A Pen Pal's Questions Before Going to Iraq

A Prince George County, Virginia elementary school class has adopted our unit as pen pals. Their first stack of letters arrived a couple of weeks ago, and we each chose our pal by picking randomly from the stack.

My pal is a self-described blonde haired, blue eyed, fourth grade girl who's on her school's cheerleading team. Her questions, though simple to ask, have proven difficult to answer.

Written in pencil and curly longhand on school notebook paper without a date, her letter begins "Dear Soldier" and asks, "How do you feel about being in the war? Are you scared, or are you excited?"

I am excited and intrigued by going to this "war". During my one year tour of duty as a pilot, I will be able to get as much flight experience as I'd have gotten in six years as a regular National Guard pilot, flying one or two weekends a month.

In trying to tell my friends how I feel about being deployed after 10 years of training and part-time service at home, I have used a simple analogy that I think works pretty well. Serving in the Guard for 10 years without being deployed is like studying to be a doctor and completing the curriculum, but never practicing medicine. I have dedicated one third of my life to training for the possibility of deployment and now I am able to put that training to use.

I am not scared ... yet. As I fly at night and see tracers and small arms rounds burning their paths around me, as I hear them whiz by the aircraft, I expect that my attitude will change instantly. I'm sure I will develop a respect for the dangers I will encounter, but only time will tell how much fear I'll feel as I suit up for each mission. Regardless, I am going on this deployment whether I am scared or not, so why create more stress than necessary?

I know my parents and friends are the ones that are scared right now. I have tried my hardest to reassure them that I will be safe, but know that much of the danger I will face is beyond my control.

I feel I am ready to get started on this part of my life -- the way I'd feel were I embarking on any other life changing event, like getting a new job in a new city or leaving the safety of college to join the real working world.

In a word, nervous. Not sweaty palms nervous, but nervous in the sense of being curious and (no doubt) naive. I have no real idea what the next year has in store for me or for my new friends in my unit, but hope and expect to record what I discover here in this blog -- and perhaps in letters to my Virginia pen pal.

By Bert Stover |  February 8, 2006; 5:00 AM ET  | Category:  Preparation for Departure
Previous: A Gripe About Pay | Next: Traveling to Iraq

Comments

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Dear Mr. Stover,
I just wanted to mention that you may have more "Pals" than you know about. I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that while not all us may write to you personally, we have come to know a little about you and read your blog regularly. As a citizen of this country, I care about all of our service men and woman who are serving (or will be serving) abroad. However, now that I've come to know a little bit about you, you are more than a statistic. I know that you will be in my prayers any in my thoughts. Should you be injured (and I sincerely hope that doesn't happen) I will be saddened, and should you perish, I will morn your loss. When the time comes, watch your back and keep your head low. As you described how you feel, I couldn't help but notice that it was similar to the sentiments expressed by those who are decorated as Heroes. You know the risks, you feel the nervousness, but you set them aside and you do what you've been trained to do. Please keep writing as I intend to keep reading. Best wishes...

Posted by: S.Sanchez | February 8, 2006 12:02 PM

For christ sake - what is this propaganda, Blond bue eyed girl sending letters to a unknow soldier on the front! Wake up.

Posted by: Kustaa Punkari | February 8, 2006 01:51 PM

I hope that your tour of duty goes well and that you return safe and sound. Since I am a pacifist, I hope that you also do not have to hurt anyone and that all of the troops can come home soon.

I don't know what sort of pilot you are for the military, but I also hope that you are not asked to bomb civillian targets, and that if you are that you will decline the order as illegal.

As you probably know, at the start of the Iraq war, civillian homes were bombed in Baghdad in the hope of killing Saddam Hussein. Whole sections of civillian apartments and homes were hit with white phosphorous or otherwise blown up in Fallujah because they were near other buildings that might be holding insurgents.

I do not mean this post to be impolite or disrespectful to you. Though I am a pacifist, I am not naive and I know how difficult the business of war is and how gray the lines can be for someone in your shoes. I certainly do not blame you for the war nor could you be expected not to follow legitimate orders.

That said, however, as I am sure you know, you will be flying over a lot of totally innocent people and I hope you will fully consider what you are doing if and when you press the button to drop a bomb, even for a seemingly good military reason.

Posted by: Ed | February 8, 2006 02:02 PM

I am a blue-eyed female who sends letters to soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen - it is not propoganda. It is true concern for a group of people who are willing to defend our way of life. I have been told my letters give some cheer and warm feelings to those who are far from home and miss the everyday, ordinary things we take for granted. I appreciate the service these men and women give our country. Kustaa, you should wake up. Most Americans are decent people who love and support these brave souls that defend our country. I am glad to do a small part to help our military. Bert, I wish you the very best - come home safe and sound!

Posted by: G Pergament | February 8, 2006 02:07 PM

I'm confused about your use of quotes when you write ...going to this "war"

I wish you well, and hope you won't have to discover how much of a real war it is.

Posted by: Brian | February 8, 2006 02:08 PM

Kusta, that's not an appropriate comment. I'm not in favor of the war, but what I am in favor of is appreciating our service folks who put their lives on the line while we sacrifice nothing. And little blond-haired little girls appreciate that fact, too.

