Though it has been nearly a year since I graduated from USF and moved away from Tampa, my thoughts have never left the university that I grew to love and called home for almost four years. I have been all over the United States and the world since I left USF, spending nearly six months in Oklahoma, three in North Carolina and now almost two months in Kuwait and Iraq.
I remember being at USF near the end of my senior year and just waiting to go off to my officer basic course so I could join my fellow Army brothers and sisters in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Now that I am here, several of my friends ask me if my thoughts have changed since I am now finally doing what I said I wanted to do for a while. The answer is definitely no. Many people really don’t understand what is going on over here in Iraq. They see all the death on the news but do not see the good that the Coalition soldiers are doing each and every day.
I ask you to remember that as you walk to your classes at Cooper Hall or the Social Science Building there is an Army or Marine soldier walking down the streets of Baghdad, not only trying to protect himself and the lives of his fellow soldiers, but he or she is bringing food and water to the grateful people of a war-torn nation. The large majority of the people here in Iraq are very grateful that we are here and doing what we are doing.
But as the saying goes, one bad apple can spoil them all. I used to be one of those people who thought that if it was on the news, it must be true, so I understand why several have the mindsets they have. But if you stepped foot in this nation and had been able to talk to the people with an open mind, then and only then would you see the true good that comes from a war such as the one we are fighting.
I have walked the streets of Iraq. I have talked to the people. I have been invited to weddings, city council meetings and families’ homes. I have learned more about the people of this nation in two months than I could have in 10 years at any university in the United States.
The war here has already started, so there is no use in arguing about the reasons why it began or who’s to blame. What we need to do now is figure out how we can help the people of Iraq get their government in place. But not just any government, it needs to be a government that will serve and protect its people and not its officials.
It needs to be a government that works for the people and not against them. I know I don’t speak for the Army when I say this, or anyone in the Army other than myself, but I am here for the long haul.
I understand that nations cannot be built in a day. Whether it takes six months or 10 years, I believe we need to be here to give the people of Iraq what they have never had and that which we Americans take for granted every day. We need to give them a lifetime of freedom and not just a taste.
Support your soldiers and their mission in Iraq. Don’t let them risk everything for nothing, but most of all don’t let those soldiers who have died die in vain.
Pray for them, and then pray for us all.
Second Lieutenant Samuel Nirenberg is stationed with the 1/252 AR Battalion in northern Iraq and is a USF alumnus.