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Why We Are Here
Discussion Board on this Respect item
Why We Are Here
Michael S. McGurk
8 November 2004
One must ask with the daily reports of death and destruction in Iraq why
are we here? Why? What for? What are we doing? Is it making a
It is a difficult question and one I will make an attempt to answer,
although I doubt I will satisfy everyone's ideals. The best explanation
I can give is to provide you with two stories. Two stories separated by
years but still relevant to today.
In 1998 I was fortunate to visit the beaches of Normandy, France. I was
on a tour of the invasion beaches with a group of gentlemen from
Virginia. They were all veterans of the Second World War. Not all
served in France, some in Africa, Italy or the Pacific. However, one of
the gentlemen was a veteran of D-Day. He had come ashore that terrible
day, 6 June, 1944.
We stood at the end of Omaha beach, in the narrow defile the 29th
Infantry had cleared. The beach of "Saving Private Ryan." The 29th
Infantry from Virginia, lead by the 116th Infantry Regiment, assaulted
that draw at Omaha Beach. They won the battle, but at a heavy cost.
The 116th Infantry took over 800 casualties that day. Alpha Company,
took 90% casualties and the town of Bedford Virginia, lost 19 of the 35
sons they sent to fight.
The gentlemen who had been on the beach that day turned and looked at
the rest of us. He said, "This is not how I remember the beach, it
didn't look at all like this..." Then he pointed to the beach, devoid
of obstacles, with now fresh, clean sand, and two children playing in
the surf, and he continued "... but I guess this is why we fought here,
so children COULD play on the beach again." And then he fell silent.
Was Hitler a direct threat to the US? Did we have to storm the beaches
of Normandy that day? Could we have waited months or years for a
political solution? I certainly don't know. But I have traveled across
Normandy and spoken to the people of the small towns and farms. They
are grateful for what the World did that day. They desired to be
liberated from a brutal dictator, and they desired to be free.
The second story is more recent, here in Baghdad. Baghdad is a
dangerous place. Travel is risky and infrequent compared to other parts
of the world. So if you get a chance to travel, you try to make all
your errands on one trip. One of the chaplains from Baghdad had been
out on mission, visiting the soldiers. On the way back in, the chaplain
asked the soldiers if they wanted to stop by the small Post Exchange for
supplies. The soldiers jumped at the chance.
While walking to the Post Exchange the soldiers, and the Chaplain, were
approached by several small children. You have seen these children. I
have seen these children. In the streets of Vietnam, Korea, Somalia and
Haiti. Large eyes and a shy smile. They speak the English patois of
the street "You want gum G.I.?" "Give me candy?" There is an unwritten
law that Chaplains always have candy.
One of the children approached the Chaplain, and looked at the Cross on
the Chaplain's helmet, where the rank is found on other officers. In a
quiet voice the child asked "Christian?" The Chaplain answered "Yes,"
and the child asked again "Messiah?" and the Chaplain said "Yes, I
believe in the Messiah." The child then reached under the thin t-shirt
and pulled out a cross, showed it to the Chaplain, then quickly kissed
it and put it away, making the sign to be quiet to the Chaplain. The
Chaplain smiled and nodded in understanding. The child wanted us to
know they were Christian too, but in Baghdad, such a proclamation
invites death or a beating a the hands of the mob.
Why are we here? It is NOT to bring Christianity to Iraq. But it is to
bring Freedom. Freedom to follow whatever religion you practice, or
none at all. Freedom to walk the streets of Baghdad and to live in
Why are we here? I think of the men who died on the Beaches of Omaha,
and the children of Baghdad, and I can't answer why others are here.
But I know why I am.
MICHAEL S. McGURK