"Supporting the troops" has become an extremely abused term in America. The left believes the best way to support the troops is to bring them home. The right believes securing victory is supporting the troops. Bumper stickers and political slogans abound. Every one seems to have their version of what it means to support the troops. But what does a soldier say?
Mick is a soldier's soldier. He has already served a tour in Iraq. Soon he will deploy to Afghanistan to lead and train what he refers to as "noble and great kids." Mick is no spring chicken, so he uses the term "kids" affectionately. He tells me we have some of the greatest young people the world has ever seen serving their country with honor and integrity in the Middle East. All the while in conditions most of us couldn't tolerate for a day, no less a year.
Mick is a senior non-commissioned officer who, by his own admission, has been around for a long time.
"I turned in my soldier suit when Clinton started screwing up the military. I literally threw my career away. I came back in the first day of the invasion at a greatly reduced rank and fought my way into a deployment slot in Iraq because I believed this president when he said there were WMDs, and there was a distinct possibility Saddam would use them against the U.S," Mick said.
Mick stays in for one reason. He supports the troops. He is there to take care of them – not his own interests, for they suffer when he is gone. He stays for the troops. He trains troops so they can do their job and return home alive and in one piece. Mick doesn't view things in Democrat or Republican terms. He could care less about conservatism or liberalism. He is too busy fighting a war and keeping his "kids" alive. But he does make it clear what supporting the troops requires from a soldier's point of view.
He made me a simple list. So simple even an average guy like me is able to understand. Here is Mick's list:
1. Get us the best equipment you can get your hands on. Not just the stuff some congressman or senator got because it's made in his district or he was bribed to approve it. The body armor we have is not the best. We can and should do better.
2. Down time for soldiers after their tour in combat. Not the 30 days of leave they would have earned staying stateside but some real down time to get reacquainted with their families. In addition, troops are returning stateside to watch our commanding officers give each other bronze stars and medals, do a change of command and then are handed over to the next hotshot who wants to immediately start busting humps in a high speed training cycle designed to help him get his next bronze star and nice bullet comments on his Officer Evaluation Report.
3. Stop opposing pay raises. We noticed even the president himself apparently doesn't think a 3.5 percent pay raise is in order. Check the voting record of Republicans and Democrats on benefits for soldiers. Votes speak louder than words.
4. Most importantly, fix the system that is supposed to care for the wounded. There's a reason for the tight security around Landstuhl Air Base in Germany, and it isn't about national security. It's about something very wrong going on regarding care for soldiers.
I told you it was simple. No politics. No partisan attacks on the left or the right. No blame or finger pointing. Mick is too battle-hardened to stoop to that level. He is a "bottom line" kind of guy. He has a job to do, and he wants to get it done. The sooner he and his soldiers complete the mission, the sooner they can come home and resume the normal life they once had.
Mick has shared with me many frustrations the soldiers are experiencing in the Middle East. The troops are fighting an insurgency and an enemy we have never fought before. But there is another enemy. The bureaucracy that makes each soldier's life tougher than it need be.
Soldiers are trained to fight the enemy. They do so with amazing results when given the ability to employ their training. But when they have to fight the system, their training is of no use. That, we hope to change.
Soon you will see additional articles and stories at WND giving a voice to our troops in the field. It is our way of supporting the troops. First-hand accounts of what they deal with and how you, me and the system can truly support them instead of arguing with each other. Soldiers want, need and deserve our support.
I close with a direct quote from Mick that came to me in a stinging rebuke from our first correspondence:
"In short, play politics with somebody else's lives. We need good equipment, good pay, good benefits and some accountability measures for the politicians. I'm too busy fighting the war, training my soldiers and trying to survive. How about you fix your end, and I'll take care of mine?"
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