[Editor’s Note]  I received this letter from a member of the list today.  While I cannot vouch for the letter I can vouch for the member. If he says he received it through his brother, you can take that to the bank.  The letter seems a little dated which is a product, I would suspect, of the round about way it came to me.  This letter speaks of the temperatures sometime in August and September and my son, Rusty, in Iraq is already telling me the rainy season is upon them and the temperature does not reach 100 during the day and drops into the high 60s occasionally at night.  So, this letter must have been written a couple of months ago but anything from the war zone is more viable and truthful than the best we can expect from the liberal media. 

Lonnie 

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Got this from my brother, a teacher in Arizona; the writer is a former student of his who is a WP [West Point] grad and a unit commander in Iraq.

Dear Family and Friends,                                                                                                       October 13th, 2003

I am now approaching my sixth month in command of America’s greatest soldiers! God is so good! Commanding America’s sons is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. It is such a blessing to know that hundreds of Moms, Dads, wives, and children have entrusted their loved ones into my care for this all-too-important task of giving FREEDOM to people who only knew that as a word, but now get to experience it as a way of life. None of us will ever really grasp the depth of appreciation these Iraqi people have for us.  I’m confident that God has many more challenges and rewards in store for my men and me. And He has an abundance of blessings for the Iraqi people if they’ll seek Him.

I want to start this letter with something that is vitally important for you to understand, and I beg you to share this with as many people as possible. I know the media and many of the politicians are harping on this idea that the Coalition Forces have not found any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). I submit to you one simple point: WE GOT RID OF THE WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION—his name is Saddam Hussein and I’m certain that he’ll soon be brought to justice, dead or alive. Regardless of whether or not we find weapons of mass destruction—which I believe we will in due time—liberating the people of Iraq was the righteous thing to do. If you talk to any soldier who works with the Iraqi people on a daily basis as I do, I think you will be hard-pressed to find a soldier who doesn’t think we did the right thing by removing the evil and destructive regime that tortured these people for better than three decades.

The horrors these people had to endure are unspeakable. And I know because I have listened to so many of them tell me how they were treated like pigs, or how their fathers and husbands were tortured and killed right in front of them because they wouldn’t sell their souls to Saddam or his extreme ideas. Some of my soldiers live on a compound that was used to torture and murder countless people, many of whom were thrown into a large chemical pool for failing to show allegiance to the regime. In Baghdad, there were large areas that didn’t even have electricity, while the regime lived in marble palaces torturing women. The “people’s palaces” as Saddam always called them, but if you even drove on the road outside of my palace compound without permission, you were detained, tortured and/or killed. You should have seen my interpreter, Mr. Ali, the first time he came to work for me. He was terrified at the prospect of going to one of these so-called “people’s palaces” where I work and live because he was never even allowed near one.

I work with so many Iraqis each day who try to explain the depth of their gratitude for our being here. They watch the news now because they can finally have more than one channel, and Saddam and his propaganda machine do not run it. They see the American media and politicians bickering and complaining about all of this WMD nonsense. They are terrified that we’ll leave before our mission is accomplished because of it. I listen to the citizens of my Al Mansur District and watch as their tears of joy for our presence turn to painful memories of the horrific evil this man has used to terrorize them. They beg me to understand and comprehend how happy they are for what the United States has done for them. They beg me to ask my family and friends to tell all the American people that we have removed the only weapon of mass destruction that really matters!  These are their words not mine. They can’t believe how many Americans apparently don’t think we did the right thing by coming here as quickly as we did.  I reassure the Al Mansur citizens that the media and the politicians don’t represent the majority opinion of the American people. I hope I’m right. If not, maybe messages like this one will open some eyes.

If you think that President Bush acted in haste and should have sought more diplomatic means of removing Saddam, tell that to my friend, Mr. Karim.  He was a pilot and a Colonel in the Iraqi Air Force until 1996. He was sitting at home in March of that year when some of Saddam’s cronies knocked down his front door and beat him, tied him up, and took him away to prison right in front of his wife and six small children. To this day, he has no idea why he was arrested, but he suspects that it had something to do with a joke he told about Saddam to some other pilots during a lunch break. While he may never know the exact reason for his arrest, he definitely knows why he’s alive today. It’s because the American military rolled into Baghdad in March of 2003, just two days prior to his scheduled death by firing squad. I now have the privilege of working with Mr. Karim on a daily basis because he is the manager of my battalion’s phone center and Internet café. He finds great joy in providing a service to my soldiers that allows them to stay connected to their families back in America. If you think we should have waited until the United Nations was ready to take action against Saddam, then I’d like to give you Mr. Karim’s address and you can tell his wife and children all about it.

