Sunday, December 18, 2011

The End of Our Stay in Iraq

For days, I have been digesting the "end of the Iraq war." I have read several articles and seen the opinions of others. Now here's the opinion of a Army Infantry wife with over 10 years as a wife and over 12 years as a loved one to a service member.

Let me be the first to tell you not all of our troops will be home by Christmas. We have friends that are staying there to finish out their year long deployment to Iraq. If you think all of our soldiers are coming out of Iraq all in one swoop then let me wake you up. We did not drop billions of dollars over there to just pack up and move away. Iraq will become like Korea was. All troops will be home for Christmas makes for a great story, but those of us supporting the troops at close range actually know the truth because our friends and loved ones are still there!! It makes for a great story, but it is not entirely true. We have friends sitting in Kuwait right now and that's where they are staying for several more months. And we know we will have more friends who will go there.

When Chaz went to Korea in 2002 it was a Hazardous Duty/Unaccompanied tour. I was not allowed to go with him. Because of that, I got to have Deryn with my mom by my side, instead of my husband. Chaz came home when she was 6 days, left when she was 5 weeks. He was gone for a full year and came home the week of her first birthday and was gone again 4 weeks later and then came home when she was 16 months old. I think you can now understand why I refer to Korea as a deployment, not an assignment. The Army eventually did as well because now in some areas of Korea your family can go with you. Why has this changed? It is because the soldiers in Korea were added to the deployment rotations to Iraq and were being kept away from their families for longer terms. We needed the boots on the ground so they added them into the rotation. Now you go to Korea just like Germany, Italy, Texas, New York, etc and then you will rotate out with your unit. The tours to Korea are now longer. When Chaz and I were first married the tours there were only 1 year, (although Chaz was extended to 18 months due to the Iraq war) now they are 2 to 4 years. Once we passed the 4 year mark in Iraq, I told Chaz mark my word Iraq will become Korea. He commented the other day that he still can't believe I saw that coming. He thought Iraq would be like Desert Storm, in out and done. Yesterday he looked at me and said I cannot believe you called that one so long ago.

Then I read this story I truly don't believe this wife is saying those who served in Iraq are less worthy of our appreciation. I just believe she never supported the war in Iraq and is glad her hubby served in the war that she supports. There's nothing wrong with that and she has every right to her opinion, as do I. I did not catch her hubby's occupation in the military. But let me tell you my fellow Infantry wives would take Iraq over Afghanistan any day! That is not just because Chaz was injured, but because Iraq had better communication capabilities so we heard from our hubbies a lot more. And statistically they were safer in Iraq. In addition, in Iraq our guys were not shot at every single day multiple times per day. So once again I don't know what her hubby does for the military, but I doubt he is Infantry and if he is I want to know what part of Afghanistan he served in. Because she believes Afghanistan is better (I laugh and shake my head), bless her heart.

My hubby has served in Kosovo, Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. I am proud of everything he has done. I am proud that he answered the call to serve. I am proud of all the good he did in Iraq. It is so sad that you don't hear about all the good our soldiers did in that country. They helped establish democracy, built schools, and helped reshape a nation that was ruled by a man that to me was too close to Hilter. All you hear about is the lives lost and injured and the amount we spent. Our soldiers, marines, airmen and sailors are called to serve. They are the perfect example of the true American patriotic spirit. They enlist so they can give back and help protect our nation. I believe all of our troops' work is commendable. We must all remember they are called to serve and follow the orders of our government. Our country took upon ourselves a long time ago to help other nations in times of need. Our service members serve as our on the ground ambassadors to our nations. They have done a great job. They all deserve a huge pat on the back. Do not punish them for the choices of our government, nor degrade all their hard work. Sure we had a few bad eggs who were splashed all over the news and ruined it for all our guys. But don't let their stupidity be the legacy of Iraq. Look and see all the great things our soldiers brought to that nation.

She made this comment "people don't shake their heads and look down when I talk of my husband's deployments. They don't suck in their breaths and say to me, "What a waste."" Well I have never, ever had that happen not one time and Chaz served in Iraq in 05-06. I don't know who her friends are but I would think about the company I keep. Everyone in my circle is very proud of my hubby and I have been thanked so many times that I cannot count them for our service. I have never heard of this happening to our friends either. And if someone did say this to me, I would quickly correct them.

