SlagleRock's Slaughterhouse
Don't be a fool and die for your country. Let the other sonofabitch die for his.
-- General George S. Patton

October 11, 2004

A Personal Letter From Iraq

A Soldier's Letter
'A protector. A redeemer. A soldier stands at the end of the street...'

MamaMontezz pointed me to this great letter from a soldier serving in Iraq.

It is a personal letter about the situation in Iraq and the way the world views it.

Click continue reading for the full letter. It is worth your time and worth the read.

Support OUR Troops!

SlagleRock Out!

A soldier's letter
'A protector. A redeemer. A soldier stands at the end of the street...'

Published October 10. 2004 7:30AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following letter from Army Capt. Brian Patnode was sent to the Star-Banner on Tuesday, Oct. 5, from Iraq, where he is stationed as part of the 497th MCT Transportation Battalion. Patnode is an Ocala native who attended Vanguard High School and later graduated the University of Central Florida. He was in the Army Reserves until he was 27 when he joined the regular Army. His wife, Rachel, and 2-year-old daughter, Ryleigh, are in Ocala awaiting his return from Iraq. Patnode is the son of Bruce Patnode of Ocala and Pam Vance of Belleview.

It is a little harder than usual to fall asleep on this particular evening. In the distance, the sound of a U.S.-made .50-caliber machine gun can be heard warning the unseen enemy away from our base camp.

To make sleep even more distant, the few minutes of quiet are interrupted by the penetrating concussion of several enemy rockets landing only a few hundred meters away from our living area. Having seen the effects mortars or rockets have upon impact, my mind dwells on the prospect of a direct or near impact from the enemy's weapon of choice. On this particular night I can hear the rocks, stirred by a rocket, landing on the roof of my dwelling as if to warn me that he has me in his sights. If it is his desire to prevent the U.S. soldiers that occupy his country sleep, then he is indeed succeeding.

It has been many months since our country's leadership first sent soldiers to this country. Despite the fact that only a few more months remain in my year-long tour, the word eternity remains constant. For it has been an eternity since I have held my wife or played games with my little girl. My wife spends her days attempting to create a normality that our little girl does not understand how to live without. All the while, her mother is plagued with a nagging fear that her husband may not come home at the end of the year as promised.

I made a promise to them both I would be home for Christmas - and that will hold true even if Christmas is not celebrated on December 25th, as is customary. In addition to the excitement I feel for going home, I am left with a fear Christmas will never be as it once was.

During the first few months in this desert, each soldier could be found running to the mortar bunkers shortly after the first explosion was heard. Over time, complacency took over, leading to a nonchalant approach to attacks. With only three months left in our tour, I again see my fellow soldiers move to the bunkers with an increased swiftness. We joke how we are too short to "die" now. Each of us can now believe we will not be one of the 1,000 killed or 10,000 wounded. Understanding we each have a 1 in 250 chance of being killed during the year, we are beginning to believe we have escaped the odds.

Sitting in the bunker on this evening, I could feel the cool air push by my face while the leftover daytime heat absorbed by the cement bunker warms my back. It is a feeling that draws memories from far away, reminding me of home. A typical Florida afternoon means the rain will fall for less than 30 minutes, cooling the air just enough so you feel how hot the pavement has become. The Iraqi desert is darker than home, so closing my eyes to cherish the sudden memory makes no difference. To see countryside covered with green grass, lakes every several miles and the chance to stop at my favorite restaurant for a well enjoyed meal with my girls. Here there is no stopping while on the road for fear of losing your life.

No, Christmas will not be the same this year. It can never be. I now understand the contentment I would see on a grandfather's face during the holidays. Just as a world war forever changed their perspective, mine has now changed forever as well.

This far into our deployment phrases such as "fighting for country" or "duty" are falling to the wayside. Approaching the end, all conversation drifts to home and the loved ones we will find waiting there. Just as well, that is where all my motivation is now found. Suddenly nothing matters more in the world than just returning home to what was once ordinary. It is not that serving my country in the most dangerous place on the planet has made me more deserving, just more grateful.

One day I will attempt to understand what it was like for my wife on the other side of the emotions. I can only imagine her fear and frustration every night as she watches the television. Well-dressed men and women debating the morality or legality of the war. Every time she hears the words: "two soldiers were killed in Iraq today . . ." Her breathing must stop just long enough to remind herself she has not received that dreaded phone call and she knows her husband is OK.

History will judge the necessity of this war. And while my fellow soldiers and I talk of it on occasion, we are relentlessly reminded there is indeed an enemy of the United States in this country. It is hard to debate Iraq meant harm to the people of the U.S. when several show it everyday. While my brothers in arms are willing to fight this enemy as he desires, we would be just as content to help him build his country into the example of prosperity and triumph this region has not seen in more than a thousand years.

Let us not forget our own history. During the War of 1812, a collection of New England states considered leaving the union in hopes of suing for peace. We should not expect every Iraqi to enjoy the prospect of democracy. In the exact same manner, the enemy here knows his only hope of obtaining power is by ensuring the masses do not rally in the name of freedom. Does no American find it odd that the greater numbers of Iraqis have not publicly requested the U.S. forces leave? There is no great outcry for our absence. Each person will argue for this reason as their ideology requires. Seeing with my own eyes, I can tell one why this is.

Within their land Iraqis see a group of people who were not scared of their oppressor of decades. Who in this world would ever have been brave enough to stand up to the man who abused and murdered their friends and family by the thousands? The quickness by which this Army came left them watching in dismay. And now, this redeemer stands in place as a reminder that the cause for which he entered the country is now worth remaining. The people in Iraq must wonder to themselves why this is important enough for this visitor to risk his life. No doubt there must be some speculation as to U.S. motives. And no doubt they do not trust entirely. Yet they must wonder. Having been oppressed or controlled by others for more than a thousand years, they could think nothing else.

On the other hand, this newcomer has promised and, thus far, delivered to them the means to govern ourselves. Why?

The answer is actually quite simple. Over a decade ago a war was fought. The cease fire of that war was clearly not abided by. At the completion of that war, we, the United States of America, urged the Kurds and Shiites to rise up in the name of freedom. By the thousands the Iraqi regime slaughtered them. We did nothing but watch as if helpless or not responsible. We are here now to complete what would have been just and right a decade ago.

I stand here with an open hand of apology. At times America has failed to follow through when needed only to see needless deaths. But today we do not. And we do not leave because to do so would make us no less deserving of God's grace than the evil we rid from this land. What is left of the former regime is what we are still fighting today.

Days from now, we will likely hear about another bombing or massacre of innocent woman and children. I do not believe there is any greater evidence of how what remains of the old government is still present using the only tactics they know. Only now the populous does not appear to be giving in. There is a new element. A protector. A redeemer. A soldier stands at the end of the street - a soldier that throughout history has never asked for any more land than that for which to bury his comrade.

Let the world judge us. I find no confidence in anyone who judges our actions on a political level. For it is so much more personal than that. There are millions of lives at stake. And each one has the same desire as anyone else - to live with the belief the next day will be better than the last, and our kids will know a better life than we did. For each U.S. soldier who has given their life, there are 25,000 others who now know what it is to have a life.

Thank you for your service!
SlagleRock Out!

Posted by SlagleRock at October 11, 2004 01:28 PM

This should be required reading in all the schools of this land as well as the House and Senate.

Posted by: Jack at October 11, 2004 08:12 PM

Very nice comments you guys have here, congratulations and thanks to allowing my post...

Posted by: Phendimetrazine at April 15, 2005 12:45 PM
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