If you have an argument against the war, take it to a more appropriate venue.

Posted by: Proxl | February 8, 2006 02:13 PM

hahaha more appropriate venue. hahaha.

Posted by: asdf | February 8, 2006 02:20 PM

You have all trained hard for this eventuality. When it comes down to execution you will fine and it will feel, in many ways, like you are just on another training mission.

"Train as you fight" used to just be another stupid Army saying to me, but after experiencing Iraq I found that I was prepared exceptionally well - and I trust that you are all trained exceptionally well also!

Posted by: CW3 Gordon Cimoli | February 8, 2006 02:41 PM

Berto-

Good to see you on the cover of the Post. Keep up the good work...looking forward to getting you back up to NYC for too many beers when you return.

Posted by: Guiney | February 8, 2006 03:08 PM

Imagine my surprise to see a Yates2S on the homepage of Washingtonpost.com. Quite the accomplishment for one of my fellow ORL staffers. I did quite the double-take on the home page, drifting past a part I usually skip when I thought, he looks familiar. . . I am glad to hear you are well and pensive as ever. I thought of you the other day driving to Madison County VA, for a client's traffic case, passing the sign for WFS "next left."

I hope you stay safe and return soon. If you are in the DC area, drop me a line. I will keep track of you. Can we ship you goodies overseas?? Anything you miss?

Posted by: CMH | February 8, 2006 03:23 PM

Hi, Bert, Marsh keeps us up to date on your activities. Know that we are all thinking of you in Richmond and are PROUD to know such a great guy! I'm really enjoying the articles...Let us know if you need ANYTHING while deployed. I'd like to be supportive in some way other than just "in spirit." By the way, I have brown eyes and brown hair!!!

Posted by: Rita Earl | February 8, 2006 03:38 PM

Wishing everyone deployed a safe return...

I think we do (& will) owe answers to future generations. I believe that we should know the answers to questions such as why we fought the war, was it worth it, were we scared, etc.

If you can't answer those questions, then the war has no business being fought.

Posted by: amo | February 8, 2006 03:44 PM

Good luck Bert, we miss you here! Hope you see you again, safe and sound.

Posted by: Somen | February 8, 2006 03:51 PM

Reporting offensive comments: The below:

"I have used a simple analogy that I think works pretty well. Serving in the Guard for 10 years without being deployed is like studying to be a doctor and completing the curriculum, but never practicing medicine."

Offensive. Doctors help people and most importantly do no harm. The author is going off to kill people living in their own country, people who never attacked us.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 03:53 PM

Hey, folks, cut this warrior a little slack, okay? He has and is serving his country in a role that few of us would choose. His offered analogy of his training with that of a medical doctor is not off base. Were it not for this "overkill" feature of U.S. military training, we would not be able to field the best fighting force the world has ever known. And for your information, I am not a supporter of the Iraq war and I believe that our leaders lied us into it. But it is not Bert's fault nor that of his fighting buddies. Credit him with the courage to follow his convictions and to act when others only complain.

Posted by: CrackerJack | February 8, 2006 04:10 PM

Hey Kusta !

Quick suggestion here, if you have such a problem with defending your country's vital security interests why wouldn't you and I trade our nationalities ??
I'm a Belgian by the way (should you be tempted, we never know)

'Cause you know what dude ??

People like Mr. Stover would make me feel DAMN PROUD TO BE AMERICAN !!!

Posted by: Jean | February 8, 2006 04:21 PM

Wars of agression will cease when people of conscience refuse to cooperate. Doctors do no harm. Military pilots in wars of aggression blow innocent people to smithereens. That is not Bert's fault, and he is no more to blame than any other gullible party; it's just a fact. In years to come thousands of veterans will return and suffer nightmares. The blame lies with the architects and profiteers of war. There is and can be no greater crime than aggressive unprovoked war.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 04:22 PM

Commanded by the worlds most powerful and hated terrorist, George WMD Bush!

http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/lies.mp3

Thanks for defending Tyranny and the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, and not the U.S. Constitution or her borders!

The president of the United States and commander in chief of the American armed forces has vowed to protect and defend Israel, militarily if needed, against Iran.

It's a good thing we just helped out the Shiite Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution win those theocratic elections in Iraq.

I thought George Bush took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, not Israel. Is Israel going to give up its secret nuclear programs or its weapons of mass murder? Is the United States going to renounce violence and smart bombs?

If we are going to invade a country in the Middle East that bullies its neighbors, has banned weapons and ignores U.N. resolutions, we should bomb Israel.

The cowardly corporate state-controlled media is too terrified of being called anti-Semitic to do their goddamn jobs.

The American people have been lied to over and over - about World War I, Pearl Harbor, World War II, JFK, Watergate, Vietnam, Iran-Contra, Sept. 11, 2001, anthrax, Iraq and Iran - so why shouldn't we question history, including the Holocaust? The truth does not need laws to enforce it. There is no freedom without the freedom to say no.

Posted by: US Forces are a terrorist Organization | February 8, 2006 04:31 PM

Some will suffer nightmares because they will blame themselves for what they have seen and done. They will be mistaken.

