~ Updated Wednesday, October 30, 2019 ~

Worth the Effort in Baghdad ~ Back Home Safe

This current report is being sent to us from one of our NEACA Members who is now stationed in Iraq.  He is in command of a Company in the First Cavalry, a Major in the United States Army.  He is now in Baghdad.  The following comments are his reports.


Hello Everyone ~ New Reports & Photos Below



Coming Home ~ New photos

Iraqi Elections Went Well

Christmas Dinner In Iraq

Our Soldiers in Action

 Iraq Election Video

See it in Action Now


Don't Believe Press Reports. Why Are We At War Daddy?


October 2004 ~ Greetings from the land of sun, sand and stuff that goes boom.  I will start off by giving you some definitions for terms I will use frequently in my emails.  This way you will know what I am describing.

VBIED; Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device. AKA car bomb. Usually  one or more 155mm Artillery rounds or 122mm mortar rounds but can go all the way up to a  truckload of explosives.  Driven by young single Iraqi male who wants to kill Americans, coalition forces.

IED: similar to above but usually placed on backside of guard rail along highway, placed inside carcass of dead animal laying alongside a road, buried in a pile of trash or in a hole along side of a road. Usually command detonated by Iraqi.  Either one will ruin your day.  There are a number of these that go off everyday in our AO.

AO: area of operations: the area we work in.

IBA: Interceptor Body Armor. The stuff we wear that saves lives. This armor works. Countless young men have been saved wearing it. We also have to wear ballistic goggles or glasses and ear plugs when we go out. The ear plugs protect ear drums from overpressure from blasts of IED’s and the glasses really protect eyes from sprawling inside of vehicles.

Here is first installment of my Iraq tour.  

Today is 30 September 2004.  We had a young CAV soldier killed today by a VBIED.  Suicide bomber drove a truckload of explosives into one of our camp gates. 

The camp I live in is called Victory.  Myself and my company are attached to the 1st Cavalry Division.  We are located in the “suburbs “ of Baghdad.  Well within mortar/RPG  range of the local miscreants who don’t like us.   You have heard of Abu Graib, well that’s one of the garden spots we cover.

Our camp is actually pretty decent. The weather is much better than Kuwait. It hits about 105-110 degrees here.  Much cooler!!!  Of course when we go out of the wire we have to wear all of the protective gear which makes for a warm day.  You drink lots of water, which is all bottled.  No tap water here.

The chow hall is pretty good.  You would be surprised how well the troopers eat here.  I am embarrassed to give the details but hey, you pay the taxes that pay for this so you should know what you get for your money.  And regardless of what you hear about KBR ( Kellogg Brown and Root) in the press, we wouldn’t be able to live the way we do here without them.  The least we can do is provide these young soldiers with good food considering the dangers they face everyday they leave the wire.

( I can tell you that you won't hear about one tenth of what goes on here in the news.)  They really do a great job with the food here.  Our mess hall is air conditioned, several large screen TV's to watch the news and several serving lines.  You can get all kinds of food, short order or regular meals, deserts, salad bar, etc.   There is no alcohol allowed.  Soldiers have Gyms, internet centers and a huge PX.  There is only so much you can do here given what goes on, so chow is a pretty important occasion for most of the Joes.

My quarters are pretty decent.  I have a room about 10’x 12’, air conditioned and I get to share a latrine with one other guy.  This is the only perk that senior NCO’s and officers get.  My guys are all in one or two man rooms. All are air conditioned.  We even have actual beds instead of those friggin' cots.  The mattress’s are about 3 inches thick but anything beats a cot.

We get mortared about every night but they can't drop them in for squat so its no big deal.  They drop three or four and split.  The rounds usually land  where no one is.   The Iraqis can't shoot for shit.

I will try to send some photos when I can.  We still haven’t received all of our equipment and my card reader for my camera is in my box which hasn’t made it here yet.

I have been to the International Zone in Baghdad.  It used to be referred to as the Green Zone in the news but they have changed the name.  This is where the embassy and all the international  organizations are located that are here to rebuild the country.

My company and I are just getting settled in and trying to learn the AO.  The names are hard to spell and pronounce based on our understanding of the English language.  Pronunciation is different here.  It's weird having heard of a number of the locations on the news prior to coming here and now actually going to them. 

We have OPSEC concerns so anything I write about is in general terms.  All of our communications are monitored by the Army to make sure no one is talking about things they shouldn’t.  That keeps us safer.

I will say its good to be here with my own unit.  I have known many of these guys for quite a while.  Some of them were with me in Bosnia and Afghanistan.  They are all learning the job we will be doing .  One of the big things is learning how to drive here.  The expression used to describe how to drive is “drive like you stole it”.  Speed is our friend.   The Iraqis drive like maniacs.  If they miss a turn, they will whip it around and go the wrong way against traffic to get to their exit.

Keep Stopping By And Learn What It Is Really Like Here In Baghdad. 


SITREP 16 October 2004 

Hello, from “Sunni” Iraq. 

I am sure you have seen lots of things happening here on the news lately.  There has been a rash of VBIED attacks on US Forces.  Unfortunately they are successful sometimes, no matter what we do.  But everyone keeps going out of the wire and doing their missions, whether it’s a combat patrol of motorized Infantry or a combined patrol with tanks, CA bubbas (my guys) and Bradley’s going to inspect a project or to deliver school supplies.Iraqi 1.jpg (47754 bytes)

 (Click on photo to enlarge)

This past week one of my teams went out to deliver school supplies and backpacks to some elementary schools in a run down area called Abu Ghraib.  Yes, same name and general vicinity of the prison.  There are a lot Iraqi 2.jpg (82523 bytes) of farms in the area and given the temperatures it was pretty ripe.  But you have to picture a city area combined with stockyards and cattle pens.  Piles of manure all over the place and two schools right in the middle of it.Iraqi 3.jpg (85437 bytes)

 One of the schools was in pretty sad shape but had desks and chairs and teachers.  The students go to school half days and there are two sessions per day.  Both schools’ students were very receptive to getting something from the Americans.  The principle idea behind this program is to win the hearts and minds of the kids, hopefully they will influence their parents who might be anti-coalition and this influence might keep one of them from shooting an RPG at us or other US forces or emplacing an IED. Iraqi 4.jpg (74818 bytes)

