Thursday, March 02, 2006
...including one of a local guy:
Cpl. Jason L. Elder, a 22-year-old from Marlboro, Mass.,
looks through the scope of his rifle while providing overwatch
for Marines from 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment during
Operation Industrial Revolution. He is a scout-sniper attached
to Headquarters and Service Company serving with Regimental
Combat Team 8. The operation was designed to disrupt insurgent
activity in Fallujah's industrial area and resulted in the discovery
of several weapons caches. (photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn)
Hey, right down the street from me (so to speak). When he gets home, I hope I'll have the chance to shake his hand and buy him a drink.
Here's another guy we can be glad is on our side:
Cpl. Darren R. Smykowski, a 21-year-old from Mentor, Ohio, looks through
the scope of his rifle while providing overwatch for Marines from 2nd Battalion,
6th Marine Regiment during Operation Industrial Revolution. He is a scout-sniper
attached to Headquarters and Service Company serving with Regimental Combat
Team 8. Operation Industrial Revolution was designed to disrupt insurgent
activity in Fallujah's industrial area. The operation several weapons
caches. (photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Zahn)
I have relatives in Mentor. I'll have to ask if they know him!
No doubt these pictures arouse different emotions in different people. (I don't know if either of my regular readers has military experience.) For myself, I find pictures like these thrilling and exciting... and they make me tremendously proud.
Like it or not, our young men in Iraq are potential targets -- of Iraqi "insurgents", who are either the dregs of Saddam's regime pining for the days when they were in control, or the agents of foreign terrorists desperately trying to prevent Iraqi democracy from taking root. Either way, they are doing everything they can to sow chaos in Iraqi society, and that includes attacks on American troops, who are the guarantors of the newly-born Iraqi democracy -- even as Iraqis are increasingly taking control of their own lives, their own security, and their own destiny.
But American troops are not idle; they pursue the terrorists mercilessly, rooting them out wherever they can be found... and, in the process, increasing Iraqi confidence in the rule of law and a society they can run themselves. So it gives me pleasure to see our young men and women in uniform -- cool, confident, competent, and more than ready to pursue the enemy anywhere.
Have another look at Corporal Elder. At a guess, he's carrying between twenty and thirty pounds of gear, on top of his body armor; how long do you think you could do that, dashing from one combat position to another, and still maintain your focus and concentration as a sniper with pinpoint accuracy? He'll hold that position as long as he needs to... and, if there's a shot to be had, he'll find it.
Now look at Corporal Smykowski. If I had to guess, he's in place for a long stretch... and he's camouflaged himself and his weapon, making himself all-but-invisible from any reasonable distance. He is the invisible bolt of lightning, out of a clear blue sky, that will see a threat to his Marines down below, and eliminate that threat quickly and quietly, before the target knows what hit him.
These men are professional warriors, dedicated to the destruction of their country's enemies -- and, by extension, dedicated to the freedom of their fellow citizens. Now take a look at their ages. They could have gone to school, gone to work, signed up for fraternities, coasted for a few years on their parents' nickel. They did not; they volunteered to defend their country, and were trained to be expert in doing just that.
However you feel about the war, please remember: these men volunteered. They volunteered to go through years of pain, grueling hard work, and tremendous personal sacrifice... because they felt it was worth it -- that their country was worth it. They volunteered to fight, and to die if necessary, to protect men and women they'd never meet. That's me... and you. They felt we are worth it.
You don't need to understand what motivates them to be grateful to them. Even if you believe that the war was a misguided mistake, remember the sacrifices they've made -- and are ready to continue to make -- for you.
I see pictures such as these, and I feel the pride of knowing America is in very good hands.