Others will be angry and blame the criminals like Cheney and Rumsfeld. I sincerely hope that Bert is among them.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 04:34 PM

Doctors are good for society. So are soldiers:

******
It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

***********

Posted by: SLT | February 8, 2006 04:39 PM

You hope the guy suffers nightmares? What a loser.

Why don't you hope he has a peaceful mission, delivers food to some people who are hungry, builds a school for those who want to learn, or hope he flies fast and saves the life of a wounded comrade. Why don't you hope he gives hopes to others instead of hoping he views politics through the very sad eyes you possess.

Get a life.

Posted by: Bob Roberts | February 8, 2006 04:41 PM

Dear Mr. Stover,

I don't always agree with this Iraq war, however, my respect for all of you who serve our country knows no limit. I've never wanted to be in the military, yet I am grateful every night that there are men and women who accept this responsibility. I wish we'd never gone into Iraq in the first place but tonight I will add you and all of the members of your unit to my prayers. I hope you return to your families safe and soon.

Bill

Posted by: Bill Herman | February 8, 2006 04:42 PM

Some will not blame themselves and suffer nightmares because of what they have seen and done. They will be angry and blame the criminals like Cheney and Rumsfeld. I sincerely hope that Bert is among them.

I have a life. It does not include glorifying or even justifying unprovoked aggressive wars, which are the scourge of human history, the mother of sorrow and the maker of orphans and widows.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 04:47 PM

Dear Mr. Stover - You seem like a courageous and honorable person. As a decent human being and a pilot,I would like to hear your understanding of how courage and honor apply to the use of airpower against Iraqis who lack any air capability, offensive or defensive?
Thanks very much

Posted by: ItTakesAMilitaryIndustrialComplex | February 8, 2006 05:03 PM

Mr. Stover,

I appreciate your honesty in your discussing your upcoming deployment. It is my sincere hope that you come home safely. It is my equally sincere hope that while you are there and after you come home, you will honestly share with us what things are really like in Iraq today.

Posted by: AJ | February 8, 2006 05:31 PM


Liberals,

I cannot stand you. Get out of our country.

Posted by: DA | February 8, 2006 05:48 PM

Bert,
I am a warrant and a pilot as well. I just got back from Iraq in JAN 06. You will be scared, tired, excited, bored, angry, sad,disgusted and many more emotions. The most important tip for you and your unit, "Don't push the weather", I cannot state this strongly enough. Also, Keepm your eyes on the crewdogs, they will work themselves into the ground and keep on going, IF they look tired or whipped, dont always trust their answer, give them the day or night off and set them down. Good luck and be safe, see ya around Rucker. JP

Posted by: CW2 JP | February 8, 2006 06:09 PM

Bert, this is the first time I have read your blog, I have many friends and family in the military that have been in Iraq and Afghanistan.... I wish you a safe journey and return..

To the people with negative comments: Please save them for another time, this article is not about the politics of the war. This soldier, like all soldiers (and all airmen, sailors and marines), does not get to make the political decisions involved with who/when/where we fight. Show some respect to the people who are serve the institutions that protect this country and save protesting for the decision makers.

Posted by: J | February 8, 2006 06:20 PM

Re: Show some respect to the people who are serve the institutions that protect this country...

Unfortunately those institutions are not protecting our country. Unprovoked aggressive war does not protect us. It threatens our integrity and our very existence.

RE: ...and save protesting for the decision makers.

In a democracy we are all decision makers. In addition, it is useful to turn every discussion toward the fundamental issue of unprovoked aggressive war and its negative consequences until the day when the criminals like Cheney and Rumsfeld face the consequences. People like Bert Stover are among the victims of their crimes. In fact we all are: our country is much less secure as a result of the unjustified invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 06:32 PM

Curious that those who decry American bombing as causing the death of Iraqui civilians have not one word of protest of the terrorists who deliberately murder thousands of civilians by bombs or execution.
Thank God for every Americn in our armed forces. It's they who make it possible for us to feely express our opinions.
That includes those who believe that everything the U.S. does is wrong.

Posted by: marco | February 8, 2006 06:32 PM

To Andy Klatt: Thank you for spouting off. Your bitterness and disconnection from reality serve to remind me of why I'm not a liberal.


To Mr. Stover: Safe flying, and God bless you.

Posted by: Jeff Parks | February 8, 2006 06:33 PM


To the people with negative comments: Please save them for another time, this article is not about the politics of the war. This soldier, like all soldiers (and all airmen, sailors and marines), does not get to make the political decisions involved with who/when/where we fight. Show some respect to the people who are serve the institutions that protect this country and save protesting for the decision makers.
*******************

You're right. Sorry, Bert and to the rest of the board. Bert, fight well and be safe. God bless.

Posted by: DA | February 8, 2006 06:34 PM

Thanks SLT, BOB and especially Bert, You all are the best of the best and we know it. Those who risk all so that others may enjoy the freedoms, that they in the Military may not even completely enjoy during their service, are given the highest consideration and honor by any with eyes wise enough to see clearly. Can only say two things 1. you protect the foolish as well as the worthy and
2. you are in the loving thoughts and prayers of the majority of us everyday... never forget it.