 As you can see from the photos, the kids were happy to see us and receive the supplies.  A few were afraid of us but that’s normal.  Pretend you are an eight year old and some big monster-looking thing with a gun and helmet and all kinds of equipment on him comes into your classroom.  Couple that with the propaganda many have been fed about Americans being evil and you can see why they might be scared.Iraqi 5.jpg (96774 bytes) 

Our job is to bring basic services back to the population.  As of right now there is more electricity than ever before.  Before we came they had blackouts as a matter of course.  It was normal to have power one or two hours out of every 6 or 8.  There is a long way to go and there are many projects in the process of being completed.  The big problem is that Saddam took care of a small percentage of the people and the others were treated as second-class citizens.  So after we got rid of him, we had to clean up the mess; not so much what we did but what was left by him of the country.  Name another country that ever invaded any place that goes to the lengths we do to rebuild what was destroyed?  There is none! Iraqi 6.jpg (69210 bytes)

It is pretty plain to see that they have nothing in their classrooms.  Quite the contrast to what American schools have for resources.  The teachers do what they can with what little they have.  As you can see some of the girls wear a covering on their heads.  Not all of them do.  It depends on how religiously conservative the family is.  All of the girls wear dresses and have fairly long hair.  The boys usually have a pretty short haircut, may wear short pants or regular pants and sneakers.  Not much different from American kids. Iraqi 7.jpg (56069 bytes)

Saddam kept them in these conditions all the time.  Only the ruling party had good schools and such.  And if you were real affluent you could live in someplace like this...  

Iraqi 8.jpg (82103 bytes)...or this.  They all don’t live like paupers.  This is quite a contrast to the fetid squalor that most of the common people suffered in.  But 25 yards away on the other side of the street, there are slums and blown up buildings, all this in sight of the Grand Mosque that was never finished. (A huge Mosque being built by Saddam.)  

Anyway it has been an experience already.  The middle-eastern mindset boggles the western mind.  What we consider normal maintenance and servicing of machinery and equipment or vehicles is not even within the conceptual grasp of most Iraqis.  They drive their cars till they run out of gas, then fill them up.  They don’t service machines.  Instead, it’s “Inshallah,” (it is Gods will) that the pump will work, if it quits (due to running out of oil or whatever), “Inshallah”. 

Without going too deep into this, there are some people who expect us to change the cultural and intellectual mindset of a people that have lived this way for thousands of years.  It isn’t going to happen.  Not in 5 years, not 10, not in one hundred.  But more on that, next time.

Take care and stay safe.



Subject: Stern Warning

This morning . . .  from a cave somewhere in Pakistan . .   Taliban Minister of Migration, Mohammed Omar, warned the United States that if military action against Iraq continues, Taliban authorities will cut off America's supply of convenience store managers.   If this action does not yield sufficient results, cab drivers will be next.   It's getting ugly.
Subject: How Long Must This Go On?
Two Arabs boarded a flight out of London. One took a window seat and the other sat next to him in the middle seat.  Just before takeoff, an American sat down in the aisle seat. After takeoff, the American kicked his shoes off, wiggled his toes and was settling in when the Arab in the window seat said, "I need to get up and get a coke." "Don't get up" said the American, "I'm in the aisle seat. I'll get it for you."
As soon as he left, one of the Arabs picked up the American's shoe and spit in it.  When he returned with the coke, the other Arab said,
"That looks good, I'd really like one, too."
Again, the American obligingly went to fetch it.  While he was gone the other Arab picked up his other shoe and spit in it.

When the American returned, they all sat back and enjoyed the flight.

As the plane was landing, the American slipped his feet into his shoes and knew immediately what had happened.

"Why does it have to be this way?" he asked. "How long must this go on? This fighting between our nations? This hatred?  This animosity? 

This spitting in shoes and pissing in cokes."

Well ... that's just the way it is!!

31 Oct 04 ~ Iraq Report from Baghdad

Here is another installment of the usually boring activities of my Iraq “experience.”  That’s the "politically correct" way of saying you are in a war while minimizing the whole thing.  Anyway, things are progressing as well as can be expected.  The upcoming US Presidential elections will have some impact (no pun intended) on our environment here.  Lots of rumors, but it is all speculation.  (Editor's Note: Less than a week after the election Fallujah is in a major subjugation mode.)

One thing you notice in Baghdad is the abundance of  “private security contractors.”  These guys are making some insane money.  A whole lot more than us, that’s for sure; anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 a month!! Depending on the contract this can be tax free.  You don’t have to be the head cashier at Wal-Mart to see this is a lucrative deal.  Anyway, we see these guys all over the place.  Its like the wild west.  They all look like modern day gunslingers.  All that’s missing are the horses.  And of course they don’t use Colt Peacemakers, now its Glocks and AR15 carbines, Wiley X glasses and body armor.  Up Armored SUV’s complete the picture.  There are so  many companies with contracts you cannot keep track of them.  Iraq, the land of opportunity!!!  The Iraq conflict is probably going to boost the ownership of paid off homes in the US substantially.

Anyway, earlier last week I was talking to one of the contractors at one of the embassies and another guy walks up, sees my 82nd ABN Patch and yells “ All Americans”!!  Next thing I know we are swapping stories and stuff.  He is from Boston and just retired from the Army; 17 years as SF.  We needed 9mm ammo for practice and he needed a few things for his team so we did a little swapping.  They work in our AO so its good to have some extra support if need be at times.  Once they found out I was a gunsmith back in NY they wanted me to do some work for them but I don’t have the machinery or the time.  But there are some very interesting individuals here, keeps things interesting.

In case you have been wondering about what the people are like, there are some stark contrasts here that will amaze you.  We had to survey some businesses in this one part of town and so one of my teams and myself (4 people) went out Bahgdad Appliance Storeand walked around to see what we could see.  We stopped at an appliance store and I was amazed at the level of inventory and quality of the merchandise.  A very professionally run store with all of the latest in refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, etc. 

We went to a bakery next.  Other than some local types of pastries, it was not much different than any bakery in the States.  There were birthday cakes decorated with American TV cartoon characters; Sylvester the Cat, Tweety Bird, Sponge Bob Square Pants, Patrick, Squidward and others.  Not what you would expect Iraqi Bakery Cakes.jpgfrom a country in the throes of civil war and violence on a daily basis.  They sure love American Culture and you see it everywhere.

