I posted the story about Major Jim Gant a few days ago. Now, Richard S. Lowry, after speaking with Major Gant, follows up with a piece about celebrity and heroism and American society:
May 9, 2007
Richard S. Lowry
America is caught up in a debate of whether we should bring our troops home or if we should make one last attempt to bring peace and stability to Iraq. Yet, we don’t pay attention to the details of the war. Last weekend, an American hero received one of the Army’s highest honors – a Silver Star. His award was largely unnoticed, overshadowed by Paris Hilton’s incarceration.
Late last year, Major James Gant and his men were returning home to Baghdad after weeks of fighting insurgents. Gant and his advisory team were riding in up-armored HMMWVs. These were not the HMMWVs of Jessica Lynch’s era. These were mini-tanks on tires with bullet proof-glass, blast-proof armor plate and turret mounted machineguns. His men, Iraqi National Police, were riding in soft-skinned trucks.
Al-Qaeda had planned an elaborate running ambush in which they hoped to destroy the unit that had been their nemesis for more than a month. They had prepared three separate ambush sites along a four kilometer stretch of road. Gant and his commandos were forced to run a gauntlet of machinegun fire, mortar attacks and IEDs. The story of Gant’s, fight that day is an amazing tale of heroism, filled with scenes you would expect to see on the silver screen. Gant repeatedly risked his life to save others. The insurgents had planted IEDs hoping that an explosion would force the embattled convoy to stop.
Gant ordered his driver to drive straight for the first IED. As they rolled within twenty feet, the device detonated. Miraculously, Gant’s HMMWV was unscathed. Gant kept the column moving through a vicious gun battle. Another IED lie only five hundred yards ahead. Again, they went after the planted explosive and, again, a thunderous explosion failed to disable Gant’s vehicle. Almost clear of the ambush, Gant noticed a third IED. He continued to push forward, bringing his convoy safely through the torrent of fire. Had Gant hesitated, good men would have died.
Last weekend, Major Gant spoke at his award ceremony. He has personally made the sacrifice to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq, and he continues to sacrifice every day. Here is what a soldier, a hero, had to say about our current debate:
The best friend I have ever had is an Iraqi. He is the best man I have ever known. He fought with me on 11 December. He can’t go home after a hard day of work. He can’t see his father or mother or brother. He can’t live any type of normal life because every time he leaves the [Green Zone], people want to kill him. I bet you would not be so fast to want to leave here if you knew him.
If you knew Colonel Dhafer, a great commander and leader, ...one of the best friends I have ever had, if you knew Major Fadil, who pulled me out of a burning [HMMWV]…, if you knew Captain Khais, if you knew Salaam, or Abbas, or Ali; all are brave warriors who fought with incredible courage that day and I would gladly and without hesitation lay my life down for all of them. If you knew them as I do, you would not be so quick to want to leave. If you could see with your own eyes the evil that is perpetrated on innocent men, women and children here on a daily basis, you would not be so quick to call it quits.
Colonel Dhafer, you and brave men like you are the hope and future of your country. I wish I were the hope and future of my country. Because if I were, I would not leave you until this job was done. No matter the sacrifice. No matter the price.
Is it any wonder that so many Americans don’t understand what we are doing in Iraq, when the Main Stream Media does not tell us stories like that of Major James Gant and his Iraqi comrades? How can we understand the Iraqi people when we don’t even know what our sons and daughters are doing to bring peace and stability to the people of Iraq? Iraq is so much more than car bombs and IEDs.
Richard S. Lowry is the award winning author of the best selling book, “Marines in the Garden of Eden,” Berkley, New York, 2006. He is an internationally recognized military historian and author. Richard served in the U.S. Navy Submarine Service from 1967-1975 and spent the time from 1975 to 2002 designing sophisticated integrated circuits for everything from aircraft avionics to home computers. Richard turned to serious writing after 9/11 and published “The Gulf War Chronicles,” iUniverse, New York, in 2002. He is currently working on his next book project. “The Surge” will tell of General Petraeus’ attempt to win the peace in Iraq. For more information on Richard and his work, visit www.marinesinthegardenofeden.com.