I know the MSM and the liberals will never understand the kind of people described below. It’s easy to understand why when you realize none in their midst are heroes such as these:
BUHRIZ, IRAQ – It was nearing midnight as Pfc. Nicholas Outen and his platoon moved silently down an alley in this Sunni enclave of canals and palm groves, on a night of raiding houses with the Iraqi police. The patrol paused, and Outen had just crouched at a street corner when a large blast threw him backward.
“I saw a flash and a boom and was smashed against the wall,” recalled Outen, 20, of Baltimore. His shoulder was ripped by shrapnel from a bomb that exploded 15 feet away, killing an Iraqi policeman. Five in Outen’s platoon were wounded, including his team leader, Sgt. Nathan Rohrbaugh, who lay bleeding on top of him.
The Nov. 17 attack would draw together an already tightknit platoon, now on its second tour in Iraq. For Outen, it was doubly significant: On the same day that he became eligible for a Purple Heart, he reenlisted in the Army.
Across Iraq, U.S. soldiers risking their lives daily in combat are also re-upping by the thousands, bolstering the Army’s flagging manpower at a time when many young Americans are unwilling to serve.
Since 2001, the Army has surpassed its retention targets by wider margins each year, showing an unexpectedly robust ability to retain soldiers in a time of war.
While the force is facing a shortfall in recruitment of new soldiers, it raised its retention goal this year by 8,000 people and still exceeded it, with nearly 70,000 soldiers, or 108 percent of the target, choosing to stay in the Army.
On palace rooftops and pockmarked streets, GIs are reenlisting in rituals that range from dramatic to harrowing. Soldiers have taken the oath in gaudy former residences of Saddam Hussein and in the spider hole near Tikrit where the fugitive was captured in December 2003. One cavalryman reenlisted on a median of Baghdad’s treacherous airport road; others made the pledge during a lull in fighting in the battle for Fallujah in November 2004.
More than 4,000 soldiers from Outen’s 3rd Infantry Division have reenlisted in the past year, including 117 who raised their hands together at a mass ceremony north of Baghdad in April. The division, whose tanks spearheaded the U.S. invasion in 2003, was the first to serve two tours in Iraq. Even so, this year it chalked up the highest retention rate among the Army’s 10 active-duty divisions, hitting 137 percent of its goal.[…]Despite the risk and long months away from home, many soldiers such as Outen say serving in Iraq gives them a powerful sense of purpose, a chance to use their skills and cement a bond with fellow soldiers who become like an extended family. […]For Sgt. Scott Brown, duty in Iraq is — above all — a steady job.
“I reenlisted because I have two girls at home,” Brown, 37, of Saginaw, Mich., said as he pulled on his body armor and headed out on a midmorning patrol with Bayonet Company. “This is a good way to support my family.”
Brown said he tried leaving the Army once for civilian life in the mid-1990s, driving a forklift for an Ace Hardware store in Seattle, but found it lacking. “You didn’t have a lot of benefits,” he said. “It’s pretty hard out there if you don’t have something lined up.”[…]Sgt. Colton Ryan Neal stood before the Never Forget Garden Memorial — a tiny plot of grass meticulously kept alive amid the gravel, armored vehicles and dirt barricades of his Baqubah base — and raised his right hand. Engraved on a plaque behind him were the names of three fellow soldiers from Bayonet Company, which is why he chose this spot to reenlist for six years.
“Those are the real heroes right there,” said Neal, 21, of Jacksonville, Fla., who wears a metal band on his wrist for each of his fallen comrades.
Surrounded by his platoon, Neal said he had planned to leave the Army but changed his mind after coming to Iraq. “We’ve had plenty of IEDs [bomb explosions] and firefights together, shooting over each other’s shoulder. That pulls you together,” he said.
“I wouldn’t say I love them any more” than family, he said, “but I don’t love them any less.”
Specialist Gary Orvis, a Bayonet Company medic and former firefighter from Titusville, Fla., recalls the mid-November clash in Buhriz as one of the moments that define why he’s in the Army.
After the bomb exploded, Orvis, 30, was kneeling under a rain of dust and debris when, out of the darkness, he heard cries of “Doc! Doc!”
“It was bloodcurdling,” he recalled.
Orvis rushed toward the voices almost robotically, checklists of treatment running through his head. “What do I got? What do I got?” he shouted.
Then he saw his good friend Rohrbaugh, a boisterous, red-haired West Virginian, sprawled on top of Outen. “Seeing your best friend opened up on the ground … ” he said, his eyes welling up.
Orvis stayed calm, quickly stopped the bleeding and saved Rohrbaugh, who is now recovering at Fort Benning, Ga.
These guys are the real deal.