Saturday, July 01, 2006

Celebrate the 222

As we prepare for the July 4 celebrations this week, I have been pondering the 222 and their safe return back to Southern Utah. I am sure that many families are now relieved that their loved ones are home, safe and sound.

A great editorial appeared in the Spectrum this past week. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, I am reposting it here, because it sums up exactly how I feel. I have always said that it does not matter how you feel about the Iraq War - these men and women who are serving our country deserve our highest level of respect. There is nothing more difficult than doing what they have done, and there is nothing more trying on a family to have a mother or father, son or daughter, husband or wife, away from an extended period of time, especially when they are in such a dangerous situation. And so, without further adieu, here is the article in its entirety. And yes, the Mark Hollingshead mentioned herein is the same Mark Hollingshead who is married to yours truly.

Welcome home, 222. We are *all* proud of you.

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Celebrate Troops Success
From the Spectrum, June 26, 2006

Nearly 2,500 United States soldiers have lost their lives and tens of thousands have been seriously injured since the Iraq war began in March 2003. It is chilling to contemplate what these soldiers and their families have sacrificed, but it is our charge now to celebrate their service and honor their contributions.

Though America has divided its allegiance to the Bush administration and the rightness of the mission - with nearly 60 percent saying the United States made a mistake in going to war in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll conducted, June 9 - Southern Utah's loyalty to the troops has been steadfast.

Even those opposed to the Iraq war knew not to place their anger and blame at the feet of the soldiers sent to fight, but toward the bureaucrats who sent them. Antiwar protesters donated Kevlar body armor to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan; and, closer to home, the welcoming home ceremonies for the Utah National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 222nd Field Artillery planned in Cedar City and St. George have been made possible by grassroots, public and private partnerships - regardless of political party affiliation.

In fact, forethought of what would await the Triple Deuce, mentally and emotionally, was also heavily considered with the unanimous passage of House Bill 407, Counseling for Families of Veterans. The mandate was spearheaded by two Iron County Democrats - Mark Hollingshead and Larry Daniel - despite their national party's vehement opposition to the war. It was also sponsored by a Democrat, Rep. Tim Cosgrove of Murray, and supported by the Guard, the State Department of Veterans Affairs and other veterans groups.

This bipartisan support that occurred late in the state legislature's general session is also the unfailing support extended to all Armed Forces troops, not just the Triple Deuce. Now is our time to stand up and be counted and commemorate the military duties that have been fulfilled, and those still yet to be fulfilled.

It is going to take more than pasting decals on car bumpers or yellow ribbons that read "Support Our Troops." All returning soldiers are going to need validation. Accounts have been set up to assure the ceremonies do just that; but in the meantime, these soldiers deserve some private, uninterrupted time with their families to reorient themselves from a battle abroad that has created 550,000 Iraq war veterans in the last four years.

Here in Southern Utah, as in other parts of America, our devotion to the troops transcends politics, religion and personal opinion about the war. We can rejoice in what these brave defenders of freedom have accomplished. It's their glory that matters, not the adversarial climate surrounding the war and the political panderings so prevalent during an election year.
So, attend the ceremonies, contribute to the bank accounts, wave the U.S. flag and express your gratitude to every soldier you meet.

Originally published June 26, 2006

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