Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Iraq - A Maturing Process 

This past weekend we had the opportunity to meet a young American soldier on leave from Iraq since December 24. His visit was unexpected because Mike, as I'll call him, didn't tell anyone he was coming home - in case it didn't come to pass.

Mike, 20, is assigned to a National Guard (NG) unit helping our Marines. He'd been in the NG over two years when his unit was sent to Iraq. Of course we are concerned but meeting Mike, listening to him share his experiences, watching his father's reaction to his son's communication was a heartwarming experience. I wish to share some of what this fine young man had to say.

He joined the NG, learned skills and knew that if called upon, he would help defend his country. In the beginning, Iraq was not in the picture. Things change. As Mike now knows what is planned is not necessarily what will happen.

I asked him about Internet access because it's often limited to 30 minutes a day. Mike and his buddies, located on a large base with facilities similar to college dormitories, decided they needed more I'net access so they pooled their money, bought a dish, wired their building and now have I'net access 24/7. This is American ingenuity - identify the problem, find a solution, implement.

He uses the system to take classes on line. During his R & R he noticed his NG unit was getting a significant number of new recruits. "They will need leaders. I'm taking these courses so I can apply for those leadership positions when I return at the end of my tour."
This is a young man who will go somewhere. Though Iraq is a tough experience, Mike has gained exposure to a significantly different culture; learned teamwork; decided to take the initiative to improve his skills; realized there are opportunities.

His dad is very proud of him, rightly so. A son, not too sure of himself when he left, has returned mature and confident. He has an idea of what he wants to do with his life. As he said, it may change, but now, he has direction, purpose, and awareness that we have it pretty good.