May 14 will be the best day of the year. No, it’s not my birthday and no, the administration didn’t give us the day off to go to the beach. Actually, for almost everyone else it’s just another Thursday. For me, however, the date marks the homecoming of my dad after a year-long tour of duty at Camp Victory in Baghdad, Iraq.
I’m overjoyed by the idea of him being back on American soil. His deployment has taught me to value family and every moment I spend with them. I’ve thought so many times of how I took a simple “Hey dad, how’s it going?” phone call for granted before he was deployed. Now a two-minute 11:30 p.m. call or e-mail is a treat.
Upon receiving his marching orders in January 2008, he was a little surprised, but the call to duty wasn’t totally unexpected because other Navy logistics officers were also being activated; the soldiers in the Army couldn’t do it by themselves anymore.
Since the war started in 2003, some troops have already served three tours in Iraq. According to the New York Times, at least 197,000 people have been sent to Iraq more than once and at least 53,000 have been deployed three or more times.
My dad is a Navy Commander and before this year hadn’t served active duty since 1992. He had been deployed before but was excited to serve the nation during wartime. His work in Baghdad was spent mostly on base and not in combat. His focus was on the Iraqi Transportation Network and the goal was to have sheikhs form alliances and create trucking companies to move U.S. cargo.
According to an article on Defense Link, the official Web site for the U.S. Department of Defense, Iraq received an economic boost and it took soldiers out of the dangerous position of guarding low priority cargo by creating these companies.
For my dad, traveling off base meant wearing 50 pounds of body armor in 120 degree heat. His work took him many places he never thought he would go and some of his experiences make me think about the fact that someday, when I have children, he will tell them war stories just as my grandfathers told me theirs.
One of my dad’s favorite memories was flying in a helicopter over the countryside and seeing Iraqi children run out from their homes waving. He said when soldiers travel through the country, they carry extra water bottles and give them to the Iraqis since water is such a precious commodity.
My dad has had the chance to see the Iraqi people firsthand and to talk with them about life in their war torn country. He said many of them expressed great fear and hatred of Saddam Hussein when he was in power. One Iraqi told him that under Hussein’s reign, people who upset the government would be killed or simply disappear and that he always wondered when Americans would come to free them. When speaking with Iraqi truck drivers for his transportation project, my dad said that the overwhelming public opinion is that Iraq’s true enemy is Iran.
Currently, the violence seems to have calmed down. “When I first got to Baghdad, you could hear and feel explosions several times a day. I was fortunate that they were never close to me,” he said. “Now it is pretty infrequent. Many days pass without any explosions or gunshots heard except from the practice range.”
President Barack Obama announced his timeline for leaving Iraq in February. By August 2010 he wants most troops withdrawn and by Dec. 31, 2011 he wants American forces removed from the country.
The good news comes with some hesitation. “We are all glad that we are starting to pull out but everyone is concerned that Iraq doesn’t fall in chaos after we leave,” my dad said.
While I support President Barack Obama’s plan for troop removal in Iraq, I hope that all factors have been considered and troops are not sent home too soon. I would hate to see their progress and hard work go to waste. According to CNN.com, 4,283 Americans have died in Iraq since 2003; I do not want their efforts to be for nothing.
Once the troops leave, I hope the country can be self-sufficient and flourish from the help American troops have provided. Over the past year I have become more appreciative of my freedoms and realize just how lucky I am to live in a democratic country. Whether or not you agree with the war, it is important to recognize the troops’ courageous efforts and support them in every endeavor because without them, America would not be the country it is today.
Jennifer Titcomb is a journalism and graphic communications junior and a Mustang Daily reporter and copy editor.