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The Men Who Won The War (Excellent!)
National Review ^ | May 19, 2003 | Jim Lacey

Posted on 05/07/2003 8:54:48 AM PDT by Fred Mertz

National Review
May 19, 2003

The Men Who Won The War

An 'embed' looks at our soldiers

By Jim Lacey

Since returning from Iraq a short time ago I have been answering a lot of questions about the war from friends, family, and strangers. When they ask me how it was over there I find myself glossing over the fighting, the heat, the sandstorms, and the flies (these last could have taught the Iraqi army a thing or two about staying power). Instead, I talk about the soldiers I met, and how they reflected the best of America. A lot of people are going to tell the story of how this war was fought; I would rather say something about the men who won the war.

War came early for the 1st Brigade of the 101st Airborne when an otherwise quiet night in the Kuwaiti desert was shattered by thunderous close-quarters grenade blasts. Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a U.S. soldier, had thrown grenades into an officers' tent, killing two and wounding a dozen others. Adding to the immediate confusion was the piercing scream of SCUD alarms, which kicked in the second Akbar's grenade exploded. For a moment, it was a scene of near panic and total chaos.

Just minutes after the explosions, a perimeter was established around the area of the attack, medics were treating the wounded, and calls for evacuation vehicles and helicopters were already being sent out. Remarkably, the very people who should have been organizing all of this were the ones lying on the stretchers, seriously wounded. It fell to junior officers and untested sergeants to take charge and lead. Without hesitation everyone stepped up and unfalteringly did just that. I stood in amazement as two captains (Townlee Hendrick and Tony Jones) directed the evacuation of the wounded, established a hasty defense, and helped to organize a search for the culprit. They did all this despite bleeding heavily from their wounds. For over six hours, these two men ran things while refusing to be evacuated until they were sure all of the men in their command were safe.

Two days later Capt. Jones left the hospital and hitchhiked back to the unit: He had heard a rumor that it was about to move into Iraq and he wanted to be there. As Jones -- dressed only in boots, a hospital gown, and a flak vest -- limped toward headquarters, Col. Hodges, the 1st Brigade's commander, announced, "I see that Captain Jones has returned to us in full martial splendor." The colonel later said that he was tempted to send Jones to the unit surgeon for further evaluation, but that he didn't feel he had the right to tell another man not to fight: Hodges himself had elected to leave two grenade fragments in his arm so that he could return to his command as quickly as possible.

The war had not even begun and already I was aware that I had fallen in with a special breed of men. Over the next four weeks, nothing I saw would alter this impression. A military historian once told me that soldiers could forgive their officers any fault save cowardice. After the grenade attack I knew these men were not cowards, but I had yet to learn that the brigade's leaders had made a cult of bravery. A few examples will suffice.

While out on what he called "battlefield circulation," Col. Hodges was surveying suspected enemy positions with one of his battalion commanders (Lt. Col. Chris Hughes) when a soldier yelled "Incoming" to alert everyone that mortar shells were headed our way. A few soldiers moved closer to a wall, but Hodges and Hughes never budged and only briefly glanced up when the rounds hit a few hundred yards away. As Hodges completed his review and prepared to leave, another young soldier asked him when they would get to kill whoever was firing the mortar. Hodges smiled and said, "Don't be in a hurry to kill him. They might replace that guy with someone who can shoot."

The next day, a convoy Col. Hodges was traveling in was ambushed by several Iraqi paramilitary soldiers. A ferocious firefight ensued, but Hodges never left the side of his vehicle. Puffing on a cigar as he directed the action, Hodges remained constantly exposed to fire. When two Kiowa helicopters swooped in to pulverize the enemy strongpoint with rocket fire, he turned to some journalists watching the action and quipped, "That's your tax dollars at work."

Bravery inspires men, but brains and quick thinking win wars. In one particularly tense moment, a company of U.S. soldiers was preparing to guard the Mosque of Ali -- one of the most sacred Muslim sites -- when agitators in what had been a friendly crowd started shouting that they were going to storm the mosque. In an instant, the Iraqis began to chant and a riot seemed imminent. A couple of nervous soldiers slid their weapons into fire mode, and I thought we were only moments away from a slaughter. These soldiers had just fought an all-night battle. They were exhausted, tense, and prepared to crush any riot with violence of their own. But they were also professionals, and so, when their battalion commander, Chris Hughes, ordered them to take a knee, point their weapons to the ground, and start smiling, that is exactly what they did. Calm returned. By placing his men in the most non-threatening posture possible, Hughes had sapped the crowd of its aggression. Quick thinking and iron discipline had reversed an ugly situation and averted disaster.

