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On a recent Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to meet a very interesting man in a hotel in Reno, Nevada,  He was sitting next to a man with the same short military style haircut and I commented that they looked like brothers.  One man answered that he got his haircut in Detroit and the other stated that he got his cut in Baghdad.

That got my attention.  It turned out, they just happened to sit next to each other.  After continuing our conversation I discovered that Tim Ramirez is a Staff Sergeant in the California National Guard and was in Reno on leave with his wife.  He was enjoying a drink and our conversation flowed.  Being a Vietnam era veteran myself I was interested in the common soldiers opinions about our present situation in Iraq.

We agreed to meet the next day for breakfast along with his wife to give me the opportunity to interview him about his time in Iraq.  He was scheduled to return to Iraq in just a few days hence.

Staff Sergeant Ramirez, 43 had joined the California National Guard after his original enlistment in the regular Army had expired.  The one thing that exuded from his demeanor was that he is a patriot above all else.  his grandparents are from Guatemala and his other ancestor are from Russia and managed to escape the Soviet Revolution by fleeing to China shortly after the revolution.  he struck me as a man who understood history and both as a personal interest and as it affects the worlds situation today.

He is assigned to a Military Police company that supports our troops in their mission of training Iraqi police.  he told me about the the many difficulties that both our troops and the Iraqi police recruits endure.  They are looked upon as targets for the terrorists and are exposed to constant threats and worries about their families. The interpreters that are needed to help in the communications are also under constant threat.  he relayed a recent event where a Iraqi born, but resident of the U.S. went outside the secure compound and was kidnapped.  When I asked what happened to him, the answer was as I expected.  We don’t know, we never heard from him again.

There are many aspects of the regular soldiers life in Iraq that we never hear about.  As the sergeant stated to me, although in many ways the armies training is no longer what it was 20 years ago, the results are that our troops understand the mission to be difficult but meet their mission with extreme competence and a positive morale despite the politics that are involved.

When I asked him about the support in general, he paused to think about his answer.  I could only read between the lines when he stated that there is sufficient support.  My personal interpretation is that he and his fellow troops would be happy if the support was a little stronger, but that no matter, their mission would be completed.

When we spoke about the Iraqi nationals that he has had contact with, he stated that for the most part they were friendly.  This of course is in Baghdad itself where the results of our mission are more visible than in the countryside.  He reminded me that during the Iraqi election a few weeks ago, there were at least 50 bombings of various sized that very day.  The danger is still everywhere and the fanatic terrorists will continue to be a problem.  As to his views on the future, he was very cautious in his opinion.

It seems clear to me that much progress has been made these past years since we entered Baghdad, but much is left to be done.  The feeling I got from our conversation is that though he and his fellow troops will be happy to leave Iraq, they also would like to leave the job finished.

While we were talking about these events, his wife quietly followed the conversation without comment and it seemed that though I’m sure she is accepting of her husbands career, she would much rather have him home sooner than later.  She represents so many wives who quietly accept their husbands danger and are never remembered enough.  They support and love their husbands and in some cases husbands remain at home and the wives go to a war zone and face daily danger.  Let us not forget that they too are brave.  We can never support the American soldier enough.  Whether they are in a front line combat position or are supportive in their duties, they are always in danger and deserve our respect.  Tim will be back in Baghdad next week and will do his duty as all those that have joined our military will do.  These are our patriots that know their duty and never hesitate to perform that duty to the best of their abilities despite personal risk and their concerns over their families.  Let us never forget and be thankful to these patriots.

Thank you men and women of our military services.

Semper Fidelis

Fred Speckmann