April 2, 2004

Some good news, and I wasn't too surprised

... The Pentagon has been closely monitoring the re-up rate for five Army divisions that fought in Iraq for about a year. Some officials feared the time away from home and the gritty duty would prompt a large soldier exodus. After all, the war on terrorism is unchartered territory. The 30-year-old volunteer Army has never been this busy in combat.

    But numbers compiled this week for the first half of fiscal 2004 show that those five combat units met, or nearly met, all retention targets for enlisted soldiers — the privates, corporals and sergeants who total 416,000 of the Army's 490,000 active force. ...(Link to WaPo Article)

My successful predictions are not so many that can pass up bragging about one. Last July I wrote:
In a recent post Donald Sensing wrote that 3d Division was a wasting asset. That because of its over-long deployment, re-enlistments would fall catastrophically and the division would have to be almost re-built with new people. Perhaps it will be so, it will be interesting to see. But perhaps he has overlooked one thing. We are all of us hungry to have meaning in our lives, to feel like we are making a difference. Our guys in Iraq have a difficult duty, but I would guess that every one of them also has the deep satisfaction that comes from doing something that may change the world...
Our soldiers know exactly what they are doing, and they believe in it, and accept the risks. That's something I've encountered often, and it never fails to move me and make me feel unworthy.

In fact that same post linked to one of the most moving articles I've ever read, this one, by a 9/11 widow who went to Iraq on a USO tour. Here's a bit I didn't quote before:

...Looking into that sea of khaki gave me chills even in that blistering heat. To me, those troops were there to avenge the murder of my husband and 3,000 others. When I got to the microphone I told them we had not made this journey for condolences but to thank them and to tell them that the families of 9/11 think of them every day. They lift our hearts. The crowd interrupted me with chants of "USA, USA, USA." Many wept.

What happened next left no doubt that the troops drew inspiration from our tragedies. When I was first asked to speak to thousands of troops in Qatar, after Iraq, I wondered if it would feel like a "grief for sale" spectacle.

But this time I was shaking because I was to present the recovered WTC steel to Gen. Tommy Franks (U.S. Central Command commander). I quivered as I handed him the icy gray block of steel. His great craggy eyes welled up with tears. The sea of khaki fell silent. Then the proud four-star general was unable to hold back the tears which streamed down his face on center stage before 4,000 troops. As this mighty man turned from the spotlight to regain his composure I comforted him with a hug.

These people are alive, their hearts are warm, They know that "freedom isn't free," and they take terrible risks for us. For me.

When I think of the icy sneering contempt that anti-war whatchamacllits would feel if they read this...what a contrast. What a contrast.

Posted by John Weidner at April 2, 2004 9:16 PM
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