Sunday, May 29, 2005

Memorial Day’s Story

It is usually on Memorial Day that we remember our veterans and soldiers – a show of appreciation from our citizens to our men and women in uniforms – past and present. Today, as Iraq war veteran, I am taking the opportunity to thank our citizens for their continue support. I could not have done it without them. There are plenty of stories about heroic soldiers but not enough about loyal supportive citizens. So I am telling you the story.

Early September 2004, I was allowed to go home for 2 weeks leave. After two days of traveling from Iraq, our chartered plane landed on Atlanta International Airport. The plane full of soldiers emotionally cheered as the wheels touched our beloved soil. The joy was immeasurable. Atlanta was the hub from there we take other connection flight to our home, where our families anxiously awaited.

My connection flight home was several hours away, so I wandered aimlessly in the airport, simply appreciation America. If you think the airport is uninteresting, you have not been to Iraq. I felt like a child. The air smelled clean, unlike the dusty smell of Iraq, and it was safe. We were all in our uniform (DCU) wandering the airport like kids in a toy store. I would never think an airport could be exciting.

I was however apprehensive about the reception we would receive. According to the poll at the time, support for the war fell below 50 percent. I thought of our Vietnam veterans who spat on when they returned home. I fear was quickly dismissed by comments from flyers at the airport. “Thanks you for your service” and “we are proud of you” are the type comments I personally received. Many people walked to me and shook my hand.

I was hungry and desperately want to eat something other than Army food. So I enter a restaurant (I cannot remember which restaurant) and ordered lunch. My eyes were bigger than my stomach and I ordered more than I could eat. The food was the best that I ever had. Thinking back, it was probably not all that good, but my taste bud was deprived for many months; so as far as I concerned, it was fit for a king. After I stuffing my face (which is an understatement), I asked for the check. The waiter informed me that my bill has been paid for by a patron in the restaurant. I asked him who it was so I can thank that person, and the waiter responded that the patron want to remain anonymous. Later on that day, on our commercial flight home, first class flyers offered another soldier and I their luxurious seats.

I was my best day since I went to Iraq. Not because of the free food, but the statement behind it. The reception at the airport lifted my desponded spirit. To refresh your memory, the months of August and September were terrible months in Iraq. We were fighting two simultaneous insurgencies, the Shiite one by Sadr Militia and the Sunni one by Batthist/Salafists. Several cities –Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, Baquba, Najaf, and Karbala - were hotly contested. They were either completely or partially controlled by the enemies. Thing did not look good then, both in Iraq and at home. At home, support for the war fell dramatically. I was desponded. [More on my Iraq experience here]

I cannot say if those Americans supported the war or not. It would be arrogant for me to assume their political position. But one thing I know with certainty. They support the troop. And throughout my two weeks vacations, I received nothing but praises and encouragements, from strangers as well as friends. I flew back to Iraq two weeks later. Again meals were paid for and first class seats were offered.

Thank you, American citizens and patriots. The rest of my deployment was much easier after knowing I have your backing. Your support is vital to the war effort. So keep showing your yellow ribbon, let our troops know that you care. You were invaluable and indispensable. Your moral support strengthens our resolve and steels our spirit. And on Memorial Day, I, an Iraq veteran, want to say thank you to all of you. Thank you.


Blogger THIRDWAVEDAVE said...

On Memorial Day we remember those who have fallen, but, taking a moment to give thanks to all who show support for our troops is a great idea, too. Good post.

11:44 PM  
Blogger ljmcinnis said...

Minh-Duc, You are welcome but it is "we" who should be thanking you.
Thank you for all the hardships you endured in Iraq and thank you for your blog.

6:52 PM  
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10:13 PM  

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