Posted by: reverendli | February 8, 2006 06:54 PM

Bert - What a surprise to see your picture and name on the home page of washingtonpost.com today! Its been seven years since we were at "the Burg". I've been reading through your archives, and am amazed at how much you are willing to share, not to mention the time and thought it takes to write all these posts. Best wishes for your deployment and as others have written before me, let me know if there's anything I can do (pray, send letters, care packages, etc.). Most importantly, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF and let your fellow soliders know that there are many of us here in the USA who value your service and dedication to your country, and who realize the value of your sacrifice. Best wishes & God Bless!

Posted by: Maureen | February 8, 2006 06:57 PM

"I feel I am ready to get started on this part of my life -- the way I'd feel were I embarking on any other life changing event, like getting a new job in a new city or leaving the safety of college to join the real working world."

I believe you quickly will learn that going to war (with or without the quotes) is something quite different from getting a new job or leaving the safety of college. War is hell.

Posted by: jay | February 8, 2006 07:21 PM

Your family and friends should be very proud of your level of commitment. The way you can put your fears on the backburner and do your duty is awesome. There are many naive people in this world that go through their lives with their heads in the clouds, and refuse to believe that parts of this world need help. When you read their comments, know that there are also many that understand that you are fighting for people that can't fight for themselves. As a Canadian, and former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I would like to let you know that despite the Canadian government's stand on the Iraq war, myself and many others in Canada are 100% behind your mission.

Stay strong Bert!,

Ian

Posted by: Ian | February 8, 2006 07:21 PM

Bert:

Glad to read your blog again. I hope you don't have to face as much flak in Iraq as you're getting here. God bless. Stay safe. We're wishing you the best.

Posted by: A friend from work | February 8, 2006 07:31 PM

Re: ...many naive people in this world that go through their lives with their heads in the clouds, and refuse to believe that parts of this world need help.

This is a bizarre view, but many people do swallow the big lie that powerful countries (such as the USA, USSR, Japan, or any number of imperial powers throughout history) invade smaller and weaker ones in order to "help" them.

Between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqis have died thanks to the "help" of Cheney, Rumsfeld and their co-conspirators, who by the way, never claimed to want to "help" Iraq before the unjustified invasion and ongoing occupation that has produced so many widows and orphans and that will produce resentment for decades to come, making the United States less and less safe.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 07:36 PM

Andy if you feel you need to look at who kills more, why don't you look at the Iraq government prior to regime change. War is never antiseptic, but is nevertheless sometimes necessary. Parts of this world continue to live in the middle-ages and since this world has become so much smaller, due to transportation and communication, this is no longer acceptable. If you're someone who prefers to look the other way, go ahead, but don't slam the people who walk the walk; or the decision makers elected by the majority.

Posted by: Andy K's Wrong | February 8, 2006 08:00 PM

You seem to be claiming that the United States invaded Iraq because the government there killed many people. Is that the case?

If so, I'm afraid it's an absurd argument because so many other governments have killed hundreds of thousands of people and the United States has supported rather than invaded them. Examples in the last thirty years: Iraq and Iran (both supplied militarily by US during war in which millions died)Indonesia (supplied militarily by US during genocide in East Timor), Cambodia (genocidal Khmer Rouge government supported by US at the UN to spite Vietnam), Guatemala (supplied militarily by US during genocide against the Maya), United States (3 million Vietnamese dead).

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 08:15 PM

So assuming you're wright Andy, and the civilized world has turned a blind eye to prior bloodshed, does this mean that we should continue to do so? Man, you are one cold hearted dude!

Posted by: Andy K's Wrong | February 8, 2006 08:27 PM

Are you suggesting that the United states invade and occupy Sudan, Somalia, Haiti, Nepal, and North Korea?

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 08:32 PM

All who read
It is obvious that Andy Klatt is just another pathetic sociopath looking for whatever attention he can gain. He represents himself, no higher calling or greater good. The world revolves around him and his view of it. Ignore him, do not respond to him and hopefully he will crawl back under whatever rock he came. Do not feed his ego at the cost of disrespecting soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who are doing their duty for you and our country.

Posted by: cb | February 8, 2006 08:41 PM

Re: So assuming you're wright Andy, and the civilized world has turned a blind eye to prior bloodshed...

I guess by "civilized world," well, who knows what that means?

Reporter to Mahatma Gandhi: What do you think of Western civilization?

Gandhi: It would be a good idea.

But no, the United States has not "turned a blind eye to prior bloodshed." It has actively supported it, as described above.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 08:44 PM

Burt;

Good luck, I'm sure you'll do the right thing over there. Keep in mind that most people regardless of politics are 100% grateful for what you're doing.

To all the people calling him a criminal and what not, keep in mind that beyond being a service member, he's a national guardsman, someone who enlisted in a branch dedicated to defending the homefront and notably reacting to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Guardsman like him save lives. Have some respect.

Posted by: Matt | February 8, 2006 09:00 PM

You're right cb. Andy, go see some of the rest of the world and then decide what the better alternatives are. At the moment you sound very young.