The most interesting area we went to was a small corner section that had two open air entrances to a courtyard with shops all around it.  There was a fountain in the center and all other appearances of a store front section in any European city.  The shops were filled with women’s clothing in the latest  Western /European styles.  Not what you would figure for the culture and economy at this present time in Iraq.  The shoe store was comparable to anything in your local mall.  All neat, clean and modern; prime Bahgdad Gift Shopexamples of free Iraqi Dress Storemarket capitalism.  I never would have guessed that these stores would be functioning, have the inventory they have and be with the times of the day.

What is so striking is the reality picture these things paint compared to what you folks back home hear and see on TV news.  The economy is going and growing, people have money to spend and the overwhelming majority of Iraqis' here just want to get on with their lives.  There is a segment of the population that will overcome the conditions of the war and prosper. This will be the foundation for this country to develop.  During Saddams' reign the businesses were tightly controlled and only a very select group of people could ever hope to shop in stores like this and buy these goods.  Now anyone who has the money can do it.  Supply and demand, what a concept.

One of the photos is a multi domed complex.  This is called the Grand Mosque.  Saddam started to have it built but it was not completed before the war started.  It is a huge complex and must be 500 feet high.  Saddam had a habit of wanting to build these grandiose buildings at the expense of his people.

We also found the Iraqi Hunting Club.  Don’t know anything about it Iraqi Hunting Clubbut we will be doing an assessment of it in the future.  It is a legitimate hunting club as far as we know and most likely was the domain of the controlling Ba’athist Party officials only.

Computers and the Internet are two more things that did not exist except for a select few in the upper levels of Saddams' regime.  Computers were against the law.  If you were caught with one, it usually resulted in your execution. And in a matter of a year and a half, computers are here and internet access is here.  Cell phones are the primary means of phone communication in Iraq. Regular telephone service is almost non existent.  The previous system was so neglected that it is impossible to try to modernize it.  It is very expensive. The typical Iraqi waits anywhere from 2 weeks to 8 years to get a phone, and he has to pay his monthly fees regardless if it is working or installed.  If he misses a payment, his name goes on a list and he has to re-apply.  So, cell phones are the norm here.  It's cheap and everyone uses them.  We use them for non-secure communication.  It's pennies a minute.  Almost all phones are prepaid.  You buy phone cards for 30 bucks a pop.  A free society creates its' own demand for goods and services.  There are a lot of entrepreneurs here to go along with the ones looking for handouts.

Fine Bahgdad HomesAnd then you walk across the street and witness the abstract poverty fostered by Saddams' regime.  People who are dirt poor living in the shadow of very nicely kept homes, replete with a gardener, shrubs and gardens.  It was who you knew that made you what you were.  Our coming here has propelled a whole class of people forward economically, has raised the standard of living for a tremendous portion of the population and has created a set of expectations that no dictator will ever be able to stem. 

Of course there is still that segment of the population that embodies the idea of entitlement to the extreme.  These will be the ones we will never be able to help because they will never help themselves.  Our American aid is like a drug for an addict.  Our giving them things will only continue to foster their dependency.  We are too good to them.  This is one area in which we never seem to learn, because as a country we think with our hearts instead of our heads.  More on that next time.

I have also included a few pictures of what our vehicles look like during these patrols and how we go about our business.  As you can see, we ride right in the traffic and deal with all of the crazy drivers here.


US Iraqi Fashions on Parade.jpg (68105 bytes)Anyway, many of my pre-conceived notions about this country have been  debunked but then again, some have been reinforced.  Iraq still has a long way to go but has already come a very long way.

Take care and stay safe.

Friends and Family,  This was just sent to me by one of our Defenders of Freedom, now in Baghdad.  His family is having their Thanksgiving without him.  As are many others this holiday season.  When you thank God for your bounty remember our fine soldiers across the world who are deployed in near and far-off lands, there because they love their Country and cherish our Freedom.  They all heard the call and answered.  Some will stay forever. Always remember their sacrifice and salute their honor.  Dad   

From Iraq;  Sent to me by a friend. Don't know who wrote it but it tells it like it is and not what the LIB's and anti's want to hear.

DON'T CLOSE THE BLINDS ~ Why Are We At War Daddy?
     The other day, my nine year old son wanted to know why we were at war.  My husband looked at our son and then looked at me. 

      My husband and I were in the Army during the Gulf War and we would be honored to serve and defend our Country again today.  I knew that my husband would give him a good explanation.

     My husband thought for a few minutes and then told my son to go stand in our front living room window.  He said, "Son, stand there and tell me what you see?"  "I see trees and cars and our neighbor's houses," he replied.  "OK, now I want you to pretend that our house and our yard is the United States of America and you are President Bush."  Our son giggled and said, "OK."   "Now son, I want you to look out the window and pretend that every house and yard on this block is a different country," my husband said.  "OK, Dad.  I'm pretending."  "Now I want you to stand there and look out the window and pretend you see Saddam come out of his house with his wife, he has her by the hair and is hitting her.  You see her bleeding and crying.  He hits her in the face, he throws her on the ground, then he starts to kick her to death.  Their children run out and are afraid to stop him, screaming and crying, they are watching this but do nothing because they are kids and they are afraid of their father.  You see all of this, son.... what do you do?"  "What do you do son?"  

"I'd call the police, Dad."   "OK. Pretend that the police are the United Nations.  They take your call.  They listen to what you know and saw but they refuse to help.  What do you do then son?"  

"Dad...... but the police are supposed to help!"  My son starts to whine. "They don't want to son, because they say that it is not their place or your place to get involved and that you should stay out of it," my husband says.  "But Dad..... he killed her," my son exclaims!  "I know he did... but the police tell you to stay out of it.   Now I want you to look out that window and pretend you see our neighbor, who you're pretending is Saddam, turn around and do the same thing to his children."  "Daddy... he kills them?"  

"Yes son, he does.  What do you do?"  "Well, if the police don't want to help, I will go and ask my next door neighbor to help me stop him," our son says.  "Son, our next door neighbor sees what is happening and refuses to get involved as well.  He refuses to open the door and help you stop him," my husband says.  "But Dad, I NEED help!  I can't stop him by myself!"  

