Yesterday I discussed letters received by hometown newspapers from American soldiers in Iraq. The Gannett Newspaper Group had received an identical letter, signed by several different soldiers, at eleven of their publications. Concerned that all of the letters consisted of five paragraphs, identical in content, Gannett did not publish the work. Instead, Gannett set out to locate the authors. Investigation revealed that some soldiers had been given the letters to sign by superior officers. Other soldiers were unfamiliar with the letters, while others only knew a letter was published with their signature, after hearing about it from family members at home.
Contacting military authorities, Gannett was unable to find any military public information officer willing to acknowledge the source of the letters. For now, the origin of the apparent form letter remains a mystery. I suspect we will never know the origin. The possibility remains that the letter originated at a military public information office, the Pentagon, an intelligence office or even from Bush Administration spin-doctors. We do know the letter did not originate with those whose signatures appeared on the letters.
The highly publicized letter depicted a glowing picture of our military efforts to rebuild Iraq. The unknown author praised the high morale of American troops in Iraq and related how proud the soldier was to be there. There are other letters from soldiers in Iraq and their families, as well. These are not form letters. These are actual letters from 3rd Infantry Division soldiers to their families. Family members have verified the source of the letters and incorporated the thoughts of their sons, daughters, fathers and mothers in letters to Congress. Here are two such letters, telling the other side of the story.
Here is a letter written by family members of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Soldiers:
“To Whom it May Concern,
We are writing to you today about the 3rd Infantry Division. These soldiers have had redeployments held out to them and then snatched away from them repeatedly. If simply being there contributes to the defeat of morale, what must the denied hope of homecoming bring?
As you know, the United States Army has always frowned upon ‘negative publicity’ and family members have always been told to keep quiet for the sake of not making the most ‘powerful Army in the world’ look bad. Well, contrary to what we have been told, a few months ago, when we had heard of them being delayed due to a ‘follow on mission’ to Fallujah, a group of spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends began writing to members of Congress. Senators and even the Commander in Chief in hopes that the situation would be reviewed. We have contacted the news and print media and told our stories to the public. When the news media investigated our allegations of our troops not having enough ammunition, supplies and food, they were simply told by the commanding officer that it was being ‘taken care of’ and the story was left at that. For weeks after, our husbands called home to tell us they were drinking un-sanitary water, their equipment was broken down and their morale was horribly low. I ask you Congressman, who should the family members believe? An Army commanding officer who does not want the Army to sustain ‘negative publicity’ or their husbands, brothers and sons who are actually there in the situation and experiencing it first hand?
We feel that the Americans’ voices on this matter have been stifled, that the soldiers’ voices on this matter have been altogether ignored. The following are quotes DIRECTLY from the mouths of 3rd ID soldiers. The first is from a member of an armored division who has been deployed since September 2002, the other is a letter from an un-named soldier from the 3rd ID/2nd BCT who felt he should remain anonymous for fear of reprimand from his commanding officers. These letters are DIRECTLY from the men in Iraq, in their own words doubting their faith in this country.
I’m always the one who’s positive, but I’ll tell you it’s hard sometimes. At times, I can’t rationalize why we are still here and that is what makes me mad. Pretty much it confirms my belief that I am just part of a bar graph on a power point presentation to a ‘suit’ in Washington. My life is a percentage of ‘well, we have X amount of soldiers in theater’…you really get the feeling that the government has abandoned you, left you to rot, with no mission and no return date. But most days, I remember I’m here for my guys and it’s my duty to make sure they’re okay even if the higher-ups are messing up.”
Here’s yet another letter from soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade:
“To Whom it May Concern:
When you hear about ‘heroes,’ you think of people whom you would envy. None of us asked to be called heroes, or anything else. For the past 9 months we have lived a hard life. We trained for nearly 6 months before the war started, were the first U.S. forces into Iraq on March 20th, and were responsible for the daring strike into Baghdad on April 7th and 8th that virtually ended the war.
We are the forgotten and betrayed soldiers of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, also known as the ‘Send Me’ Brigade. Our Task Force motto is ‘Can Do’, and we have been living true to those words – for a very long time.