Posted by: Andy K's Wrong | February 8, 2006 09:04 PM

I am not young and I spend a significant amount of time outside the United States. I have been in many countries and I travel internationally at least twice a year.

As for the bhe best alternative... that would be to respect the very first principle of international law: the absolute prohibition against any unprovoked attack on any sovereign country... and the moral principle that large and powerful countries should not attack smaller and weaker ones. All such attacks are unjustified.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 8, 2006 09:13 PM

Andy (and others), its not about whether you are right or wrong (although that is definitely debateable).. this just isnt the forum for it.

I have mixed-feelings about the war, and I am far from conservative, however, hijacking this blog's comments with off-topic discussions about the politics of the war is just wrong. The topic of this blog entry had little to nothing to do with why there is a war in Iraq.. so why try to change the subject to that? The internet is a big place, there is definitely some place where that discussion is going on right now, why not join it there?

It is further wrong to disrespect the individuals who serve(d) in the armed forces of this country, especially to wish ill onto them, unless there is a reason for said disrespect or ill wishes.

Obviously, being that this story does not provide any basis for that, why can you not discuss your complaints in a forum where the topic is appropriate.

You do not have to agree with the war or be a conservative to show proper respect to the troops. Its really sad that the post provides these forums to allow readers to react and repond to articles, and most of the time the forums are dominated by people who represent the extremes and are willing to twist any story to make their completely irrelevant and off-topic points.

Posted by: J | February 8, 2006 09:42 PM

Take care of yourself, your buddies and keep us updated. Do us well over there, Bert!

Hopefully we return the favor.

Posted by: Flag Waving Moderate | February 8, 2006 09:48 PM

Burt,

Please watch out over there, it's never as bad as it looks, it's usually worse. Please know that EVERY American hopes for your safe return, and knows that while you are there, you will attempt to do good works!

Neo-Cons - Please stop attempting to paint liberals as haters of the armed forces, this is absolutely untrue! As a matter of fact, the opposite is true, we don't want to risk soldiers lives in an effort that has been misguided from the beginning, while you seem to be completely blind to the cost of sending these folks abroad!! REAL PEOPLE are losing their lives over there, not just "terrorists" who are defending their country from invaders (OMG!! He put quotes around terrorists, that liberal is so clueless!!) What's clueless is turning a blind eye to the fact that Iraq had VERY limited ties to terrorism before the US got there, and now it's the mecca of it, and as to Saddam being a dirty so-and-so, this is very true, but it didn't stop the Reagen administration, and the first Bush administration from selling every weapon they could to him, and taking the blood-money with a smile on their faces...Cheney's been to Iraq before, there're pictures of him with Saddam...if Dick's so smart, how did he not see this guy coming?

And as to how liberals feel about the military, these are good people striving to do right in an incredibly bad situation. Their actions ARE appreciated, and not an American can go a day without hoping every single one COMES HOME SAFE!!

Sorry for the speach, I get fed up with neocons pretending they're the only ones who care about the men and women overseas, it's sickening....

Posted by: Clay | February 8, 2006 10:05 PM

Wishing you a safe tour! To folks like Andy Klatt who suffer under the notion that military members are gullible automatons...only shows that among those service personnel fight for--for their families, the children of America who may not have to fight later because of brave men and women fighting today--are included those who are too smug in assuming their "brightness" and your lack of it, too undeserving of what you're doing for them. Remember the deserving. Godspeed.

Posted by: Susan | February 8, 2006 10:12 PM

Bert,

I, a self described liberal, do not believe it is necessary to tell you my political views on the war. They are fairly well laid out in the press and by most progressive organizations. What I do believe it is necessary to do is to tell you that I want you to do what you believe are great things while you are over there. Whatever that means to you, just do them. And when you come back home, most (I can't speak for the extremists on either side) folks will support you. I just hope that you have a job or some way to make money when you get back. I get so pissed when I think of how much you guys lay your lives on the line and come back to nothing. Also, thank you for doing something, I admit, I would not have the courage to do: defend our country whatever that means at whatever point in time.

RG

Posted by: RG | February 8, 2006 10:46 PM

Mr. Stover:

I hope you have a successful and safe tour, and return quickly to the States to enjoy that which you fight to protect for us all.

Posted by: Mill_of_Mn | February 8, 2006 10:49 PM

The only reason Andy Klatt is posting in this particular blog is that it made the front page of the washingtonpost.com giving him the wide audience he seeks. I very much doubt he will continue to post once this blog drifts off the front page. Klatt is clearly a passionate antiwar activist, and a true believer in his cause. Therefore, I respect his right to make his opinion heard (though I disagree with his views).

However, flaming posters in this blog by engaging them in a point-counterpoint debate undermines his message and does harm to his cause.

Look around...its mostly well wishers and some old friends posting here. You will not wake up anyone here to your cause nor stir anyone to action against the war. By choosing this forum to try and embarrass people with routine plug-and-play commentary, you only serve to polarize people's viewpoints.

You want to wake up the mindless masses to the evils of American imperialism? I would suggest an alternative forum. The sheep you seek are not here, and you are not as smart as you think.