"WHAT DO YOU DO SON?"  Our son starts to cry. "OK, no one wants to help
you, the man across the street saw you ask for help and saw that no one would help you stop him.  He stands taller and puffs out his chest.  Guess what he does next son?"  "What Daddy?"  "He walks across the street to the old ladies house and breaks down her door and drags her out, steals all her stuff and sets her house on fire and then... he kills her.  He turns around and sees you standing in the window and laughs at you.  WHAT DO YOU DO?"  "Daddy..."  "WHAT DO YOU DO?"  

Our son is crying and he looks down and he whispers, "I'd close the blinds, Daddy."  My husband looks at our son with tears in his eyes and asks him, "Why?"   "Because, Daddy..... the police are supposed to help people who need them... and they won't help.  You always say that neighbors are supposed to HELP neighbors, but they won't help either... they won't help me stop him... I'm afraid.... I can't do it by myself Daddy.  I can't look out my window and just watch him do all these terrible things and... and.... do nothing.  So.... I'm just going to close the blinds.... so I can't see what he's doing...... and I'm going to pretend that it is not happening."  

I start to cry. My husband looks at our nine year old son standing in the window, looking pitiful and ashamed at his answers to my husband's questions and he says... "Son".  "Yes, Daddy."  "Open the blinds because that man.... he's at your front door.  "WHAT DO YOU DO, NOW?"  My son looks at his father, anger and defiance in his eyes.  He balls up his tiny fists and looks his father square in the eyes, without hesitation he says, "I DEFEND MY FAMILY DAD!!  I'M NOT GONNA LET HIM HURT MOMMY OR MY SISTER, DAD!!!  I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM, DAD, I'M GONNA FIGHT HIM!!!!!" I see a tear roll down my husband's cheek and he grabs our son to his chest and hugs him tight, and says... "It's too late to fight him, he's too strong and he's already at YOUR front door son.  You should have stopped him BEFORE he killed his wife, and his children and the old woman across the way.  You have to do what's right, even if you have to do it alone, before it's too late," my husband whispers.

"THAT scenario I gave you is WHY we are at war with Iraq.  When good men stand by and let evil happen, son.  THAT is the greatest EVIL of all.  Our President is doing what is right.  We, as a free nation, must understand that this war is a war of humanity.  WE must remove evil men from power so that we can continue to live in a free world where we are not afraid to look out our window.  So that my nine year old son won't grow up in a world where he feels that if he just "closes" that blind the atrocities in the world won't affect him.  "YOU MUST NEVER BE AFRAID TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT!  EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO DO IT ALONE!"  BE PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!  BE PROUD OF OUR TROOPS!!  SUPPORT THEM!!!  SUPPORT AMERICA SO THAT IN THE FUTURE OUR CHILDREN WILL NEVER HAVE TO CLOSE THEIR BLINDS." 

GOD BLESS YOU AND THE USA.                                                 

SITREP 22 NOV 04 ~ Baghdad, Iraq


My apologies for being late with this but we have been busy.

Another week has passed in the paradise known as Iraq.  Things have been busy here for my guys and me.  Every team continues to go out almost everyday.  The weather has gotten cooler, evenings are in the 30’s and daytime temps run in the 60’s to low 70’s.  A nice switch from the previous high temps.

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and I am sure that the Chow Hall will have the usual holiday spread. Other than the holiday meal it should be pretty much like any other day here.

We had a unit event today.  The whole battalion was together at Camp Mancini.  It was a clear, sunny and calm afternoon.  There was the usual backslapping, re-acquainting and ball breaking that goes on whenever a bunch of soldiers gets together.  It is not often when the entire battalion gets together. We all got to see people we haven’t seen in three months.

There was a little ceremony for one of our soldiers who was going home.  SGT Frexxxx was leaving the unit, returning to his family and his hometown.  He wasn’t going to have to come back to Iraq, he won't have to deploy again, he won't have to leave his family and friends again.  No one in his company wanted to see him go, though.  They all said they would miss him.  But they knew his family wanted him home.  Not many soldiers get to go home this early  in their tour.  It takes a special circumstance to go home before the full tour is up.  SGT Frexxxx didn’t want to go home this early either but he had to.

You stand there and wonder; what would you do under the same circumstances? What would your family feel?  How would they react?  You can almost visualize the whole family being there waiting for you to come off the plane, the tears, the hugs.  All of your family and friends know you are coming home.  Will they be there to greet you?  What will they say?  What will they do?  It will all seem surreal; coming home from combat.  And not being able to explain what happened!  Why you are back so soon.  Will your buddies wonder?  Will people talk?  You want to tell them, you want them to understand.  You wish you could explain it but you can't.  There is no way to communicate what you want to say.

You see, SGT Frexxxx was killed in action last week by an Iraqi insurgent.Iraq, Flag for Sgt Freeman SGT Frexxxx was pulling security while out on a mission and he was gunned down by some terrorist whom they never caught.  SGT Frexxxx was a member of our CA battalion.  He was killed doing his duty.  He was the third CA soldier KIA from our rotation.  He was doing the same thing many soldiers do here everyday.  Did he think about getting killed?  I don’t know, but at some point we all do.  But we don’t let it stop us from doing our jobs.

Will you read about this in the papers?  Probably not, because some Iraqi wasn’t abused or treated unfairly.  You won't hear about SGT Frexxxx being treated unfairly by having his life and family taken from him at the age of 31. Where are the press, the war protesters, the opposition?  Why don’t they say anything.  Oh, they'll talk about the war  “losses” and make political statements with 1000 pairs of empty boots on some mall or 1000 cardboard caskets in some park.  Some “peace protester wonk” will be interviewed by some talking head and they will speak on somber tones of the ‘tragic loss due to the misguided policies of the president,” emphasis on “president.”  But they do that for a political agenda, not because of some deeply profound respect for a soldier or soldiers who have done their duty and paid the ultimate price.  Ask them if they know anything about the soldier.  They will say no, just that they died for some “bankrupt US foreign policy for oil.”  Why don’t they know who the soldier was?  Because they don’t care.  The soldiers death just furthers their agenda.

Where are the protestors complaining about the government not having enough body armor for soldiers in combat?  What about the inadequate number of up-armored HMMWV’s?  What about the shortages in parts and munitions? Where is the zealous pursuit of the truth in these matters by Tim Robbins, Dan Rather and Alec Baldwin?

Always remember, when you hear of bad things being done to people throughout the world, it is the 19 year old  PFC, the 35 year old father of 3. It is the soldiers who go out and stop the torture, the rape of a nation, the mutilation of living people, the destruction of a race or culture.  It is not the press, the protestors, the critics. It is not Michael Moore or the Hollywood elite. 

