By Jessica Peck Corry (Jessica@JessicaCorry.com)
I get excited to see my cousin’s emails when they pop up in my inbox. Robert, a West Point graduate and a Captain in the U.S. Army, writes to me often from Iraq. Despite the heat, the homesickness, and the dust storms that have defined his time there, each correspondence confirms that his sense of humor remains intact. More importantly, each email confirms that he is safe and still passionate for life.
He’s taught me a lot about this war we’re in. In his emails, he jokes that he’s got carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of 24-hour internet access. He reports that he’s finished his master’s thesis while stationed in Iraq. He tells me there are icicles dangling from the air-conditioning unit outside his room (yes, he has his own room and yes, it has air conditioning).
Maybe it’s not so bad over there, I think.
But then he reminds me.
This war we’re in is real. From today’s email: “SGT Hagood and CPL Young were hit with an IED two nights ago. SGT Hagood almost lost his leg and Young took a bunch of shrapnel and had part of his nose blown off. Good soldiers working hard and risking their lives every minute of every day. I hope all the Katrina coverage doesn't lose sight of the 150,000 Army that are still over here.”
I’m afraid that some Americans have lost sight of our troops in Iraq. We’ve become comfortable with the war. Instead of being forced to make sacrifices, we’re told to keep buying and keep spending to fuel our debt-based economy. I’m just as guilty as the next guy.
While Hurricane Katrina may have taken attention away from the war, it has already had one positive effect on our society. Through the $3-a-gallon gas prices it has provoked, it has forced Americans to realize that oil isn’t an endless reserve. In response, President Bush has asked us for the first time to conserve our fuel usage. Ultimately, and regardless of the political persuasion of any of our citizens, I hope it offers a permanent reminder for people as to why stability and democracy is so important in the oil-rich Middle East. Whether this war will achieve peace as its final legacy remains yet to be seen.
In December, Robert will fish his tour in Iraq, at which point he will eagerly return home to Georgia to his wife and the year-old son he’s gotten to know over the last several months only through pictures. At the same time, one of my good friends, George, will head to Iraq as part of a battalion that will replace Robert’s. George’s wife Stephanie will take her turn being tested as a military wife.
Technology has created a strange new type of war. One where email updates come daily, complete with digital photos and play-by-plays of the latest attack. In the end, however, behind the narrative that arrives in black-and-white Times New Roman, we must remember that there is a soldier. One that is tired, scared, and hungry for the life he’s left behind.
The Washington Post has been following Robert’s 5-man platoon for several months as part of a larger series on the daily lives of soldiers. Read their story by clicking here.