Posted by: TigerTribe | February 8, 2006 11:54 PM

RE: Also, thank you for doing something, I admit, I would not have the courage to do: defend our country whatever that means at whatever point in time.

I'm sorry to hear that the poster would not have the courage to defend our country. Actually, I'm shocked and I find it incomprehensible to think that we would not all take up arms to defend the country from an invasion or other military attack by hostile forces. Unfortunately, our armed forces are by no means defending our country in Iraq. The unprovoked and justified invasion of Iraq has made and continues to make our country less safe. Meanwhile, the band of terrorists who attacked us have gone unpunished and even rewarded. Thanks to Cheney and Rumsfeld they have scored a great propaganda victory and have a ready supply of US military personnel to pick off in twos and threes. This is a disgusting situation.

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 9, 2006 08:52 AM

Dear Bert:

You fly safe and 'check six'. My son is a USN helo pilot who will be returning from that region soon (God willing). Your chaplain is our pastor, I can identify twice with your deployment. Please help ensure he returns to us safely. God bless you and all your Army and Marine buddies.

Posted by: Mike Foughty, Lt Col USAF, Retired | February 9, 2006 12:01 PM

This blog is intended to let people know what goes on in the daily life of a pilot. Whether he wants to go to war or not doesn't really matter. He has been ordered by our government to go and going he is. When he gets "over there" he will take his orders and fullfill them. Why are you people bashing him for doing what he is being ordered to do. This is what our military soilders do. It is what they have done since the begining of our country. It doesn't matter whether you believe in this war or not. This blog is simply to tell people what it is all like from the eyes of a soilder. Give them a break. They are only doing what they are told to do. I support them and pray God will bring them all home safe. Bert please tell us too about some of the other soilders as well. Your doing a great thing with this. Stay safe.

Posted by: bjlh | February 9, 2006 12:08 PM

There's been more than enough praise for Bert! Let's focus on someone else.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay honor to the men and women of the Bush Administration who have children and grandchildren serving on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those people are...

Uh, those people are...

Hmmmm.

Oh, never mind.

Posted by: E. Etage | February 9, 2006 12:13 PM

Hey, Mr. Stover. I've been reading your posts with interest. A heartfelt salute for your dedication and skill.

When I was in the Army, one of the catchphrases was "America's proud of you." Never more than today.

Good luck, stay safe, and get the job done. I'll look forward to following your continuing story.

Posted by: Brian Smith (onetime soldier) | February 9, 2006 12:30 PM

I agree with Bill Herman. I may not agree with what the political world decides to do with our troops, but I do know I am grateful for every last soldier (including the Red Cross and others who put their lives on the line for our freedom) who is willing to go into the unknown and sacrifice themselves for the freedom of the country I live in. I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN WHERE I AT LEAST KNOW THAT SOMEBODY HAS MY BACK WHETHER IT'S IN THE USA BORDERS OR OUTSIDE OF THEM.

Posted by: Sandy | February 9, 2006 11:46 PM

Bert--
Blowin' a big kiss to you, sweetie. Good luck, stay safe and keep writing.

Posted by: Diana | February 10, 2006 02:58 PM

Have you noticed that Mr. Klatt's comments quickly turned to himself and his visions, opinions, fears and fantasies? Itr is sad that instead of being able to discuss another individual's efforts and sacrifices in their context he must immediately wrap the discussion about himself. Mr. Klatt, do your comments reflect the leadership and vision you claim or the narrow, selfish zero-sum game mentality they project? You need to think about why you had to attack someone in this forum, at this time. This is not about you or your fear-based hatred. If you cannot discuss - meaning accept another's viewpoint as valid and worthy of consideration - with politeness, especially as a guest you should leave it alone. The most abhorrent failings evident in your postings are not the actions of Mr. Stover or governmental leaders dealing in a fog of uncertainty, they are your anti-social personal weaknesses. This thread is about Mr. Stover, if you cannot be civil and collaborative in this forum, seek those that you can be civil with.

Posted by: Jim | February 10, 2006 05:39 PM

Bert,
I don't agree with this war for many reasons. But, my hat is off to you with a bow for serving our country, because to serve is to place others before yourself.
Being a pilot myself, I can tell from your post, you love to fly. I'll pray that your efforts do some good and that you make it back safely. Moreover, I hope you really enjoy the flying there. It could actually be a great opportunity to see a new place from the air and do one of the things you clearly love to do most, fly. But, just remember the addage, "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but not many old bold pilots," Stick to procedures and fly safe. As always, definitly keep an eye on the weather.

Posted by: Matt | February 10, 2006 07:00 PM

An order requiring the performance of a military duty or act may be inferred to be lawful and it is disobeyed at the peril of the subordinate. This inference does not apply to a patently illegal order, such as one that directs the commission of a crime. A military officer has a moral and legal duty to refuse to obey an illegal order, whether it is issued by the president or simply his immediate superior officer.

A crime against peace, in international law, consists of starting or waging a war against the territorial integrity, political independence or sovereignty of a state, or in violation of international treaties, agreements or (legally binding) assurances.

