Independence Day has different meaning in Iraq

Posted: Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Editor's note: The following letter was not received in time to be printed before Independence Day.

To Evan Cundiff and Hazel L. Clark, thank you for the notes you wrote in the June 24 paper. It's nice to know someone is still thinking of us here in Iraq — enough to spend the time to write a letter. I may not agree totally with you, but I know you both care enough.

Hazel, thank you for the sacrifice you made as a vet's mom. When a soldier deploys to war, it's a whole family affair. I can't even imagine what a mother goes through, so my hat's off to you. You're a true patriot.

I've just returned from a two-week leave. After five months in Iraq, what I noticed when I was at home was the freedom we have. I also remember the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. That's not the feeling I had on that day and a few months thereafter. Evil men had done evil things to us. I looked at my wife and kids that morning and realized that if there's anything I could do to prevent that from happening again, I'd do it.

When I first got to Iraq, I saw a lot of satellite dishes on top of almost all the buildings in our area of operations. I thought, "Well, they're not doing too bad here." It wasn't until just a few days ago that I found out that when Saddam was ousted, the Iraqis were hungry for world news. They weren't able to see it before. Saddam controlled every facet of their lives. Freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in our lives, is a new thing here. Now when I see the satellites, I know my sacrifice is not for nothing.

We're fighting the al-Qaida here. We're not fighting them at home. These same people who did that to us on 9/11 are now doing it to us here and the Iraqi people. But I'm happy they're here, not at home. They have also banded with Iraqi criminals who did terrible things during Saddam's rule.

The American soldiers here and the Iraqi police and military are ensuring that the Iraqis and we in the U.S.A. don't have to worry about these guys again. The Iraqi military and the police force now outnumber the coalition forces. They are slowly taking over our job. Please pray for safety and success.

Almost every day, I brief my platoon: "In case no one has told you in the last 24 hours, you guys are doing a great job. Remember why we're here. It's not only for the freedom of the Iraqi people, but also the safety of our families back home so that when our sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers get on a plane or travel anywhere, they don't have to worry about someone harming them. That's why we're here."

When we deployed, we had some soldiers who thought this war was not necessary, myself included. After seeing the Iraqis and the new freedoms, we all agree we need to be here. The sacrifices we and our country have made is not for nothing. The enemy that killed more then 3,000 innocent Americans these past four years is here and in Afghanistan. The Iraqis, Americans, British and all the other nations are here working hard to ensure freedom for the Iraqis.

For me, it's personal. I want to ensure freedom for my family so when my wife and I put our kids on a plane to college next year, an idiot doesn't take it over and run it into a building. We're only here for another six to eight months, and we intend to get the job done — An Shallah (Lord willing).

As you celebrate the Fourth of July with that parade down Main Street, please remember the guys here — Ken Felchle, Matt Lay, Greg Fite, Roy Brendible, Shaun McLeod, Chris White, myself and all the other Kenai Peninsula soldiers with other units. We will be doing the same thing on the Fourth as we've done the past six months, patrolling the streets of Baghdad, wishing we were throwing out candy on Main Street instead.

God bless you all and happy Fourth of July.

Will Schwenke, Camp Victory South

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