Then there's this comment, "So, though I'm glad to not have that Iraq baggage in my family, I worry now for all my friends who do. It is a horrible thing to have given tremendously to a cause that others do not respect." To be blunt, this lady is tripping on some great drugs. To me she is being overly dramatic about a non-issue. I carry that baggage proudly, very proudly. I am thankful to remind people of the over 30 people we lost in Chaz's one year rotation. I will not let their deaths be forgotten. I also tell them about our friends who were injured and talk about the good Chaz and his guys did over there.

She also says she never thought of them as separate wars. Well that is coming from someone who only served in one of them. They were separate and fought differently. The bullets, IEDs and attacks were quite a bit different. Ask our Infantry soldiers or better yet ask the medical professionals at Walter Reed who are treating our soldiers' injuries.They'll be happy to enlighten you.

The one thing she and I do have in common is I too didn't have a "1/2 of my heart is in Iraq" sticker. Due to security issues, we were asked to not place them on our vehicles. Our command was afraid our families could be targets of terrorism. I think my reason is a little bit better than hers, just saying.

Bottom line is you should not publish opinions that you cannot back up 101%. If your hubby fought in one conflict only then you have a biased opinion and should do a little more research. I for one will tell you I carry all of our baggage just fine and proudly. I truly feel bad for this woman because I know she was attacked with emails and such once this article was published. I also think she is almost totally wrong. I think our nation is very proud of all of our soldiers and that no one shakes their head in shame at our troops.

When I see the words "war in Iraq has ended," it brings me hope. I am in a major military hospital almost everyday and I meet or hear about newly injured warriors almost everyday. So when I see these words "war has ended" I think good now the injured will only come from Afghanistan and not from two places. I am happy to know that the statistics of troops being injured and/or KIA has gotten a little better. I am thinking ok combat ops have ended there so does this mean we can focus on the first war we started and finish it out?! I am tired of meeting new families. I am tired of knowing someone is possibly having a Day Zero today. I am tired of sharing tips of families to help them heal. But I quickly shake off that tiredness and get to work helping these families the best I can.

Most importantly please remember we still have soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world. There are service members who will have Christmas away from their families possibly for the second, third, fourth or higher number of times. So when you see the story on the news all soldiers home by Christmas, please remember this inside scoop, they will not ALL be home. They still need your support and prayers.


  1. Thanks Jessica - great perspective, and great information!

  2. Thank you Jessica! I just had a chat with one of my parishioners this morning. His son-in-law is in Iraq and will be there until the scheduled end of is deployment - in May. I saw that Chaz was in Kosovo. I remember when we first went there. I was stationed in Germany and saw troops from Germany sent in for what was to be a six month operation. We are still there. Your linking Iraq to Korea is no doubt right on. So we keep praying for the troops and their families who will be apart this Christmas season in the hope that one day all of our troops will truly be home. Keep up the fantastic job you do!

  3. Hi Jessica, thank you for the respectful tone of your comments. That CNN piece has been perceived very differently than I intended it. For what it's worth, I never opposed the Iraq invasion or the war there and, since I started blogging in 2006, I have written thousands of words in support of our efforts in Iraq. I would have been very proud of my husband if his deployments had taken him to Iraq --- just as proud as I am of the time he spent in Afghanistan. (He served three heavy combat tours there, all to the Helmand Province, and was combat wounded during his last deployment. Blessedly, his wounds were not as serious as those many others have suffered.)
    Anyway, the point I had hoped to get across with that piece was that there are many people who say ignorant things to Iraq vets and their families and, because my husband didn't serve there, I'm grateful that they don't say those things to me. Scarcely does a week go by when I don't hear or read comments from someone who believes our time there was wasted and I attribute those attitudes to the negative media coverage that conflict - as opposed to Afghanistan - received. Clearly I failed as a writer in conveying these points as many people interpreted my words to mean something very different.
    Thanks for letting me borrow your space here to explain myself! Merry Christmas! Rebekah Sanderlin

  4. I pray that families like yours will heal together in time. The truth is difficult to bear watching someone else who has sacrificed so much of themselves in service of Americans like me. Thank you for your sacrifice and all that your husband has had sacrificed. I believe family is our greatest resource. Each person who goes to war has the love and support of their family. When Chaz had life changing injuries, you and your family deployed to show him love and support. I pray for all of our Wounded Warriors and their families. Merry Christmas to all of you and cherish the moments that you share with each other as a family.