Don’t ever get the idea that one American soldier’s death in this country has been in vain. As sad and difficult as it is to lose one of our own, our cause is noble and just. I know it, and hopefully you do too. Now we are establishing local representation in the form of neighborhood councils and district councils so the voices of the people can be heard. No doubt there is some resistance from Saddam loyalists and other terrorists connected to Al-Qaeda, but the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis are happy to have us. Last week, I was gaining estimates on repairs for one of the schools in my district for young women aspiring to become schoolteachers. While there, a 17-year-old came up to me and thanked me for making her free. She spoke very good English and asked me if I had a family. I told her I have an incredible wife and an adorable little girl, and of course I proceeded to show her a dog tag I wear that has a picture of my girls on it. She said, “I pray that God will show you many blessings and return you back to your family safely. You have done many wonderful things for us, and I have never been so happy.” WOW! What an experience. I can’t even explain what that does to your motivation to complete this vital mission.

Baghdad, Iraq, is a long way from Fort Riley, KS, and I’d rather be in Kansas.  However, I am doing well here. The heat is intense but cooling off quite a bit, and sometimes the vehicle convoys produce a bit of anxiety as the “bad guys” are using tactics that attack the convoys. The attacks are very sporadic, though, but you never know when it could be your convoy that gets hit. A good rule we are practicing is to change up the time and direction that we travel when we need to get around the city. It really is true, Baghdad, on a daily basis is probably as safe as any major city in the USA.

Baghdad is about 7 million people once they all come back from being displaced from Saddam’s regime. There are many former military people and folks that were pretty connected with Saddam who are surrendering any alliance they had with him. However, it is really hard to know whom to trust. The neighborhood surrounding our palace complex is fairly safe. Many of the former Ba’ath party members live in this area and they don’t want any trouble now. This is an upper middle class area. As I said in my last letter, I have the “Beverly Hills of Baghdad.” It does not mean, however, that underneath all their smiles and thumbs up they are not still operating under Saddam’s cause, so that keeps us on our toes. It only takes one person a few seconds to create havoc on an otherwise quiet day.

We are staying at the Al Salaam Palace compound (which means “The Peace Palace”), or as we affectionately call it, the “Four Heads” palace. It used to be home to one of Saddam’s three wives and has his trademark opulence and arrogance written all over it. “Four Heads” gets its name because of the four figures of Saddam, one at each corner of the palace. The palace is about 150 feet tall and each of the four heads on the corners is a 40-foot bronze bust of Saddam. This guy sure thought a lot of himself and built his empire on the backs of his people, most of whom live in third world poverty. He thought so much of himself that every palace you see has a 20-foot wall surrounding it with his name inscribed on every section of the perimeter wall, thousands of times over. His picture used to be everywhere, that is, until we got here. My brigade had a mission called Operation Smiley Face. Back in July, every unit in my brigade simultaneously spent one night painting a 4-foot bright yellow smiley face on every image of Saddam we could find in our respective zones. Above the smiley face it read, “Have a Nice Day!” and below it read, “We’re here to help!” The citizens of Baghdad woke up the next morning to a positive message of hope from the “Kansas Brigade.”

The Air Force (I wouldn’t go to war without them) sure left their calling card on this place. It is amazing to see the precision strikes and to actually see how pinpointed their targets were. They hit what they targeted and left surrounding buildings fully intact. The palace, along with other residential buildings on the palace compound, was hit pretty hard. You can see where they used the “bunker buster” bombs on the palace. The eight stories of the palace have holes in the marble floor that go all the way to the basement/bunkers. It’s pretty eerie to see the damage that the U.S. military can do. Makes me glad I’m on the American side.

Some of the buildings we are occupying have indoor swimming pools, or I should say, used to. The looters had their way with this property so that we were without electricity and water for a while, and have to use Port-a-Johns since toilets were stolen and plumbing was partially destroyed. It will be a long time before electricity will get fully restored to these people. In the meantime we have 50K generators to run some of our equipment, which is why I can write to you on this computer. As the days reached upwards of 130 degrees in August and September, we hoped to have the pools repaired so we could cool off. We weren’t successful, but some of the guys have rigged up little pools using their mechanic tarps as liners and using sand bags to build up the walls. My guys are very ingenious when it comes to figuring out creature comforts.

I am very proud to lead these stellar soldiers who would give everything to take care of their buddies. I was honored recently when one of my soldiers told me that he would take a bullet for me. When they have to get down to business and go out on patrols or missions they do great work and make our country proud.  Generally speaking, they know how to be gentlemen when they have to be, but confident soldiers, too. Let’s just say that there is plenty of room for God to work in their lives and I pray and sense He is using me. There are some very good Christians in the mix, too, and they are a real blessing. They hold up the banner for Christ and serve as a light in this darkness. It is amazing to realize we battle one enemy constantly and that is the devil. He has greatly infiltrated our ranks, but God is having an impact and convicting some of these soldiers to be Christian soldiers. Very rewarding!

It is with a sense of honor I serve my country and God together in this unique leadership and ministry opportunity.

In His Mighty Grip, Captain Kevin Bouren   (Romans 8:38-39)