Since then, I have often wondered how we created an army of men who could fight with ruthless savagery all night and then respond so easily to an order to "smile" while under impending threat. Historian Stephen Ambrose said of the American soldier: "When soldiers from any other army, even our allies, entered a town, the people hid in the cellars. When Americans came in, even into German towns, it meant smiles, chocolate bars and C-rations." Ours has always been an army like no other, because our soldiers reflect a society unlike any other. They are pitiless when confronted by armed enemy fighters and yet full of compassion for civilians and even defeated enemies.

American soldiers immediately began saving Iraqi lives at the conclusion of any fight. Medics later said that the Iraqi wounded they treated were astounded by our compassion. They expected they would be left to suffer or die. I witnessed Iraqi paramilitary troops using women and children as human shields, turning grade schools into fortresses, and defiling their own holy sites. Time and again, I saw Americans taking unnecessary risks to clear buildings without firing or using grenades, because it might injure civilians. I stood in awe as 19-year-olds refused to return enemy fire because it was coming from a mosque.

It was American soldiers who handed over food to hungry Iraqis, who gave their own medical supplies to Iraqi doctors, and who brought water to the thirsty. It was American soldiers who went door-to-door in a slum because a girl was rumored to have been injured in the fighting; when they found her, they called in a helicopter to take her to an Army hospital. It was American soldiers who wept when a three-year-old was carried out of the rubble where she had been killed by Iraqi mortar fire. It was American soldiers who cleaned up houses they had been fighting over and later occupied -- they wanted the places to look at least somewhat tidy when the residents returned.

It was these same soldiers who stormed to Baghdad in only a couple of weeks, accepted the surrender of three Iraqi Army divisions, massacred any Republican Guard unit that stood and fought, and disposed of a dictator and a regime with ruthless efficiency. There is no other army -- and there are no other soldiers -- in the world capable of such merciless fighting and possessed of such compassion for their fellow man. No society except America could have produced them.

Before I end this I want to point out one other quality of the American soldier: his sense of justice. After a grueling fight, a company of infantrymen was resting and opening their first mail delivery of the war. One of the young soldiers had received a care package and was sharing the home-baked cookies with his friends. A photographer with a heavy French accent asked if he could have one. The soldier looked him over and said there would be no cookies for Frenchmen. The photographer then protested that he was half Italian. Without missing a beat, the soldier broke a cookie in half and gave it to him. It was a perfect moment and a perfect reflection of the American soldier.


TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News
KEYWORDS: army; embeddedreport; iraqifreedom; jimlacey
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I received this article via e-mail. I couldn't locate it online and hope I haven't broken any rules here.
1 posted on 05/07/2003 8:54:48 AM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: SLB; Squantos; Jeff Head; Wally Cleaver; Recon by Fire; logos; leadpenny
I enjoyed reading this and thought you might too.
2 posted on 05/07/2003 8:56:36 AM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: Fred Mertz
Superb article. A fitting tribute to those with whom I will be serving very soon now. I can't wait!
3 posted on 05/07/2003 9:05:26 AM PDT by Future Snake Eater (All generalizations are false.)
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To: Fred Mertz
"Don't be in a hurry to kill him. They might replace that guy with someone who can shoot."

One of the young soldiers had received a care package and was sharing the home-baked cookies with his friends. A photographer with a heavy French accent asked if he could have one. The soldier looked him over and said there would be no cookies for Frenchmen. The photographer then protested that he was half Italian. Without missing a beat, the soldier broke a cookie in half and gave it to him. It was a perfect moment and a perfect reflection of the American soldier.
Classic, all-American stuff. Got to put the entire article on my site.


4 posted on 05/07/2003 9:06:52 AM PDT by Jeff Head
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To: Howlin; Miss Marple; rintense
You guys will love this.
5 posted on 05/07/2003 9:08:39 AM PDT by McGavin999
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To: Fred Mertz
Great read---just another example of why the US is different than the rest of the world---and yes you can read that to mean BETTER
6 posted on 05/07/2003 9:08:56 AM PDT by jnarcus
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To: Fred Mertz
Dated May 19th ... hasn't come out yet ... looks like you got an early peak.
7 posted on 05/07/2003 9:11:38 AM PDT by Jeff Head
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To: Fred Mertz
"Ours has always been an army like no other, because our soldiers reflect a society unlike any other. They are pitiless when confronted by armed enemy fighters and yet full of compassion for civilians and even defeated enemies."

Says it all!
8 posted on 05/07/2003 9:12:00 AM PDT by NFOShekky ("Bomb Them Back To The Stoneage!" Gen Curtis LeMay)
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To: Fred Mertz; BlueLancer; dighton; Poohbah; aculeus; general_re
Ping, and the wonderful ending to great post...