We are also the unit that is sitting in the city of Al Fallujah, as we enter the month of July. Our men and women have completed every mission we have been given, even when that mission kept us from coming home on time. We have received the occasional newspaper, each one showing us that the rest of the armed forces are returning home…even as we are getting orders for our next mission. We also read the letters that our Commanding General (Major General Buford Blount) writes in our local newspaper. Each time we read his words our desperation grows deeper, because we know that most of our countrymen are hearing his lies about our situation here.
Our morale is not high or even low. Our morale is non-existent. We have been told twice that we were going home, and twice we have received a stop movement to stay in Iraq. Where is the honor and integrity the army preaches to soldiers in Basic Training? The closer you get to the front lines, the worse the soldiers get treated. Every single one of my men has diarrhea, because none of us on the front lines have had a single fresh vegetable in over a month. Meanwhile, Major General Blount and his cronies are enjoying Burger King at Baghdad International Airport (which we captured). The 3rd Infantry Division soldiers feel betrayed, and forgotten. Many of our brothers in arms have paid the ultimate price to help liberate this country.
Every one of us has made sacrifices, and what is our reward? Being treated like farm animals. We have had more support from the press, who were embedded with us throughout the fight, than we have ever received from our chain of command.
Our troops, and our equipment are worn out. Many of our troops have been through some truly terrible experiences. They have been told by mental health professionals that hey need to get out of this environment. They however, either don’t care about those of us out here on the front lines or they have been lied to by their subordinates and have passed those lies on to the rest of the world.
In closing, all I am really trying to ask for is your help. Please send this letter on to your representatives in congress and to your local media, and ask them to get the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division home. Our men and women deserve to be treated like the heroes they are, not like neighborhood mongrels. Our men and women deserve to see their loved ones again and deserve to come home. Thank you for your attention.
The Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID”
The following letter from family of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade soldiers says it all:
“These letters are NOT the only ones of their kind, many other family members have received such letters, but didn’t feel appropriate to go public with them for fear that they might get their husbands in trouble.
It may be easy for you to encourage our troops in the Third to stay strong, to increase their morale, and to keep smiling as their friends and colleagues are attacked every day. But it’s also easy to see that you are not there with the troops. In this day and age, with the American forces being the largest and most sophisticated on earth, why must one division bear the brunt of a large part of the war in Iraq? Are we so short-handed that one division’s morale must sink to rock-bottom, there to disappear altogether? Why must the American people pay, not only with billions of dollars per month, but more importantly with the lives of men and women that may be too tired to fight effectively? This is illogical. This is wasteful. This impacts negatively on our efforts in Iraq and on our efforts at home.
The re-enlistment rate of returning soldiers has decreased DRAMATICALLY since this effort began. Does this send a message to the government that the soldiers feel abandoned by their country?? That they have lost their faith in the government they’ve worked so hard to defend?? The soldiers and their families will have their say in the 2004 elections and THEN will make their voices heard.
In closing, we would like to say that these men and women of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade have done their job and done it well. They are mentally, physically AND emotionally exhausted. These men have had their promise of re-deployment ripped out from under them numerous times, and it’s because of that, their morale is non-existent. We NEED to send these heroes home for a much needed and deserved break.
As the saying goes: ‘If not for the Home of the Brave, There would be no Land of the Free.’ What makes our nation so great is our ability and constitutional right to have a government for the people, by the people. These brave men and women and the people who love them have a choice, and our voices will be heard. If not now, in the 2004 elections.
The wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, sons, daughters and family members of the 3rd Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Soldiers.”
There you have it, readers. The other side of the story. You have a choice. You may listen to the actual letters of soldiers and their families, or you may listen to the voices of a form letter, signed and sent without the knowledge or consent of soldiers in Iraq. Many will choose to believe the form letter, as they only wish to hear words of approval for this war. Others will hear the voice of real soldiers and families, finding more reality there than in a power-hungry President doing a photo op on a carrier deck. Ask any former member of the military about speaking out against “policy.” Not unlike speaking out against this Administration, speaking out in the military is also “unpatriotic.” True patriotism demands that we speak out against lies.
If you have questions or comments, please email Stan at: email@example.com
A LATE NOTE:
One of our readers has just informed me of an email, resolving the origin of the form letter which was delivered to several newspapers. Lt. Col. Dominic Caraccilo of the U.S. Army emailed ABC World News, stating that his staff drafted the letter, which was passed along to soldiers under his command.
Stan G. Kain