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We owe our Soldiers more than a “New Dawn”

September 1, 2010

Tuesday marked the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom as we know it. According to President Obama “we have met our responsibility.” Control over operations is turned over to Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. troops will deepen their role as “advise and assist” brigades, facilitating civilian partners, reconstruction teams, and joint security operations with Iraqi troops seemingly at the helm.

A Soldier with A Battery, Regimental Fires Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), walks the tarmac of the Mosul Airfield June 9 at Contingency Operating Base Diamondback, Iraq.

Like all wars in recent time it seems we’re destined to begin with thoughts of triumph and hope and to end with a bit of a putter.

Over the past week, in between traveling and other things, I’ve caught a bit of several World War II documentaries on the history channel. To make comparisons between wars of the past and wars of today is certainly always setting one up for folly, but I still can’t help but lament that today’s Soldiers will be denied the rallies and cheers, the kisses from strangers as they return from war.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Evan Wolf, the platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company (Engineers), 325th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, greets local children in Baghdad, Iraq, during a joint dismounted patrol, June 15, 2007. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jeffrey Alexander)

We owe our Soldiers more tribute than they could ever receive, but I’m concerned in seeing more coverage of the drawdown in light of our expense overseas in dollars – not lives. The war is boiled down to an economic sacrifice rather than one made on the blood and sweat of our men and women in uniform. President Obama says it is time to focus on this nation, which is certainly true, but let’s also not forget those who have paid freedom’s ultimate price in Iraq over the past seven years.

With “mission accomplished” banners forever a sign of a major public relations mistake, I suppose it’s presumptuous for ask for a bit of celebration for the accomplishment that’s been made so far, even knowing that there are more sacrifices and more work to be done. But I hoped for a bit something more for our troops. I looked to the U.S. Army’s social media sites hoping to find some milestone of seven years in Iraq but got little more than press release statements and canned bullet points.

An Iraqi father kisses his son as they leave a humanitarian aid drop conducted, June 26, by Soldiers of Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Fifty bags of food, along with bottled water and toys, were distributed to the population living on the outskirts of Baghdad just outside of Contingency Operating Station Falcon. Photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger

Fortunately, in my years working with Soldiers I understand they’re not dependent on public celebrations or declarations, and have come to expect little from semantics or political promises (besides, haven’t the “wars” been “overseas contingency operations” for some time now?)

We always owe our Soldiers more than we give them. They and their families make sacrifices and pay dividends so that folks like myself can sleep well at night, and comfortably walk the streets of Washington, D.C. Victory parties are overrated these days, but celebrations of service should always be in vogue. Know an Iraq war combat veteran? Take a moment to thank him or her for their service, and pay tribute to what has been accomplished.

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