***image1***Five scraggly-looking Army Soldiers walked up to “my palace” in Camp Victory, Baghdad. They hadn’t changed their uniforms in a couple of days and they were obviously tired. They had “the look” of Soldiers who had been in downtown Baghdad when the going was at its toughest.
They were resting before heading back to the field and they wanted to tour Saddam’s former palace, which now houses a U.S. Army headquarters where I work. I was busy pushing papers and initially I wanted to brush them off. But I realized my priorities were backward. Since my next meeting wasn’t until the afternoon, I got them visitor passes and showed them around. Their eyes lit up with every new room we entered. They were absolutely in awe of the marble-clad structure. I was having the time of my life watching their reactions to the palace that I work in everyday.
Atop the palace’s roof, I “expertly” pointed out landmarks in Baghdad. I directed their eyes to the fires that were burning in Fallujah from days of house-to-house fighting and unimaginable horror. Without even meaning to, they put me in my place when one of them responded, “Yes, Sir, that sure is Fallujah. We have been there for the last three days in the middle of the fight.”
It turns out they are a “gun truck” crew that escorts fuel trucks for a living. They spend their days watching for insurgents who want to kill them with hand grenades, rockets, car bombs, machine guns and other deadly weapons. Their hummer was completely destroyed in an attack. Their current vehicle has “tank guts” on it from an attack a few days ago. And the fuel trucks they escort are giant rolling bombs.
I’ve given this tour to other people and they are always appreciative. But this time it was my pleasure to spend time with these five young Soldiers – Soldiers who put their lives on a very thin line everyday for a cause bigger than themselves. It is obvious they love their country and what she stands for, and I’m proud to have shaken their hands before they went back to work.
After the tour they headed back to Fallujah for another day at the office.
(Lieutenant Pope is deployed from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe, Computer Systems Squadron, Ramstein)