I was fascinated to watch the exchange between actor Richard Belzer and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen ("Into the lion's den," Inside Politics, March 26, 2006). I have completed four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. I participated in the initial invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and parachuted into Iraq three years ago this month. Most recently, I had the privilege of leading an infantry company in Mosul, Iraq. I use this as context, not authority, because, according to Mr. Belzer, participating in a conflict indicates a lack of understanding.
When I was younger, my father made me read a book by James Michener, "The Bridges at Toko-Ri." When I finished, I told him the book was about naval aviators during the Korean War. He looked at me a little disappointed and told me I had missed the point. The book to him was not about pilots or the Korean War — it was about the bravery of men. At the end of the book, the captain of an aircraft carrier is watching his men suit up for yet another mission when he asks himself out loud, "Where do we get such men?
Why is America lucky enough to have such men?" Today, while actors and talk-show hosts see fit to broadly characterize the men and women of the armed forces as "19- and 20-year-old kids who couldn't get a job," we should be asking the same question.
I wish Bill Maher, Richard Belzer and the young adults of my generation who comment from campuses and talk shows all over the country and mistake knowledge for understanding could see what's really happening over there. I welcome their right to disagree, but I wish they would educate themselves well enough to disagree intelligently.
They should see a 22-year-old spend two hours sitting on a hard concrete floor negotiating an electricity contract or generator plan only to hit an improvised explosive device emplaced by the very people he seeks to help; a 19-year-old female medic advise a 19-year-old Iraqi mother on how to treat her child's ear infection; or men still dazed from a bomb blast that killed a friend and wounded seven others return from a mission and roll up their sleeves to give blood for the wounded, then clean the blood out of their vehicle to do a night patrol.
They do it without ceremony or formality; they do it because it is their job and they are driven by sense of purpose few in other professions can understand.
"Where do we get such men?" From all over — not just America, but from many other countries, but I know for sure the dedication required to do what they do every day is equal to the demands of any "real job."
The above letter was written by (then) Cpt Paul Carron, to the editor and published in the Washington Times in March 2006. A friend, father, husband, athlete, and true leader of men.
Maj. Paul D. Carron, 33, of Mo. died Sept. 18 at Qalat, Afghanistan. Rest in peace my friend.