desert sand until the air takes on a reddish tint - not a sand storm, but just a reddish haze that obscures everything.

Camp Fallujah is like a health club for masochists. You can eat almost all you want (although they may not have what you want, the food is very good if you have access to the dining facilities), and never gain a pound (because you'll walk enough that you'll burn every calorie and then some), and you think you'll be able to sleep or relax soon (you can't because there is always more to do each day than you can humanly accomplish), but that's okay because you know you're giving 110%. This time of year the temperatures are mild, but soon it will be 110 to 120 degrees. Our airmen, Marines, soldiers, and sailors experience these conditions every day, for a year or more at a time. Most of these troops have been here at least three times since 2003 - three years spent here rather than at home with their families. However, we must remember, they volunteered to serve our country because they love the freedoms our Nation holds dear, and protects with our Constitution and Bill of Rights. They care more about you and I than themselves. Most folks would much rather continue to sit on their comfy couches after a long day's work, remote control in hand, with dinner or snacks nearby. So, the next time you complain about how bad traffic is, think about the Marine who worries if he'll ever see his family again as he begins a mission. Sort of puts a "bad day" in a whole new light, doesn't it?

That being said, I've never been happier doing a photo shoot in the field as I am right now. These men and women are courageous, courteous, professional, and inspiring. I am so proud to be an American when I spend some time with our troops. No day is the same as the day before, and yet, you just know that tomorrow is going to be even more fantastic than the twenty hour day you've just experienced.

I wish you could be here to experience what is happening. The situation has improved to the extent that the difference is almost unimaginable. Where chaos once existed, businesses are thriving, and communities are alive with people full of hope and the realization that a life without fear is not only possible, it is taking place right now!

This is not to say that there are not problems. There are still dangerous areas and terrorists intent on killing all infidels (that's you and I), power production needs to be increased, reconstruction to complete,...the list goes on. However, when I was here in January 2007, the people I saw and spoke with were in despair and had lost almost all hope. I spoke with one of those same individuals two days ago. Last year, he was worried about kidnapped or killed by an IED. Now, he's worried about how he can make enough money to build a home for his fiance' so her parents will approve the marriage.

Today, many Iraqi businessmen and businesswomen are exuberant about the prospects of a future free from the possibility of being blown up or shot when they go to the market to buy groceries; where they fear that the next knock on the door will bring death to whomever opens it; where they can work hard to make a decent livelihood for their families and plan on continuing their education. Simply hope that there is a future for them and their families. This is what I am seeing here, just 14 months after my first visit. Unbelievable, yet all true.

Please continue the prayers for the troops, John and I, and the Iraqi people. Where people join together for a common good and reject evil, there is hope!


Anonymous said...

Hello again,

The pictures are amazing and the story
is very moving.

Your last line said there is hope. Interesting
word since you can't feel it, touch it or even see it
but you definitely want it. Those never ending prayers will provide for what is needed.

God Bless you both.

Anonymous said...

I'm proud to say that the hope that the Iraqi people are yearning for comes in the red, white, and blue flag that we see everyday here in America, yet we take it for granted. It's patriots like my brother Greg who help remind us what a great nation we really are.