One of the young soldiers had received a care package and was sharing the home-baked cookies with his friends. A photographer with a heavy French accent asked if he could have one. The soldier looked him over and said there would be no cookies for Frenchmen. The photographer then protested that he was half Italian. Without missing a beat, the soldier broke a cookie in half and gave it to him. It was a perfect moment and a perfect reflection of the American soldier.

9 posted on 05/07/2003 9:12:32 AM PDT by L,TOWM (Liberals, The Other White Meat)
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To: Fred Mertz; 1Mike; 3catsanadog; ~Kim4VRWC's~; A CA Guy; A Citizen Reporter; abner; Aeronaut; ...
Excellent is right. Thanks for taking the time to post this.
10 posted on 05/07/2003 9:17:07 AM PDT by Howlin
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To: Future Snake Eater
You better take care of yourself!
11 posted on 05/07/2003 9:18:16 AM PDT by Howlin
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To: Fred Mertz
An excellent read indeed,

Thanks for posting it

12 posted on 05/07/2003 9:22:05 AM PDT by MJY1288 (Freedom is Ringing)
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To: Howlin
Absolutely wonderful! What a great start to my day. Thanks.
13 posted on 05/07/2003 9:22:19 AM PDT by GOPrincess
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To: Howlin
Howlin, great read - this is one to pass on to others. Thank you!
14 posted on 05/07/2003 9:23:09 AM PDT by Inspectorette
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To: Fred Mertz; L,TOWM; Poohbah; hellinahandcart; Chancellor Palpatine; hchutch; Travis McGee
Outstanding. Thanks for the post and ping.
15 posted on 05/07/2003 9:24:04 AM PDT by dighton (Amen-Corner Hatchet Team, Nasty Little Clique, Vulgar Horde)
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To: Howlin
Thanks for the ping. This is a wonderful article.
16 posted on 05/07/2003 9:24:34 AM PDT by retrokitten
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To: Howlin
Wonderful piece.
17 posted on 05/07/2003 9:26:20 AM PDT by fml
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To: Howlin
BUMP
18 posted on 05/07/2003 9:27:02 AM PDT by Search4Truth (When a man lies, he murders part of the world.)
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To: dighton; Poohbah; Howlin; Miss Marple
Dead on target.

This is why I read National Review and the Weekly Standard. I would also consider it animal cruelty if anyone were to let their dog/parrot/cat read Buchanan's rag.
19 posted on 05/07/2003 9:28:46 AM PDT by hchutch (America came, America saw, America liberated; as for those who hate us, Oderint dum Metuant)
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To: Howlin
This is from a journalist based on his own observations and experiences. I have said all along that one of the “victories” that I hoped would come from this would be that by virtue of the close association with Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors the press would be taught. Perhaps this will turn the tide from the viscerally anti-military feeling in the press corps and will mute the development of the Clintonesque political set that, because they have no experience to demonstrate otherwise, allow the press to form their judgments.

The press – cynical and jaded and relativistic – has seen now that Honor, Courage, Integrity, Loyalty are very real and noble concepts that DO have relevance in men’s lives. Maybe it will be better for this generation and the next - perhaps even beyond the battlefields - because the Pentagon chose to reach out to the press.

The above comments arrived with the article and whose anonymity I will protect.

20 posted on 05/07/2003 9:32:00 AM PDT by Fred Mertz
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To: WaterDragon
This thread is more like it.
21 posted on 05/07/2003 9:36:53 AM PDT by Pukka Puck
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To: Fred Mertz
I agree with your friend. I HOPE this is what happens. If this article is any indication, this was a very wise move.
22 posted on 05/07/2003 9:40:01 AM PDT by Howlin
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To: Pukka Puck
bttt
23 posted on 05/07/2003 9:40:22 AM PDT by gcruse (Vice is nice, but virtue can hurt you. --Bill Bennett)
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To: Fred Mertz
This Col Hodges is like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now ;-)They are all brave and fine men.
24 posted on 05/07/2003 9:41:35 AM PDT by habs4ever
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To: Fred Mertz
nice post Freddo
25 posted on 05/07/2003 9:41:39 AM PDT by aloysius89 (The TRUTH shall set you free.)
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To: Fred Mertz; Howlin
Thanks for the post and the ping! It's an absolutely wonderful read!

No where but the USA are there men such as these.

26 posted on 05/07/2003 9:47:11 AM PDT by dixiechick2000 (Never have so many been so wrong about so much.)
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To: Howlin; Fred Mertz
Thanks for the ping, Howlin, to this EXCELLENT article.

And thank you, Fred, for posting it.