Things have been interesting lately. We have to take additional precautions due to increased activity.

The battalion was given their 1st Cavalry Division combat patches by the Division Commander.  Nothing will replace my 82nd ABN Combat Patch!!!!


Thanksgiving: Slow day for everyone.

I want to wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving and hope you all had an enjoyable day and  meal with family and friends.

Thanksgiving, I had to work.  I went out on a mission in the area and got back about 1600 (4PM).  All the field grade officers (Majors, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels) had to serve the holiday meal from 1700-1800 hrs. to the soldiers. The meal was pretty good.  There was turkey, ham, prime rib, shrimp, Alaskan King Crab legs, Cornish hens, ham hocks, veggies, stuffing, cakes, pies, etc. The chow hall was fixed up with the usual Thanksgiving decorations and food displays.  All in all, a nice meal.

Iraq Street Market 1 .jpg (68303 bytes)As you can see in the photos, there seems to be a pretty good supply of fresh produce.  All along the streets there are vendors selling all kinds of fruits, veggies, etc.  We are going to start asking the vendors more about it.  This is another Iraq Street Market 2 .jpg (62978 bytes)indication of prosperity.  The local businesses seem to be thriving and all  kinds of merchandise and durable goods are available.  And of  course in the one photo you see the evil American Imperialist Oppressor making life miserable for an Iraqi child.  This kid is from a family that lives next to where we parked our vehicles for a meeting.  We stay and pull security but some of the kids always come out.  This little Iraq Child w ball .jpg (104096 bytes)beaner is always wanting to play soccer. Apparently he doesn’t read the papers, otherwise he would know how awful the Americans are and wouldn’t want to have anything to do with us.  It's amazing how many kids we see that wave and give the thumbs up to us.

Their butcher shops need a little getting used to.  The meat just hangs out there for everyone to see, no refrigeration, nothing.  Of course you can also drive Iraq Meat Market .jpg (60323 bytes)along the highways and see the roadside butchers with their meat pole up and a skinned sheep waiting to have a choice cut sliced off to take home for dinner. But its available all over.  There is no shortage of food, that’s for sure.

Today, I was out on a street and a local came up to me and in very good English asked if I was bored in Iraq.  He asked some more questions about the US.  I asked him if he had been to the US and he answered no.  But his friends live there and he said that he was a doctor, studied in England and went to the American High School in London.  He also told me he was a Catholic!!  He was happy Saddam was gone but said that he was persecuted by his own countrymen because he was a Christian, not a Muslim.  The Muslims don’t treat their Christian countrymen very well.  Of course he also said he wanted to move to America and become a citizen.

Hope all is well, take care and be safe. 

24 Dec. 04  Don't Believe All the Stories in the Press

Greetings everyone.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you and your families.

"War is an ugly thing.  But not the ugliest of things.  The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse.  The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made so and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

One thing I want to touch on is the latest story in the news regarding armor and vehicles.  I cannot speak for the entire Iraq theater of operations but I can say that for my Brigade; 2nd BDE, 10th Mountain Division, that we are not allowed to go outside the wire without being in up-armored HMMWV’s.  Unarmored vehicles are not allowed to go off camp.  Whatever is in the news  may or may not have some truth but I can tell you that I find it extremely hard to believe that those guys are going to dumps and getting compromised glass for windshields. That sounds like pure BS.  I have seen them make their own armor for vehicles when none was available but as the up-armored HMMWV’s are being moved in theater, the other style are being phased out.  There are unarmored HMMWV’s and other vehicles but these don’t leave camp.

When you hear on the news about an “innocent Iraqi shot by US Forces” don’t take it at face value.  We have rules of engagement that are very specific.  When these locals get shot at checkpoints it's because they are doing dumb stuff. When we gesture for them to pull over and stop or gesture to get back, they will gun their engines and keep on coming.  When a local is shot, it is because they did something wrong.  This is a combat zone, there are people who want to kill us and there have been many attempts to do it.  The reporters don’t include all of the other details that lead up to the shooting.  When “Ali Iraqi " ignores everything and keeps on  coming, he leaves a soldier no choice.  Regardless of what you read, there is no indiscriminate shooting.  US soldiers are real professionals.  They follow the rules.  These locals ignore our directives.

RT Irish is the name of the road we travel everyday when we go out.  It is the main road between the International Zone (IZ) and Baghdad International Airport (BIAP).  It is IED /VBIED Alley.  It is considered the most dangerous section of highway in Iraq.  The US State Department just announced that no US Dept Of State personnel are allowed to use RT Irish.  Of course we still have the privilege of using it everyday.  I guess we aren’t as valuable as a DOS employee.

Another thing to think about.  You will see and read in the press about the long fuel lines and gas shortages here (ironic isn’t it).  What they fail to tell you is that there has been an influx of over a half million cars since the war started. Saddam didn’t exactly let people own anything they wanted.  People risked death to own what we all take as a god given right; TV’s, satellite dishes, cell phones, computers, automobiles, video games, etc.  The gas stations that were here before the war were set up around Baghdad to service a much smaller number of automobiles.  Now you have far too many automobiles for what the distribution system was designed to support and obviously it’s a problem.  The problem didn’t start because we came here or because of the war.  It materialized because so many people now have the ability to own cars and they have exercised that ability and are buying and bringing cars to Baghdad by the tens of thousands every month.

For every one bad thing that has happened here that can even remotely be associated with the US there are a hundred if not a thousand things positive that have resulted from our coming here.  We attend meetings with the local councils, similar to a town hall meeting.  They argue, they fight, they disagree. But it's no different than a town hall meeting back home.  How many times have you been to a town board meeting or a school board meeting and people argue over some of the dumbest, most inane and trivial things for hours?  They don’t have a monopoly on that.  This is democracy at its lowest level.  Its infancy. But like an infant, it will grow and mature.  Maybe not at the speed we would like to see (considering the expectation of instant gratification our society as a group demands) but it can and most likely will progress.  It may have a mess in its drawers once in a while but that can be cleaned up.

