Thursday, September 27, 2007

Something is missing

You know, somewhere in the course of this war, things changed for us; for Charlie Battery. It was once about the soldiers, about the needs of our guys on the road and the guys here on base. At some point in the last couple months that changed and it is so upsetting, I don't even want to write about it.

When we first started our missions, things were busy. We would come to work and hear of the dangers our guys encountered the night before. We would read over the reports and ensure everyone was alright. We would shutter at the damage these massive bombs did to our armored vehicles and thank God our guys were okay. Some of the vehicles were so badly damaged they were turned to scrap metal. As long as everyone was okay, it didn't matter really. If things were unsafe on the road, they were told to stay put.

A couple months ago we started being rewarded with banners that tell others of our achieve-ments. Most bombs found, most days without being injured, most days without vehicles breaking down and many, many more. Charlie Battery took almost all of them that first ceremony. That's how we are, that's what we do.

When you care for your fellow soldier like a brother, they will follow you into battle as a brother. You fight for them, they will fight for you. No matter if you agree with this war or our president, here and now we fight for the man next to us. We fight so we may all go home and get back to the lives we left when we came to the front lines.

These banners, these bragging rights and medals are not about taking care of our soldiers, not looking after our brothers. It is about numbers, it's about being the best at all costs and about losing sight of the reason we were so great in the first place. When we come to work in the morning we still ask if anything bad happened.

Now however, the first thought isn't about the well being of our soldiers, it is what award we will not get this month. It's not about them staying put because of unnecessary risks to the safety of our men. It is about not moving enough goods. It is about not driving as many miles and how that won't look as good on the description of accomplishments on awards or the fact that another unit will get a banner in a ceremony that we wanted.

When our guys encountered bombs before, the first question was always, "Is everyone okay?" Now it refers to whether we found it or if it blew up on them. Now the response on a bomb blowing up is more about ratios and tic marks and the fact we need to find one more to get ahead of the other units. In the darkest moments, it has even been glad to hear a bomb blew up on another unit so their numbers will go down. There are many times I am appalled and disgusted to be a part of this. Our priorities are so messed up, it has lost the humor.

I have often admitted envy of our guys on the road and without a doubt that is true. I often wish I could be out there with them. Even out there though, the worst part about this war, about being here, isn't battling our enemy; it is battling each other.

My pride, my devotion is tested not by the burdens and hardships of this war, but by the selfish arrogance we have adopted. We have given up the thing that defined us most, the thing that made Cold Steel the envy of all who know us.

We have lost our heart.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Remembering 9/11

Wow, here it is September 11, 2007. It is the sixth anniversary of the attacks by terrorists on our home soil and as I watched the towers fall that morning, everything in my body yearned to someday make the bad guys pay. I was recently out of the Navy and wrote my commanding officer and told him how I so badly wished I could be there when our ship sailed into harm's way. Somehow I knew that event would lead me here.

I can remember my daughter coming in as I watched it on TV and I was so drawn in, I couldn't turn it off no matter how badly I wanted to. I remember seeing flashes of bodies falling from above as victims jumped to their deaths rather than be burned alive as the fires raged far above the firemen below. As footage started coming in from people on the streets, my daughter stood beside me as the second plane was shown striking the building in a fiery crash. My daughter, only four at the time, exclaimed that was cool and asked me to rewind it. I didn't know what to say. The innocence in her young face made me glad she couldn't understand what was happening.

So, I sit here today in the land of Islamic Extremists who still want to kill me. I remember this day as the day they attacked us in our backyard and today I proudly fight in theirs. Every day I am away from loved ones I hurt and know that many people back home don't care that I am here. Some are blind to the fact we will fight terrorists.

They will not quit, they will not surrender. They wait patiently, spending years finding a weakness and in an instant, they exploit it. Here is where they breed them, here is where they train them, here is where they give them money and weapons and HERE is where we should fight them. Oh we will fight this war, in their yard or ours. I believe we will be pulled out of Iraq. We will be sent home to our families and someday, we will relive 9-11 on our soil again.

When that time comes, I will proudly stand up for America and our way of life. I will rush to the front lines in defense of those who can't; and even those who won't. For me it is much more than a badge on my shirt or just polishes on my boots.

It is something instilled deep within my soul and I will never be able to watch my country, my friends or family enter into harm's way while I sit idly by. I will stand up and lead the way. For God and country I will fight, for I am an American Soldier.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Another loss for Charlie Battery

I just got to thinking back and it has been a while since I have written. I had a couple things I am frustrated about and wanted to write about, but realized I have failed to write about the loss of our second Charlie Battery soldier, SGT Michael Chenoweth.

I didn’t know Mike well at all. I always thought he was a little off, a little crazy. I had met him here and there and gone on a mission with him. Most people avoided him because he always had a crazy look in his eyes. His closest friends say that was one of his finest attributes, his “Crazy Eye”. It always seems that too often we lose someone before we really know them and I think I would have loved to be able to say I was Mike’s friend. I, however, will never have that honor.

SGT Chenoweth was a quiet man. That was also an attribute that defined him best. In the days leading up to his memorial service, I learned more about this one of a kind man. His job on mission was to cover rear security and protect the convoy and his team from someone sneaking up behind them. It was said that though no one likes being last, there was no one they felt safer with back there.

His best friend, Jimmy Freeman, said he often joked with Mike that God broke the mold when He made Mike. Jimmy’s heartfelt words struck deep within me as he spoke at the service. His love and respect of Mike could not be overlooked and I was sad for his loss, for our loss. Staff Sergeant Freeman is a tough, rough soldier that was born and bred to kill bad guys and I believe he is completely insane, but there aren’t many soldiers I’d feel safer beside when the bullets start flying.

He went on to speak of how Mike said such few words, that when he did speak, people listened. Officers, enlisted, it didn’t matter. Mike didn’t talk to waste his breath. He was respected by many, but respected few. For you to have Mike’s respect, you had to earn it, and as Jimmy went on, if you had Mike Chenoweth’s respect, you had something special.

The soldiers on his crew admired and respected Mike so much, that they had a saying. We all know the saying, “What Would Jesus Do.” As I started gathering pictures for the presentation, I found many pictures with “WWCD” written everywhere. At the time, I didn’t understand and I overlooked them. As I learned more of his crew and him, I learned it stood for, “What Would Chenoweth Do?” This soldier was so respected and so looked up to by his team of all ranks, they often considered what Chenoweth would do when they discussed the mission, tactics or anything as far as I could tell.

Mike was on his second tour in Iraq. He volunteered to come back and serve with us. A friend once asked him why on Earth he came back. Mike replied, “I left something here, I came to see if I could find it.” As much as I have learned about the man, about the soldier, I believe without a doubt that he would have wanted to go out in a blaze of glory to his dying breath. As fate would have it, Mike died while at home on leave, surrounded by family, doing what he loved. I believe it was God’s way of telling Mike that he did find what he came looking for.

All of my respect and thanks to you, Sergeant Michael L. Chenoweth.