Thanksgiving In March From Ramadi Don
My pal in Ramadi, Colonel Don of the USMC, cc’d me on his note to my pal Dennis Prager. I have Don’s permission to post it:
Dear Dennis,I’m a long time listener to your radio show, although my current job assignment precludes me from being as devoted a listener as I would like at this time. Also, I’ve had the great privilege to meet you in person on two occasions when you came to speak in San Diego, a few years ago. I was the person that told you that my son and I were both Marine Reservists who served in Iraq during 2003.I’m writing to you from Iraq and since it’s Friday, and you will be hosting the “Happiness Hour” today, I wanted to let you know that I’m one happy Marine, even though I’m far away from home, my family, friends and civilian employer, for a one year tour of duty. As a long time listener to the Happiness Hour, I know first-hand about the importance that gratitude plays in one being a happy person.First of all, I’m thankful for being a happy person, because I know how important it is, not just for my own well-being alone, but as a leader of young Marines and Sailors, I know that I am personally responsible for the well-being of my Marines and Sailors as well. I know that the personal example I provide my troops, through my words and deeds, effects the well-being of those around me. Believe it or not, one can be happy, even in an austere and sometimes miserable environment, such as that to be found in a combat zone. Your faith in God, your buddies who “watch your back” and a good sense of humor helps to sustain you in such situations. It’s been said that “there’s no such thing as an atheist in a combat zone.” I believe this to be true. That’s why it distresses me so whenever some people attempt to initiate efforts to abolish Chaplains from the military services.When I’m home in California, I’m thankful for my civilian employment, that provides my family with our livelihood.I’m thankful for the love of a good woman, as well as my children, extended family, friends and acquaintances. They all make life’s journey more sweet and memorable. Even here in Iraq, they are with me.I’m thankful for the freedom we enjoy and the comforts (one should say luxuries) that most of us usually take for granted. I’m thankful for good art, good literature, good music, good food, good wine and beer and, on very special occasions, a good cigar.Whenever I’m deployed with the Marine Corps to a combat zone I find that what I’m grateful for becomes more basic:I’m thankful everyday that I’m alive.I’m thankful for sunrises and sunsets. You should see the sun set over the Euphrates River. It’s one of the most beautiful things my eyes have ever seen.I’m thankful for the moon and stars in a clear night sky.I’m thankful whenever the air I breathe doesn’t smell or taste like dust. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to dust. Who’s ever heard of a Marine who’s allergic to dust and grass? Well, at least there’s no grass anywhere near where I’m located. LOL. Last time I went to Iraq, I developed a case of asthma that took me two and one-half years to recuperate from. I’m glad to be serving my country again in Iraq, even though my asthma may return because of my near constant exposure to dust. Every time I’m in a vehicle convoy I taste dust, even when I’m wrapped up like the mummy.I’m thankful for bottled water to drink.I’m thankful for the good food we eat here in our field dining facilities. As my 1st Sergeant said, “they feed us like it may be our last meal.”I’m thankful for a clean, dry bed to sleep in.I’m thankful I don’t have to live in a tent this time.I’m thankful for clean laundry and clothing that doesn’t feel or smell like dirt.I’m thankful for running water. That way I can at least wash my face and shave every morning.I’m thankful for flush toilets, no matter how fragile the plumbing system.I’m thankful for air conditioning and ice cream when it’s 120F outside.I’m thankful for mail. E-mail’s OK, but you really know you’re special when someone takes the time and trouble to sit down with pen and paper and write you a letter or send you a card. It’ like they’re giving of themselves to you. You really know who cares about you when you receive “Snail Mail.” What’s particularly moving to me is when you receive mail from total strangers, like when you receive cards and letters from school children and church groups that you don’t know, but they know you because of your family members and friends.I’m thankful that I have access to a telephone, so that I am able to call home on occasion and hear the voices of my loved ones.I’m thankful for the all volunteer military. I’m glad we have a military of professionals. There’s nothing worse than to be in a war zone with a bunch of malcontents.I’m thankful for my fellow service members. They are truly “America’s best and brightest”, no matter what some people say.I’m thankful that most Americans support the troops.I’m thankful for the selfless veteran’s groups that made us feel welcome and appreciated during our transit to Iraq; at midnight at a virtually deserted airport in Bangor, Maine, even when the temperature was zero degrees outside.I’m thankful that unlike during Vietnam, this time the anti-war protesters aren’t spitting on the troops or calling us “baby killers.”I’m thankful for the American Taxpayer, who has bought us good weapons and equipment, with their hard earned money. This equipment may one day save my life, or the lives of one of my men or women. I never take the generosity of the American People for granted.I’m thankful for “up-armored” vehicles that are designed to help protect us from bullets and roadside bombs (known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs). I’m also thankful that I’ve not had to put it to test yet.I’m thankful that whenever I’ve heard shooting, except for a couple of occasions, it wasn’t in my general direction. On those other occasions, I’m grateful that I’ve had ballistic glass and plenty of sandbags around me.I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve My Country. I pray that my efforts will make my country and the world a safer place to live.I’m thankful for, and humbled by the fact, that through my direct efforts, I will have a significant impact on the future success of a nation that is in the process of becoming a democracy.I’m thankful that I was born and raised in the United States of America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. We Americans have been blessed with such a unique and special country to call home. The United States is truly an exceptional nation that has been a blessing to the entire world. When you see America’s power amassed in war, like I have, it’s no wonder that America’s enemies should tremble at our strength and power. At the same time, there is no more generous country than the United States of America. As the Marines of the 1st Marine Division from Camp Pendleton, CA say: there is “no greater friend and no worse enemy.” I wish America’s greatness and “manifest destiny”, as well as the values of our Judeo-Christian values system which are the foundation of Western Civilization, were still taught with pride in our public schools.I’m thankful for those brave Americans that have preceded me. They sacrificed so much for us. “All gave some, and some gave their all.” “For those who have fought for it, life has a special flavor that the protected never know.”I’m thankful that most of my fellow citizens “get it” with regards to war in Iraq and the Global War on Terror.I’m thankful that my Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush, has the courage of convictions, even when the decisions he makes are difficult and frequently not popular. We need more leaders like him.I’m thankful for my faith in God which sustains me through good times and bad.I’m thankful for my friend Hugh Hewitt. (who even springs for lunch on occasion. LOL)And last, but certainly not least, I’m thankful for Dennis Prager, a gentleman who helps keep me focused on the most important things in life. Just yesterday, one my Iraqi interpreters, who is from Baghdad, told me that most of his Iraqi friends desperately want to know about America and Americans. I told him that Dennis Prager taught me that everything that Americans value can be found on a coin: “Liberty, “In God We Trust” and E Pluribus Unum” (out of many one).The world needs more Dennis Pragers and Hugh Hewitts.God Bless you and your listeners, and God Bless America. God shed His grace on thee.“Ramadi Don”P. S. In case you were wondering about the time difference, I sent this e-mail at about 6:40 PM, Friday Evening.