Soldiers talk.  When we are pulling security and there is nothing going on, we have time to think and speculate about all kinds of things.  One of the NCO’s that goes out on my patrols regularly said it best.  I will quote him as best as I can recollect; SSG S. says, “ You know what?  They want to get this country going, you go and build a McDonald’s here.  Put one in downtown Baghdad. Ain't no country in the world with a McDonalds in it while having a war going on in it." (Don’t know if that’s 100% true but I wouldn’t doubt it.)  I added that the only other thing to do is build a Wal-Mart and Home Depot and these people would never accept anything else from their leaders and they would run the terrorists out in a heartbeat. 

Now for some humor, I am not making this up.  All of these events were committed by Citizen Soldier units here in Iraq. (None of them were CA).  I am not making this up.

Several soldiers were upset that helicopters kept flying over their quarters on their final approach to the helicopter landing zone.  One of the soldiers decides he will channel his anger at the helicopters in a more direct manner proceeds to pick up and throw a rock at said low flying helicopter. In his haste to re-enact the David versus Goliath routine, he fails to observe the helicopters wingman who doesn’t fail to see the rock man throw the rock. At the low altitude, the crew makes a good ID of the perpetrator going back into his trailer and has him arrested.

A patrol is out in sector.  They observe a dead body on the side of the road. Not an unusual sight here in Iraq.  Normal SOP would be to call the IP’s (Iraqi Police) and have them come and get the body and remove it to where ever they take bodies.  Besides the fact that bodies have been known to be booby trapped with IED’s and this can be extremely hazardous to ones health.  Our intrepid soldiers take it upon themselves to recover the body and return to base with it. Now, where would a bunch of good old boys that hail from a culture and region  where “huntin and fishin” and all that good stuff is like a religion, put the body for transport?  You guessed it, right across the hood of the HMMWV like some old buck they just shot!  Of course they said they covered the body in  a poncho.    

I am sure most of you will be spending the holidays with friends and family, eating, talking, laughing and having a good time.  I know you will remember that I am over here away from my family.  But also remember the 150,000 other Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coasties who are also here, far away from their families.  If you have guests who are opposed to the war or who detest violence, remind them that they are enjoying a peaceful holiday because a small group of fellow citizens (the force in Iraq is comprised of  less than .05% of the population of the United States, one twentieth of one percent) that see beyond the fallacy of non violence as a means to stopping violence, are doing their duty, risking life and limb, sacrificing their time away from family for the greater good of the country.  Raise a toast to them.

Again, merry Christmas and happy New Year to all of you.


Thanks to you and all the men and women in harms way this Christmas Season the world will have better tomorrows.  We Salute You All. God Bless You and God Bless America.

Iraqi Sunset.jpg (496899 bytes)Iraqi Convenience Store.jpg (185801 bytes)Iraq Hanging Out Downtown Baghdad.jpg (162406 bytes)



Christmas Dinner in Baghdad 2004

How to spend Christmas in Iraq.  Some of you might want to see what it's like.

Today one of my teams had to go out in sector and perform a couple of missions.  Since they would be out on Christmas Day, it would not be right for me, as their commander, to stay back in camp.

Unfortunately the war does not get postponed nor is there a holiday cease-fire like in previous conflicts where adversaries had some sense of civility.  So, another day of work regardless of the Holiday.

Christmas Toys for Boys Iraq 2004.jpg (84131 bytes)We went out to check on a VBIED that was blown up the night before.  Some AIF loaded up a gasoline tanker with explosives and went cruising for a place to blow it up.  They went to aThis one is Mine Iraq 2004.jpg (93537 bytes) neighborhood where some of the embassies are and touched it off.  What I am standing by is what's left of the truck.  The tank portion was blown about 250 feet away!

Then we went on to several projects.  Our day was capped by having Christmas chow at a very small Firebase (about a platoons' worth of guys) in sector.  They live an extremely austere life with no creature comforts and put up with  almost daily small arms fire and RPG attacks.

Christmas Dinner Reservations 2004.jpg (70199 bytes)The building you see is a very tall cell tower/building.  You are only looking at the base of it which took a direct hit from a US bomb during the beginning phase of the war.  It is now used for things such as our dinner, since it is a hard building and not easilyChristmas Chow Line Baghdad 2004.jpg (83806 bytes) penetrated by any opposing weapons.  The cooks brought all of the chow out to the firebase from the base camp in marmite containers and served it up in the basement of the building.  They also had some decorations to bring the spirit to an otherwise dreary day.  It rained all day and was very cool.  Not exactly the Christmas weather of upstate New York.

Christmas Dinner With a View 2004.jpg (65014 bytes)However, given the circumstances, conditions and events, the meal was pretty good.  And a table with a view!  Those who have been down this road will know; it’s not the placemats, the crystal, the silverware, or the fancy food.  It’s the sharing the same environment and hardships, the dangers and disappointments that your fellow soldiers share with you.  The meal was served on plastic plates with plastic knives and forks.  The food was luke warm, so-so chow of turkey, ham, fried shrimp, green beans and gravy plus sweet potatoes and stuffing.  Pecan pie and soft drinks topped off the meal.  Was it just an institutional meal served in a dinghy, cold building with almost no place to sit?  Nope!  It was a feast, shared by brothers in arms; a meal fit for a king.

We all have forgotten many holiday meals in our lives.  Most of us cannot recall the exact events or food of a holiday meal with any great detail but rely on collective recollections to conjure up the images.  I will always remember this meal but not for what it wasn’t ... but for what it was.

And you know what?  I didn’t hear a single complaint about anything from any soldiers.  I only heard  “nothing like hot chow.”

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Iraqi Elections Went Well


Hello Everyone,

It has been a long time since I have written regarding activities in Iraq.  The elections have kept us pretty busy and post election activities continue to consume most of my time.

The elections went off extremely well.  The forecast of doom and gloom did not materialize.  The small number of deaths and terrorist activities is inconsequential compared to the overall population.  There were a few bombs and shootings but considering that the number of voters who turned out, it was truly amazing.

In one instance, a suicide bomber blew himself up but did not get close enough to do much damage.  The voters continued to go to that polling station and many who walked past what was left of the bombers body would stop and spit on the remains and continue in to vote.  So much for deterring the populace.  The people were able to finally exercise a right that these elections afforded them.  In previous years, any election in Iraq resulted in a 98-99% vote for Saddam and his party.  The threats of death did not deter the overwhelming majority of people here.

