We have just heard from a reader who programs the computers that our soldiers take with them to Iraq. These soldiers have to program in the web sites they want to use while stationed in Baghdad ahead of time, since they can't surf the web from there, and unknowncountry.com is one of the web sites that is requested most often.
I'm old enough to remember Vietnam, and the Iraq war reminds me a great deal of that conflict. In the 1960's, we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a strange war, fought by what seemed to be civilians, and most of us couldn't figure out exactly why our soldiers were there. Those of us who lived through those times fervently hoped we would never have to live through another such war but now it seems as if we are.
This reminds me of the diary I wrote four years ago, after the crash of Flight 93 (which has recently been made into a movie). In those days, there was a question about whether or not the passengers really overcame the terrorists who had hijacked the plane and wanted to crash it into the Capitol Building. An alternate theory was that Flight 93 was actually shot down by a US fighter jet, which was seen in the vicinity shortly before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
What do these three things have in common, Vietnam, Flight 93 and Iraq? In my 2002 diary, I wrote: "No matter what really happened on September 11, the passengers of Flight 93 are still heroes. They realized what their duty was and they were ready to do it. Whether or not they were actually the ones responsible for preventing the plane from hitting Washington is not what matters. When soldiers go into battle, some kill the opposing forces, some conquer enemy territory, some save civilians or fellow soldiers, and some are killed before they have a chance to do any of these things. But they're all heroes."
That's what we have to remember about the brave men and women who go abroad and fight for us. Whether they go willingly or not, they are there to do a job and in almost every case, they perform it to the best of their abilities. We should honor them for that, no matter what we think about the war they're fighting.
UPDATE: I was in an airport recently and I had promised myself that whenever a saw a soldier in uniform, I would go up and thank them for their service. In this case it was a woman, dressed in the flowery blue and green camouflage we see so often on the TV news (which doesn't seem very appropriate for the desert!) To open the conversation, I asked her, "Are you in Iraq?" She looked at me in what I thought was a rather nervous way, then replied, "No, Afghanistan." I said, "I just wanted to thank you for being there for us" and I could tell she was glad to hear it.
Later I thought to myself, 'I'll bet she IS stationed in Iraq, but doesn't want to say so, because that brings up too many unpleasant conversations with strangers who are against the war.' If this was indeed the case, the unpopularity of the Iraq invasion is incredible. I cannot think of a conflict since Vietnam where even the soldiers SERVING there don't want to admit it.
At unknowncountry.com, we're HONORED that so many of them have chosen to take us with them.
NOTE: This Diary entry, previously published on our old site, will have any links removed.