The "territorial integrity" rule means that it is a crime of aggression to use armed force with intent permanently to deprive a state of any part of parts of its territory, not excluding territories for the foreign affairs of which it is responsible;

The "political independence" rule means that it is a crime of aggression to use armed force with intent to deprive a state of the entirety of one or more of the prerequisites of statehood, namely: defined territory, permanent population, constitutionally independent government and the means of conducting relations with other States;

The "sovereignty" rule means that it is a crime of aggression to use armed force with intent to overthrow the government of a state or to impede its freedom to act unhindered, as it sees fit, throughout its jurisdiction.In 1950, the Nuremberg Tribunal defined Crimes against Peace (in Principle VI.a, submitted to the United Nations General Assembly) as

(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

Posted by: Andy Klatt | February 10, 2006 09:05 PM

Andy K
Nobody here cares about what you think or what you say. This blog is to inform people about what is going on with A Co 2/224 Aviation BN. Its not a forum for your war protest. Bert is a Blackhawk pilot and doesn't bomb anything. He will be transporting troops and equipment. So wake up and get off the blog and save it for someone who gives a sh!t.

Posted by: MPR | February 11, 2006 01:48 AM

Bert,

Thanks for writing this blog and sharing your perspectives. I am proud of all of the men and women in Co A, 2/224th and know that you will perform you missions with honor and dedication. Fly high and fast and land softly.

Posted by: Tata | February 12, 2006 08:45 PM

Bert,

I forgot to mention that I have the picture of you and Co A, 2/224th with the side view of a Blackhawk and the U.S. flag that you took while in Yuma as my desktop on my home computers and my computer at work. I printed a copy for my wife and she has it on her desk at school. The picture made us feel much closer to our son and all of you in Co A. I am sure that many others would appreciate it if you posted the picture to this blog. Keep smiling.
Thanks.

Posted by: Tata | February 12, 2006 08:57 PM

Bert, young feller. Never met an Arab I didn't like, and those that didn't like me I understood. American imperialism has been around a long time, it's like who we really are in foreign lands. Try looking beyond the rhetoric that is screamed at you and find the persons. I know you joined the Guard to protect your nation and people not this misadventure. Be safe and come back and defend us where you receive 100% respect.

Posted by: EB | February 13, 2006 12:54 PM

Does anyone besides me hear blah, blah, blah, when they read Andy Klatt postings?! Its like no one will listen to his blah, blah, blah so he has to write it on here in hopes that someone will read what he thinks.

Posted by: military wife | February 13, 2006 09:32 PM

Mr Klatt: At least the self-proclaimed liberal "RG" has the courage to admit that he does not have the courage to defend our country.

That takes alot more self-awareness and guts than many may ever have. If fact, it is just that type of self-awareness and guts to take an unpopular stance that have made this country as strong and independent as it is and hopefully always will be.

Posted by: J | February 13, 2006 11:24 PM

Military wife:

From one military wife to another (which happens to be a wife of a soldier in this unit), WELL SAID....and thanks! Bert, thanks for keeping us posted on everything! The picture that Tata talks about above I think posting it would be a great idea...would love to see it!

To all the people that wish to get into pissing contest on this blog take the suggestion of others and go somewhere else. That is not what this blog was meant for. It truely makes me SICK to know that people have to "out do" one another because of their political views on this blog! Whether you be republican or a friggin liberal, whether you support the war or do not, we all need to support our troops!!! Coming from a family of soliders and sailors it makes me very proud to know that I had grandfathers and a husband and his friends that fight for my freedoms!!! What would we have if not for them?

To all of the soldiers in the 2/224th and to all the Marines that are with them, my family and I wish you the best in this long year ahead! Take care of each other and we pray for you daily! Come home safe!! We love ya!

Godspeed 2/224th!!!!

AV8RYF

Posted by: AV8RYF | February 14, 2006 09:35 AM

AV8RYF:
My husband is also in the unit with Bert, and it makes me sick to read this crap that certain people are posting here!!!! Were it not for troops like our husbands and my father-in-law, my brother and uncles, they might not be able to spout their opinions. So instead of all the negative comments, how about something positive to say for our troops!!!
I for one feel as though it is a slap in the face to all those who are making the sacrifice so others can have the freedom and democracy that we enjoy!!

2/224th take care you all are awesome, and you make us proud!!!THANK YOU!!