I was located in one of the “suburbs” of Baghdad at a large Iraqi police station.  We were prepared to address any situation that developed during the elections.  It was an interesting experience to say the least.  The Iraqi police have a tough job.  Many are honest and hard working cops who are trying to do the right thing, however there are some who do not.  We encountered both.

Iraqi Police Station.jpg (78457 bytes)
The station was a large two-story structure with residential buildings within 25 meters.  These buildings afforded anyone who wanted to shoot at us a perfect place to do it without being seen until the last second.  There were numerous small arms events in the neighborhood and sporadic gunfire was the norm everyday.  On Election Day, you could hear several firefights in the vicinity and there were a number of engagements between anti-coalition forces and IP’s or US forces.

Living conditions were not exactly the Sheraton.  The smell inside the station was pretty rough.  Walking into their latrine the first time would make you stagger.  Their standards of hygiene and cleanliness are far below US standards. I slept on the roof most of the time because the air was cleaner and with a little less noise except when the helicopters would fly over at night.  There were no shower facilities so by the tenth day we were all pretty gamey,  however since we were all in the same boat, you couldn’t really notice that.  MRE’s for ten days also took its toll.  If you have eaten them for any length of time you know what I am talking about.

I did have the opportunity to get out on some dismounted security patrols in the area.  These were conducted daily at different times in order to monitor possible AIF activity and to show a presence in the area.  One night at about 03:30 (3:30 AM) we conducted a raid with Iraqi detectives on a local anti-coalition cell.  We lined up, ready to depart the perimeter with about 18 Iraqi Detectives.  Unbeknownst to us, they have a tradition in that they recite this chant, which is supposed to protect and motivate them.  At 3:30 in the morning, these guys start this thing up.  I thought it was going to wake the whole neighborhood up.  Considering that the location we were going to raid was not that far away I thought they were going to give our mission away. 

Guarding Iraqi Polling Place.jpg (63147 bytes)
Anyway, we moved to the target and set up the outer security.  I was with the 240B gunner as his security while he covered the high-speed avenue of approach (machine gunner covering the road coming towards the target).  They did their site recon and went in.  There was IED making materials, pipes for bombs, anti-coalition propaganda, etc.  It was a pretty successful operation.

In all we spent ten days there and watched history unfold.  The Iraqi people voted in numbers far greater than what was predicted.  The election was a resounding success and Iraq is moving forward.  Now that the election results are out, they will seat their representatives and choose a president and prime ministers.

The fact that their movement towards self-rule has progressed this far has created inertia for the country and will propel them forward and foster more positive change in the country.  Do not expect them to have a fully functioning democracy.  It isn’t going to happen overnight.  But, considering where they were two years ago and where they are now, this is nothing short of a miracle. And besides, any progress that will create conditions that will allow for US troops to come home is fine in my book.

Brian on Election Day.jpg (123485 bytes)
We still go out and do our missions and there are still numerous hazards out there.  IED’s are still common and we have not and will not, let our guard down.  There are still enemy forces out there that don’t like us.  So, it's still business as usual with only a few minor modifications to the way we do things. 

I hope everyone is okay and enjoying the cold weather.  We have had it down in the low 30’s on numerous occasions as of late.  Pretty soon we will be complaining of the hot weather and wishing for some cold.

Next up will be the Ashoura which just got over with.  This is a Shia ceremony where the men flail themselves on the back with chains with razor blades or cut their head and beat it with the flat side of a big knife.  Biggest Shia holiday of the year; more to follow.  Stay Safe.

(Colonel, this Ashoura sounds like something Saddam was doing to them most times of the year.  Isn't it great to be free so you can beat your own freekin' body to death?  Can't wait for the photos, Dave)

(The photos are from the Iraqi Police Station. As you can see, the area is pretty built up and made patrolling interesting at times. Very tight environment, lots of alleyways, cover and concealment for AIF.  Click on to enlarge.) 

SITREP 30 MARCH   ~  Getting Better in Baghdad

Hello everyone,

It’s been a long time writing again.  Unfortunately, given the environment we are operating in and the type of things we are doing, it becomes a routine that we repeat weekly for the most part.  Of course, when something big like the elections, Ashoura, and a few other things come up, there is a change up in our week.  So instead of boring anyone with a recounting of the same stuff, I write when there is something different to talk about.

Goodbye to Comrade in Arms.jpg (55779 bytes)There have been a number of casualties in 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division since we arrived.  Most recently there was a young Lieutenant who was killed during the Ashoura by an IED.  He and his unit were responding to an IED that was detonated to kill observers of the Ashoura.  Such is the cost that is born by young Americans.  Next time you hear someone complaining about how messed up things are in the US, just think about these guys who paid, and how they would sure love to be back where everything is so messed up that people complain about it non stop.  I am sure they would trade places!

Catholic Church in Baghdad.jpg (42574 bytes)Found a Catholic church in Baghdad; right in the heart of a Shia neighborhood, in the shadow of the Grand Mosque.  You could seeCatholic Church in Baghdad 2.jpg (62226 bytes) the mosque from the front of the church.  No one was there so I couldn’t ask anything about it but I will go back to see what it is like inside if possible.

Inside Iraqui Home.jpg (68331 bytes)Was able to get inside one of the bigger houses in one of the areas.  Didn’t get the full tour but what I did see was impressive,Inside Iraqui Home 3.jpg (54640 bytes) considering what I thought it would look like.  Have attached a couple of photos from the inside of the Inside Iraqui Home 2.jpg (55087 bytes)one place.  This is in a pretty upscale neighborhood, right near the church.

Picture of our area all flooded out from the rains a couple of weeks ago.  Also, Flooding in Baghdad.jpg (31987 bytes)one with an Iraqi Special Forces guy in an area where there wasBrian with Iraqui Special Force.jpg (89817 bytes) some stuff going on.  Many of them wear masks because they don’t want to be identified, which results in assassination attempts on them.

Iraqui Easter Tank.jpg (63406 bytes)Easter was okay, no big deal.  They did make a nice "Tank with Easter" theme for a centerpiece in the mess hall.  Kind of keeping with the martial theme for Easter.

22 March:  Mortared again.  Haven’t been keeping track but about every other day for the past two weeks.  Usually within a couple hundred meters.  Mostly 82mm, shakes things pretty good.

