Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Road to Hell

Newsweek's special issue dated April 2 is one worth buying.

The majority of it is devoted to sharing letters and emails written by American soldiers fighting in Iraq to their loved ones back home. All the correspondence featured is from soldiers who, unfortunately, never came home and never will. It makes what they wrote all the more chilling, inspiring, and agonizing, especially when you think about how many of their comrades are still there with no end in sight. (Their loved ones gave permission for the publication of their letters.)

This isn't about whether you believe in the war or not, it's about respecting and honoring those who have willing chosen to perform a service that not many would.

I'm just going to share one of the many stories that left me with my mouth hanging open, but certainly buy this Newsweek edition and read them all; they are so worth it.

Nov. 2, 2002, Fort Leonard Wood, MO. (Basic Training)

I don't even recognize myself anymore. I have a completely shaved head, Army uniforms, and zero fat. The very few seconds I get to look in the mirror while I shave each morning, I try to remember who I used to be. Every soldier is going through the same change. It doesn't matter who you are: prom queen, high school football star, scholar, idiot, or whatever. As soon as you get here, you become a copy of the person next to you. It sounds like hell, and to tell you the truth, it is. But I'm loving every minute. I'm learning so many cool things.

July 2, Baghdad
How can I possibly put the last 7 days into words? We got into Baghdad on the 2nd of July. It was about an 8-hour drive from the Kuwait border to Baghdad. When we crossed the border it was like entering a new world. The sides of the roads were covered wtih starving Iraqis begging for food. Kids as young as what looked to be 4 or 5 would run up tot the vehicles. We were given a direct order by the company commander not to throw food or water to the starving people because there are too many Iraqis getting run over by our convoys when they run after the food. It is so hard to tell a starving 5-year-old who is begging for food to go away. Every time our convoy would stop, we would be ambushed by kids trying to get food; it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to watch.

Finally, I gave in. Sitting up in the gunner's hatch, I can see everything. A sickly barefooted 6-year-old approached the vehicle; he looked so sick. He was touching his lips saying "please, please." I told him to go away and he just looked up at me. It looked like he wasn't going to make it much longer in the 133-degree weather we had that day. Again, I shouted "kief!" which is "go" in Arabic, and I pointed. As we drove away, I threw an ice-cold bottle of water out the window to him. Luckily no one saw me.

I love you guys. And please try not to think too much about it, it sounds a lot worse than it is.

Mihalakis died of injuries sustained when his Humvee overturned on Dec. 26. He was 18.


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