America! Why have you abandoned us?
An open letter to the American People
My fellow Americans; what have the American Fighting men and women done to cause you to abandon them in a foreign land, surrounded by sinister people that are bent on killing them and all Americans? Do we believe that these people, who think nothing of killing men, women, and children of their own race, culture, and religion, will hesitate a moment if given the chance to destroy us, our families, and our freedoms?
And they know that Congress has cut off spending for our troops.
Where is the sort of overwhelming swell of outrage of the American people that caused the rather benign “Dubai Ports deal” to be killed in less than a month? Why have the halls of Congress and the Whitehouse not been overwhelmed by citizens outraged over the abandonment of our fighting men and women? Is the silence a sign that shock jocks, and dead playmates are more important to American than our soldiers?
While politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have quibbled about timelines, a date for withdrawal from Iraq, and $24 billion in pork to buy votes, the American Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been all but forgotten. The American people’s silence is morale-crushing and a betrayal. For whatever purpose we believe our soldiers have gone to war, surely abandonment in a hostile, foreign land was not it.
Over 200,000 American Warriors, deployed around the world in austere and hellish conditions, are always in the crosshairs of evil people bent on killing them. Over 3350 have freely, and honorably, given their lives; over 24,300 have been wounded and maimed for us, for our families, and for our freedoms in this war. They sacrifice, not for money, education, and world travel – as some have suggested. They sacrifice their lives for their oaths to us. Their oaths are not to the President, Congress, or a military commander. Their oaths are to us. To the American People.
This is the oath of the American enlisted Soldier, Marine, Airman, and Sailor:
“I, (your son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, neighbor, and friend), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
“I, (your son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, neighbor, and friend), (SSAN), having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God.”
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
The following are four examples out of tens of thousands of warriors fulfilling their oaths to you.
I will always place the mission first.
“Mission First” meant more than mere words to Sgt. Christian P. Engeldrum. The 39-yearold firefighter from Bronx, N.Y., served on active duty in the Army from 1986 to 1991 and was in Operation Desert Storm. He returned to New York, trading his Army uniform for a policeman’s. Several years later, he became a New York City firefighter. He was awarded a N.Y. Fire Department citation for bravery on July 15, 2000, for successfully rescuing two people in a fire on West 110th St. in Manhattan.
September 11, 2001 was a turning point in his life. On that day, he and fellow firefighters from Ladder 61 in the Bronx responded to the World Trade Center attacks. For the next few months he assisted in the recovery effort, digging through the rubble.
Sgt. Engeldrum then rejoined the Army, serving with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry Regiment, of the New York Army National Guard. “He loved his country, he loved being a firefighter and he was 100% Soldier,” said one of his fellow firefighters.
Sgt. Engeldrum is the first New York firefighter to die in Iraq since the U.S.-led war began. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “I join all New Yorkers in mourning his loss and pray that his family finds comfort in the innumerable ways he touched so many lives.” Sgt Engeldrum is survived by his wife Sharon and two sons Royce, 16 and Sean, 18.
I will never accept defeat.
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of Congress, the Medal of Honor to
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, United States Army
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:
Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action with an armed enemy near Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq on 4 April 2003. On that day, Sergeant First Class Smith was engaged in the construction of a prisoner of war holding area when his Task Force was violently attacked by a company-sized enemy force. Realizing the vulnerability of over 100 fellow soldiers, Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith’s extraordinary heroism and uncommon valor are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division “Rock of the Marne,” and the United States Army.
I will never quit.
Army Capt. David Rozelle, 31, lost part of his right leg below the knee in a June 2003 land mine explosion near Hit, Iraq. But Rozelle was not about to quit. While going through an oftentimes, painful recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, he spearheaded the effort to put together a team of other amputees from the medical center for the Army Ten-Miler race in October 2004. Dubbed the “Missing (Parts) In Action team-Some Assembly Required”-the team included troops from each of the military services. Rozelle ran the 10-mile race in just 1 hour, 38 minutes-just 16 months after the loss of his lower leg in what most would term a “debilitating” injury. In addition to running the race, he returned to the Ski Slopes in Colorado at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
But Rozelle was not just interested in his own recovery. He wanted to help other injured Soldiers. Rozelle sees sports as a healing tool for Soldiers like himself. He is working to establish an amputee support group at his duty station, Fort Carson, CO, where he knows of other Soldiers with prosthetics. The group will not only focus on networking Soldiers with prosthetics, but getting them involved in outdoor sports as well. “I want to give Soldiers someone to talk to who has made it through what they’re facing, let them ask questions, and have them see me walking,” he said. But most incredible of all, Rozelle wanted to remain on active duty and return to Iraq. And, the Army granted him his wish. He was the commanding officer of Regimental Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a unit that deployed to Iraq in early March 2005. While Rozelle’s story is compelling, it is not unique. He is just one of many Soldiers who demonstrates daily their commitment to live by the ideals contained in the Warrior Ethos, “I will never quit” and “I will never accept defeat.”
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
U.S. Army Command Sgt. Major. Ron Riling was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in Al Rammadi Iraq on April 6, 2004. He said he was honored to be awarded the Silver Star, but he‘d gladly give it back if it would bring back the 12 Marines who lost their lives that day in Rammadi. Riling said the decision to enter the fray was an easy one. “The colonel looked at me and said ‘Sgt Major, let’s go” Riling quickly organized his forces and rushed to help. They immediately came under fire from every direction. The Marine squad has been pinned down by snipers and was in terrible shape. The squad leader was dead, and three of the seven Marines were seriously wounded. Riling absorbed the Marines into his team and they fought their way out, taking with then all their dead and wounded.
These are our Soldiers
Are the actions above of someone just after money for an education? Of a person seeking a poor paying job? Of a person trying to defraud the American people of their money? If this is what we think, then America is truly in dire straits. We know that this is not how the majority of good Americans view their Soldiers. But then why the lack of strong, decisive action in defense of the American Soldier?
Soldiers like these, and thousands of others like them, have been forsaken by the American people, who are failing to engage the elected officials of this government. By our silence we allow our elected government to play games with Soldiers’ lives for personal gain, ego, and selfishness. During the month that this funding cutoff debate debate has gone on, over 100 brave men have lost their lives in Iraq alone, protecting the American people.
Stories like these number in the thousands. Each story is a sacrifice for our families and us. It is imperative that the American People understand their power, and responsibility in compelling the passage of this measure by the elected officials of this country. Without our intercession, on behalf of our military, the funds that the troops need will not arrive in time. Soldiers will suffer and die needlessly.
The bill that came out of conference, passed by the Congress, and has been vetoed by the President is an embarrassment to this country. It is a slap in the face to all the military families that have consecrated their loved ones to us to preserve our freedom.
Perhaps some have waved off the critical nature of this impasse, and think that in the end, and in time, the Congress and President will come together. This is a dangerous assumption. Heavy pressure from the American People on all 535 members of Congress and the President is the only way to shake them from their power-induced stupor.
Does America deserve the sacrifice the U.S. Military makes for them? The people’s inaction is an indictment of leadership in the White House and Congress; but more disheartening, it is an indictment of the American People in their abandoning the military in time of war. A blanket of shame has covered this great land, its leaders, and people. Americans should hang their heads in shame, for a moment, and then overwhelm the government of this country in protest supporting the troops in time of war.
Gerd Schroeder is a Major in the United States Army. His views are his own. He does not speak for the US Army or Department of Defense.