Except for just a very few whiners, I have heard nothing but "good" from embedded reporters. Now, if we can just get these reporters into decision making positions within their respective organizations!
27 posted on 05/07/2003 9:53:22 AM PDT by justshe (#6 ..........on the top ten lairs list.)
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To: Fred Mertz
WOW!!! ... Excellent Article

Thanks for posting this Fred
28 posted on 05/07/2003 9:59:27 AM PDT by Mo1 (I'm a monthly Donor .. You can be one too!)
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To: Fred Mertz
No society except America could have produced them.

And since much of our society is based on British customs and ways, it makes sense that the Brits, along with the Aussies, produce much the same soldier. The AngloAmerican way.

29 posted on 05/07/2003 10:05:07 AM PDT by Paradox
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To: Howlin
Thanks, bump to read later...
30 posted on 05/07/2003 10:06:41 AM PDT by firewalk
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To: Howlin
Thanks for the ping.

When two Kiowa helicopters swooped in to pulverize the enemy strongpoint with rocket fire, he turned to some journalists watching the action and quipped, "That's your tax dollars at work."

Daring, brave AND witty. Helluva combination.

31 posted on 05/07/2003 10:06:53 AM PDT by TexasNative2000 (The joy of the Lord is my strength)
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To: Fred Mertz
Thanks so much for posting this, Fred.
32 posted on 05/07/2003 10:10:52 AM PDT by Catspaw
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To: HalfFull
You'll enjoy this......
33 posted on 05/07/2003 10:15:55 AM PDT by Al B.
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To: Howlin
Thanks again, Howlin !! This is the kind of reporting that had I hoped would come out of embedded media. These men are heroes, and this should go a long way toward countering years of bad press and worse movies.
34 posted on 05/07/2003 10:17:40 AM PDT by lorrainer (Oh, was I ranting? Sorry.....)
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To: spetznaz; Gunrunner2
ping
35 posted on 05/07/2003 10:18:40 AM PDT by VaBthang4 (Could someone show me one [1] Loserdopian elected to the federal government?)
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To: Howlin
Thanks for the ping!
36 posted on 05/07/2003 10:19:00 AM PDT by annyokie (provacative yet educational reading alert)
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To: Fred Mertz
Fred, thanks for posting this article! I like this picture, I hope you do too.
37 posted on 05/07/2003 10:24:04 AM PDT by annyokie (provacative yet educational reading alert)
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To: Howlin
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/904542/posts

It didn't get much attention at the above post.. This time maybe more will see it. It's a good read.....
38 posted on 05/07/2003 10:30:55 AM PDT by deport (Beware of Idiots bearing gifts.... One maybe the FR Joke)
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To: annyokie
BUMP!
39 posted on 05/07/2003 10:32:34 AM PDT by walden
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To: walden
Thanks! Here's another keeper:
40 posted on 05/07/2003 10:36:38 AM PDT by annyokie (provacative yet educational reading alert)
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To: hchutch
yeah, but the hard copies work well under the litter boxes & on bottom or bird cages...
41 posted on 05/07/2003 10:58:23 AM PDT by DollyCali (Authenticity: To have Arrived !)
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To: DollyCali
But again, the animals would have to read it, and that is cruelty, if you want my opinion.
42 posted on 05/07/2003 11:00:17 AM PDT by hchutch (America came, America saw, America liberated; as for those who hate us, Oderint dum Metuant)
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To: hchutch
Guilty as accused. Get out the flat whisk
43 posted on 05/07/2003 11:04:35 AM PDT by DollyCali (Authenticity: To have Arrived !)
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To: Paradox
Military is the only institution teaching manners any more. That and the Boy Scouts and they're trying to kill them.
44 posted on 05/07/2003 11:18:27 AM PDT by johnb838 (Understand the root causes of American Anger)
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To: McGavin999
A beautiful article! Well worth the read. I suspect many imbeds will have a change of heart after their experience.
45 posted on 05/07/2003 11:41:29 AM PDT by rintense (Freedom is contagious. And everyone wants to catch it.)
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To: VaBthang4
Thanks!!
46 posted on 05/07/2003 12:10:56 PM PDT by Gunrunner2
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To: Heuristic Hiker
Ping
47 posted on 05/07/2003 12:20:04 PM PDT by Utah Girl
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To: Fred Mertz
We love our military !!!

48 posted on 05/07/2003 12:22:26 PM PDT by pbear8 ( sed libera nos a malo)
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To: SeenTheLight; American Preservative
You might enjoy this one!
49 posted on 05/07/2003 12:32:59 PM PDT by pbear8 ( sed libera nos a malo)
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To: Fred Mertz; Howlin
A million thanks to you, Fred, for posting this excellent article...to you, Howlin, for the ping to it; and to the embedded reporter who wrote it, my heartfelt thank you for sharing this beautiful and truthful first-hand account. To all our troops, eternal thanks.
50 posted on 05/07/2003 12:35:22 PM PDT by Carolinamom (Glad I'm an American)
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