23 March:  Today, suicide bomber tried to blow himself up about 75 meters away from us.  Luckily his suicide bomb vest didn’t go off, just the detonator. He got messed up pretty good.  Busy day, lots of small contacts with patrols in the AO and small arms fire where we were.
Got “selected” to assist with BIF inspections. This is the Brigade Interrogation Facility where they hold prisoners.  Have to go there and make sure all the rules and procedures are being followed.  Almost like being back at work.  This is becoming one of my additional duties.

30 March:  IED’s all over.  Blocked on numerous routes.  Could not get to our destination.  When we were trying to go a different way to get to the one location, the ING came up and told us to get out of there, now!  Very dangerous. Meaning ambush or IED coming shortly, no where to go.  Had hard time getting out.

1 April: Mortared again, becoming a regular daily occurrence.

2 April: Five VBIEDs last night.  AIF tried to breech the wall at Abu Ghraib Prison, not successful.  Mortared again.

3 April: More VBIEDs in sector, mortared again.  But not real close.
Weather is starting to get hotter.  It was in the 90’s yesterday.  The winds are picking up and now the dust storms will be more frequent. 

My tour is on the downside, time wise.  Looking at getting out of here sometime early summer.  The Iraqis are really trying to make this all work.  Attacks are down in many areas and the Iraqis are not tolerating the bad guys.  In Baghdad a week or so ago, a bunch of merchants shot and killed three bad guys themselves because they are tired of the problems the AIF are causing them.  The AIF are starting to create animosity with the locals because of the bombings that continue to kill local civilians. 

Will keep you posted.

Greetings All,

I will be going on leave starting 14 April. I will be in transit for awhile and then home.  My email will be sporadic for the duration of my leave.  I will be spending the time with my family in New York.  I will be back in Iraq around 1 MAY.

Please don't send anything except short messages until I return.



24 MAY, 2005

Greetings everyone, just a brief note.

Been a while since my last correspondence.  I was home on leave the last two weeks of April and saw all of my family.   We even got to Disney for a week. Weather was great.  A good time was had by all. 

Biggest thing here in Iraq is the weather.  Today it was 118 degrees and it is only going to get hotter.  Thank God for bottled water.  That we have lots of.

The tour is starting to wind down.  Our replacements will be here soon and we will train them and then prepare to go back to the states.  We should be back in the US in early July but I cannot say exactly when.

Things have been relatively stable.  The usual stuff that goes on everyday, no big deal.  They missed us again this week by about 100 yards.  A miss is as good as a mile.  There isn’t much to tell about what has been going on except that we continue to do our routine missions and prep to go home.  I will make sure you know when I have left or at least when I will not be able to regularly check email anymore.

You can send packages until the 27th of MAY and then no more.  Do not send any letters after 5 June.  My email will stay up until just about when we actually leave.  Look forward to hearing from anyone until my departure.



Greetings everyone,

I can finally say that this is the last installment of my report from Iraq. The time has gone quickly and it's almost hard to believe its over.  The heat is nearly unbearable and none of us will miss that.  It has been over 120 degrees here in Baghdad and with body armor on, it sucks.
Anyway, I would like to take a few moments and talk about my company and their accomplishments, collectively and individually.
Soldiers in my 21 man company were awarded 21 Combat Action Badges, 7Iraq Well Done.jpg (158131 bytes) Bronze Stars, 1 Meritorious Service Medal, 12 Army Commendation Medals and 3 Army Achievement Medals. Each soldier was awarded the Iraqi Campaign Medal.
Combat patches from the following units were earned: 1st Cavalry Division, 10th Mountain Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Infantry Division, Special Operations Command, Central; 256th Enhanced Separate  Brigade.
Each member of the company was shot at, mortared, rocketed, IED’d, or VBIED’d on numerous occasions.
Each soldier in my company participated in an average of 150 combat patrols.
The company suffered no one killed in action and no wounded.
As a company we planned, implemented or developed more than 60 Million Dollars in civil reconstruction projects throughout the Baghdad area of operation.
Iraq Saying Goodbye.jpg (68618 bytes)The youngest soldier in my company is 19, the oldest is 52 (not me).
Now we start the process of heading back to Fort Bragg to begin our redeployment and demobilization process, then ultimately, reunification with our families.  Your support, emails, packages and letters were a great help to myself and to my company.  Everything was appreciated and has not been forgotten.  Some of you I may see again and some of you I may never see.  But all of you contributed to our success with your support.  For this we offer our thanks.
 Iraq 12Feb05 Mission.jpg (83892 bytes)
I have attached a few photos of our awards ceremony and a few of just the latest activities or locations we have been at.  Stay safe and have a great summer.


Colonel, I am sure we speak for most Americans; Thanks, to you and your men for your service and a job well done.  Welcome Home! 

As for myself I am most grateful that I had the privilege of bringing your reports and your outlook, as a Commander in the field, from Iraq.  I have no idea of how many readers took advantage of these reports but I do know that my grandchildren took them to their classes in their school.  I know that my family and immediate circle of friends read them and had a deep appreciation of all of the efforts of all our service men and women.  Not only in the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan, but just being in the uniforms of our great American Army.  We are so very proud to be behind your efforts to make a better and safer world.

I cannot understand the short sightedness of protestors at this critical time in these operations.  I do know they will always be there.  Can anyone comprehend the feelings of Continental Patriots at Valley Forge when they read the reports from Boston as to how they could never win in this insurrection?  And of the consequences if they all believed the press of their day?  So too, in the unbelievable heat in the summer of a foreign desert today's Patriots should not have to read unwise and unpatriotic venom spewed from twisted minds and regurgitated from the press.

I am just happy that I could play a small role in bringing the facts to my little corner of the world.  Thank you Brian and thanks to your men for sharing a trying and tumultuous time with us.  I'm glad you are all coming home.  Dave


Nov. 16, 2005 ~ B was recently at our last October Arms Fair in Saratoga Springs, NY.  He seemed to like being back dealing in collector firearms rather than in the midst of using the M-16 or being the target of an AK-47.  Thanks, again Colonel.


A Final Thought ... I only wish I could have written it.

By Ben Stein ... (I thought very fitting to end this piece.  Ben, I hope you approve.)

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called "Monday
Night At Morton's." (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be
frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now,
Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life.  Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.  Ben Stein's Last Column...
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?

As I begin to write this, I "slug" it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is "eonlineFINAL," and it gives me a shiver to write it.  I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane
luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a "star" we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad.

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish
weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament...the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin...or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.

By Ben Stein