Letters from home

Dear soldier,

Thank you for your service. Thank you for leaving your friends and family behind in an effort to protect my nation, your nation, our nation.

Thank you for hanging in there as members of your platoon, people you knew in basic training and your countrymen die next to you.

The news services tell me only 20 GIs died in Iraq in February, the lowest number since combat began. Twenty still seems like way too many to me, but hey, that’s the cost of freedom, right?

Pentagon officials say the drop in death tolls is the result of a shift made by Iraqi rebels from targeting U.S. troops to targeting their fellow Iraqis who may be cooperating with U.S. troops. That must be really frustrating — going over there to help the Iraqi people only to find your presence puts them in harm’s way. It must be a horrible feeling.

Steve Baggs Illustrator

The officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also said they don’t believe the U.S. military death toll will continue to decline. They believe you and your fellow troops will soon face some of the greatest danger you will see during your service. This danger comes with the rotation, which will occur in the next few weeks, of more than 100,000 troops into and out of Iraq.

The war in Iraq has been officially over for almost 10 months now, yet you’re still there, and it sounds like more of your fellow soldiers are on their way to join you.

Did you hear our president just made the decision to send troops to Haiti? Yeah, the idea is to send between 1,500 and 2,000 troops there to head an international stability force. Two hundred marines from the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, N.C. were shipped out Monday to join the approximately 200 U.S. soldiers already on the ground there. Did you know anyone at Cherry Point? I didn’t, but I’m worried for their safety, just as I am for yours.

This is the second time in the last decade the United States has sent soldiers to Haiti, located 600 miles off the coast of Florida. The last time was in 1994. Former President Bill Clinton sent more than 20,000 soldiers to the nation in order to restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power after he was removed by a coup.

But I guess I shouldn’t worry about the situation in Haiti turning into something similar to what you are going through in Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says this operation in Haiti will be “nothing like the 20,000 troops that went in 10 years ago.” And I have no reason not to believe him. I’m sure that weapons of mass destruction thing was just a mix-up.

Anyway, I heard Iraq is on its way to a democratic government. White House spokesman Scott McClellan just announced that the interim constitution for Iraq is modeled much after the United States and was accepted by the Iraqi Governing Council. That seems like really good news. Maybe you’ll get to come home soon.

I want you to know I can’t wait for you to get home. I miss you and I’m proud of you. Please be safe out there.

Love, Aimee

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