Sunday, October 31, 2004
Guide to Iraq
Honor, effort and no regret
As a student at Northern Kentucky University, "I had no direction," said Isaac Pacheco, Ryle High School Class of 2000. So one day he walked into a Marine Corps recruiting office and signed up. That day was Sept. 10, 2001.
The next morning, his father shook him awake with the news: "America is under attack." Since then, the Marine Corps has provided plenty of direction.
They directed him to Parris Island, then Japan, now Iraq.
"I learned a few interesting things this week that I thought I'd share with those of you who may ever decide to come visit beautiful Iraq-land," he wrote from Baghdad.
"Let's call it my Incomplete, Idiot's Guide to Iraq."
"Showering immediately after coming in from a sandstorm turns the head (bathroom) into a mud pit, and turns you into the least popular guy in the squad bay. (I cleaned it up, Okay!)"
"If you can hear the 'whoosh' of an RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) whizzing overhead, you're usually okay. You don't hear the naughty ones. They just go BOOM!"
Here at home, people who can't name the capital of Kansas (Topeka) can rattle off Abu Graib, Fallujah, Baathists, Al Qaida and Zarqawi.
But we don't really know jack about Iraq. Opinions stapled together from headlines and TV reports are like weather forecasts from Chicken Little. The sky is always falling. All bad news, all the time.
Pacheco described watching one TV report: "It showed the expected images of smoke and debris and people frantically running for cover - images that have become the accepted norm in the minds of many Americans, thanks, or should I say no thanks, to the agenda-oriented liberal-leaning media. The newscast ended with the anchorwoman making a sly, underhanded comment about the president, and that was it. Then it dawned on me what was wrong. There were no smiling soldiers, no mention of rebuilding efforts, no heartwarming stories about honor and sacrifice. I could swear I've seen that 'stuff' here.
"It must be an election year."
I asked about regrets.
"I'm still proud of the decision I made to enlist. I didn't 'sign up' for Bush or politics or any other reason than simply to serve my country," he replied. "Having seen the way the world has changed (since 9/11), and the role the American military has played in destroying the roots of terrorism, makes me feel like I got on this Ferris-wheel ride just in time. The fact that America has not sustained a similarly devastating attack since we began our aggressive global war on terror proves that our work has not been in vain."
He's proud that his two brothers have joined the Marines and will go to Iraq early next year. But he said soldiers in Iraq feel revolted "when we hear how deceased service members are being exploited as casualties of an 'unjust' war. What does that say about their sacrifice? That although sad and unfortunate, their end was the inevitable outcome of misguided efforts?
"That's not only a slap in the face to these fallen patriots' families and friends, but also an open rebuke to the warriors over here who continue to put their lives on the line for the protesters' freedom of expression."
I told him to stay safe, and he replied with something more Americans should hear:
"Remember, far more people die each day during their daily commute to and from work than from mortar attacks over here.
"YOU be safe.
"God bless, Cpl. Isaac D. Pacheco."
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