Posted by: military wife | February 14, 2006 09:57 AM

I live in the Middle East, about 900 miles from Baghdad. I don't live in Iraq but I do business with an Iraqi engineer there. We do our business over the net but every time we end our conversation we don't know if it would be our last. He has had a few near hits as he zooms around the city of Baghdad trying to get from home to work and back. He shares his stressful stories with me. There is danger waiting for him at every corner but he has no choice and has to risk his life in order to feed his kids. As a person who is living close to the region of conflict I thought my perspective may be useful to some of the readers in this forum. What Mr. Andy Klatt is trying to say is what most people in this region also believe in and that is: This war is not about freedom, it is about oil. And that young men like Mr. Bert Stover are risking their lives for big American oil companies and arms manufacturers. At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I must state that this is not a romantic war like the ones fought in the pervious centuries. This is an economic war. In the late 20th and 21st centuries there are no physical borders to protect. The only borders are the ones around pockets which need to be filled at any cost. Even at the cost of American lives or Iraqi lives. Mr. Klatt is trying to point out that the real victims of this war are Mr. Stover who is flying over my Iraqi client in Baghdad, both of whom may readily lose their lives because both their leaders who were friends at one time are enemies now, for economic reasons. For reasons which logically do not justify initiating a war and killing so many people. So their quarrel has resulted in the creation of a hostile climate whereby innocent and dutiful people like Mr. Bert Stover are placed in the line of fire, lured by the desire to advance their career and to improve their financial position and of course the glory of service in war which is all fine and dandy, at the same time our Iraqi engineers fear for their lives as they go about their daily routine earning a living, and they have NO choice. I think as a human being Andy feels a moral obligation to give Bert a different perspective on the issue and perhaps reconsider the decision he has made. Middle East is a very complex region involving two main pillars of the East and the West, i.e. Islam and Oil. A conscientious soldier or anyone for that matter should spend some time studying the region's political history before getting involved physically or rhetorically. Middle East is not Vietnam, Korea, Granada nor Panama. I repeat it is a highly complex region and requires a lot of background knowledge before any sound comments or decisions are made. FYI, Americans used to have an excellent reputation in this region up until about 50 years ago. Just like Canadians do now around the world. But that's all changed due to changes in American foreign policy which targets control, power and money, as opposed to humanity which it once did. Mr. Klatt is trying to say that war is big business and corporate America will only invest in a war that has substantial returns. A war fought in Iraq is far more profitable than one fought in Sudan. So it only makes economic sense to invest where the returns are highest. Yes, Mr. Stover is contributing to a cause to ensure freedom continues in America, but that's the freedom to drive your SUV's. His integrity and wholesomeness, and his life are being jeopardized for the wrong cause. That's what Mr. Andy Klatt is saying. Thank you for your time.

Posted by: blueberry | February 15, 2006 04:34 AM

Blueberry- First of all, the reason Andy is saying what he is saying is because he is not taking his Zoloft regularly.

As to yur comments regarding the foreign policy of the USofA. Two questions:
Were you present in the meetings when this policy was discussed? Your remarks imply that you have first knowledge.

As sad as your friends life is in Baghdad, would he prefer to live under Sadamm? And does not his greatest fear come from roadside bombs, insurgents, and islamic radicals killing indiscriminately?

Don't try and tell anyone that Americans are flying around in their choppers and firing weapons just to kill people as the insurgents are.

I too am saddened and disturbed by what I see in Iraq. I too question the wisdom of the US going into Iraq. But far be it that I would stoop to the level of Klatt and/or anyone else who agrees with his blasting of the United States. That kind speaks from ignorance and twisted thinking which springs from irrationality within the individual's personality.

Semper Fi Bert
Wondrous Moose - USMC 1953-1963

Posted by: Wondrous Moose | February 15, 2006 10:50 AM

Bert,

Thank you for taking the time and energy to let others know of your experiences.
You are clearly living the four ways to enlightenment:
Showing up, Paying attention, Telling the truth, being Open to the outcome.
This is how people's hearts and minds open, and how wars ultimately end.

Although I have always suspected this war was created by lies for unspecified reasons, I know that you can do good over there, and I will do whatever I can to help get you back home safely and quickly as possible by trying to help wake people up here so that the politicians who sent you over there are held accountable for their lies and incompetence.

Your truth telling is such a gift for us all. Thank you thank you.

Be well and strong,
Eric in Seattle

Posted by: Eric Wallen | February 23, 2006 11:30 AM

Here is an excellent report also.

http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/video/fallujah_ING.wmv

Posted by: blueberry | March 1, 2006 01:57 AM

does anybody wonder, how we get our money to pay for this war? If we keep printing money what do you think the end result is going to be. Also do you know why are dollar is where it is today? Oil baby is bought with dollars , can you imagine when they use the euro?

Enjoy what you have now, becuase we are at the precipe.....

Posted by: kansas guy | March 2, 2006 01:37 PM

At what point did the United States or the world for that matter become so absolute in their beliefs? The right is right and couldnt possibly need to even bother listening to the ramblings of the mindless left. The Christians are right and not for one second could they consead a single point to any other religion.

American's are losing their ability to keep an open mind. Belief only gets a person so far. A prosecutor can believe someone's guilty but without proof the man will go free.

It's been five years since September 11th. It's been over three years since we invaded Iraq. We are not safer as Americans because we brought down Saddam, quite the opposite. I think what Andy might be trying to say in a slightly aggressive way is that the United States isn't absolute in it's power and if someone wishes to be free then it is up to them to make that choice and work for their freedom.

As for American troops, it's well past time for the public to stop associating being against military action with being against soldiers. If you stood in a village and shooting people in thier heads, raping women and killing kids than you are by right a murdering-baby killer-rapist. It doesnt matter if you are in Bagdad, the jungles of Vietnam, or St. Louis. People should hate that person! You dont kill people because you want to (that's murder), soldiers kill because they wanna go home with their eyes open.

Question the assumptions, the "we believe's", the people giving the orders, not the ones following them.

Posted by: Jeff | September 12, 2006 01:39 PM

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