Sunday, December 18, 2011

and so it ends.

(borrowed from the nytimes without permission)

it's weird to think that the war in iraq is finally over. i distinctly remember getting harassed by people on the street and in our english classes when i served my mission in japan as the war in iraq kicked off. it was difficult to explain and defend a war that i didn't understand at the time, being sheltered as i was as a missionary. i had none of the facts and knew none of the rationale on either side of the debate. but i trusted president bush knew the facts and was making the best decision for our country and our county's safety. i was also in japan for about 1 week when those planes hit the towers. so i never really experienced that national sense of shock, horror, terror, and insecurity followed by the invigorated sense of patriotism that came in those early days after 9-11. of course i felt some of it, both vicariously through letters and news clips from my family, and personally as an american and pride i felt then in a distant country. history will judge whether the original decision and subsequent justifications for the long war were justified. i am certainly not qualified to make that call.

flash forward just longer than 10 years after the towers fell and almost 9 years since the start of the war in iraq, and i again find myself in a distant land. this time my perspective is not one of removal and separation, but rather one of attachment and proximity.

today i attended a ceremony to commemorate the the deactivation of a major air lift/defense mission as the last troops crossed the border out of iraq. it was really cool. without getting to deep into the specifics, suffice it to say there were some really important commanders in attendance at the ceremony including three and four star generals. it's rare that the rank and file members are in the company of men of that rank. it was pretty cool.

i sat there and listened to some of them talk about the sacrifice of military members and their families in the operations over the span of the last 9 years. and even further back. some talked about flying sorties during the first gulf war to liberate kuwait and here they are at the end of liberating another country, iraq. some of these generals knew each other as captains in the first gulf war. one general told a story about the moment recently when they flying over old targets of the past war, reliving that mission when a young lieutenant spoke up to say he thought he father was in that same campaign and it turned out that he was in the same squadron with one of the generals. he told how it was symbolic that bringing freedom to the middle east has been a multigenerational mission and endeavor. and i think it will probably be many more generations to come too.

after the iraqis invaded kuwait in the first gulf war, they occupied some of the kuwaiti air bases. it was these bunkers on these bases that the US Air Force targeted and destroyed in the first persian gulf. and now the we share many of these bases/bunkers/air strips with the kuwaitis, essentially inhabiting the very bunkers we bombed/destroyed years ago.

there is a lot of history in the middle east. it's been cool to be so close to the action at such a historic moment in our nation's history. this retrograde movement, i.e. draw down in iraq is the largest one of its kind since WWII. it's sorta amazing that the war in iraq is finally over and we have closed this chapter in our nation's history.

much has been and will be written about the war. here's what the new york times had to say about it today. even in its writing you can smell the politics of the day. and it is sorta annoying. the thing that i enjoyed most about the ceremony that i attended today was the utter lack of politics. the military will do whatever mission the civilian leadership asks of it. i couldn't tell you the political leanings of any of the generals that spoke today. and in today's push and pull, tug-o-war of words in the political slug-fest arena, it was refreshing to hear the talk of the mission without the spin.

i'm glad the war in iraq is finally over. it's been a long, long war. and so ends, this morning with that final convoy riding along with the air force providing top cover for that final escort.


mom/shauna said...
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mom/shauna said...

Peter, That was a beautiful post. I'm glad you had the experience you had today listening to the top ranked generals speak with such patriotism. I am proud of you and miss you very much.

Jill T said...

Good post Peter. What a momentous day to be there. Glad you documented it. We missed you and Emily and Will tonight at dinner. It just wasn't the same without you 3 there!

Whitney said...

Good to hear from you Peter. Sounds like you had a pretty inspiring experience. Very awesome. Saw Emily and Will today. They are as cute as ever!