What Are We Fighting For?

A biweekly article series by

Chief Master Sergeant Bob Anderson

I’m Chief Master Sergeant Bob Anderson, and I’m honored to be writing to you from

Balad Air Base in Iraq.

Take Care of the Kids.      

At the time of writing this article, I’ve completed nearly 1/3rd of my time here in Iraq.  We have been through dust storms, attacks, the effects of Katrina, and of course the day to day grind of operations in the sandbox.  Over the last couple of days, several units have rotated out and some of the dear friends I’ve made over here are on their way to their homes.  God Bless them.

Guys like Air Force Master Sergeants Tony Rita and Steve Connors and Captain Brian Ackerman—what treasures they were to me during the first weeks I was here.  Three different people with different lives; one active duty NCO, one Air Guard NCO and one Guard Officer—yet they all had one thing in common.  They knew what they were fighting for.

All three were medical personnel.  They fought everyday to keep our kids alive over here.  When one was hurt, these were three of the many great medics we have that fought for one mission—to give that kid the best possible care in the shortest period of time, and get him or her to a place where talented doctors and nurses could save his/her life and body parts.

They didn’t care for garrison living or the political scheme.  They cared only about the kids!  That magic component saved many lives.  One was gruff, one was ornery and one was ADHD to the extreme—and they all loved our kids.  Each had intolerance for folks more concerned about recreation or their own comfort.  Each had intolerance for people who complained about how tough they have it.  Each shared a focus as to what their job over here was, and it was simple—take care of the kids.

It is easy when you’re stateside to loose that focus.  It is easy to become so involved in “making a living” that you forget “you have a life to live”.  It is easy to become embroiled in the mundane and loose sight of what your real mission is.  These three represent the best in our folks.  Now, you probably would not enjoy long philosophical discussions with any of them, as they were known for getting to the point pretty quickly.  You probably would not want to hear their opinions concerning the validity of this war or the proper and politically correct injunctions we struggle with so much.

Their mission was more focused than that.  All three delayed their return to the states because they had not finished passing on information to their replacements.  Their replacements were not yet up to speed to “take care of our kids”.  They refused to get on the plane until their jobs were done—refused!  Of course they wanted to leave.  They wanted to go home.  They missed their families, but their job was not complete and they would not leave until it was!

They worked long hours and only complained that others “did not understand what was important”.  They complained, but never about the living conditions, or the food or the job—just about people who did not understand their job was to “take care of the kids”.

These are the kinds of folks we have over here, those that won’t leave until the job is done.  These three people represent so many.  Their humor is macabre and would shock the sensitive!  They share stories of kids with limbs missing telling them to take care of their buddies, “I’m okay, he’s hurt worse than I am.”  Stories of soldiers with grievous wounds, stoic in their pain, more concerned about their buddy than themselves.

One story was about two special operators, both banged up pretty badly and insulting each other for being a wuss for getting wounded in the first place!  Macabre, mid-night graveyard humor—because if they couldn’t laugh about it—they would cry!

They are long on duty, short on nonsense!  They came here knowing what their job was, and they did it and they wouldn’t leave until they were satisfied their replacements could continue to “take care of the kids”!  They were and shall remain my friends.  It may be months or even years before I see them again, but when we meet we shall share memories of a place far, far away and what we saw and did here.

They are by far not the only ones; they are just some of the ones I’ve met.  They are different as day and night and so much alike they could be brothers.  They are American Servicemen!

What are we fighting for?  They were here to “take care of the kids.”  To treat and care for those wounded service people regardless of their service affiliation, regardless of their status (Active Duty, Reserve or Guard).  To get the wounded the fastest and best treatment available, where ever that treatment is located; to stabilize and move those personnel via helicopter or plane, via ambulance or HUMMVEE; to get them home to their families.  That’s what these folks are fighting for, and God bless them.  Were my son or daughter here and were to get hurt, I pray that someone like Tony, Steve or Brian is on the ground to get them home to me.

If you have a family member or friend over here, send a prayer for their safety and say a prayer of thanks for folks like my friends and the many others like them.  Thank God for people like these who are constant reminders of what we are fighting for.

God Bless our Troops and God Bless America!

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