OPINION AND COMMENT By Tony Richards|
Let me tell you about my brother John.
John was born in 1969 in Zaragoza Spain, (my dad was in the Air Force), he was 17 when our grandma Edna Richards
passed away on his birthday. One year later on his birthday again, my father and uncle died in a tragic car accident. John
doesn't like to celebrate his birthday. John joined the service two months after my dad's death. He became a helicopter
crew chief stationed on the Demilitarized Zone in Korea. He ended up volunteering for two tours there. I know he was
proud to serve in Korea his job was meaningful.
Some time in the 90's John left the service and it wasn't long before he moved back home to West Virginia, he met and
fell in love with his beautiful bride Lisa. They were married for about a year and decided to have a child; Chase Nathaniel
was born on September 21; six weeks later Lisa died from childbirth complications, she held her child one time.
Through this terrible and painful tragedy my brother persevered, he strengthened his relationship with his in-laws to the
point of letting them care for Chase sometimes up to two weeks a month even thought they lived two and a half hours
By and by he met and fell in love with Tammy. They have a wonderful and exemplary marriage. Tammy loves Chase with
all of her heart as we can plainly see just by watching them interact. They are active in their church and although difficulties
have arisen with the biological grandparents they continue to lead joyful and productive lives. John loves children, but
because he was raised in a dysfunctional home he has difficulty communicating with them. So John became a clown and
performs throughout West Virginia, consequently he became the president of the Kanawha Valley Clown
Some time in the last five years John returned to active duty to work for the Reserve unit out of Cross-Lanes. In the midst
of John being deployed; Tammy received notice of an impending lay off from her job. The troubled relationship with the
ex in-laws still looms in the background. So Tammy too is learning to become a military wife the hard way. John's first
true deployment is to the Middle East.
I've remained silent on the issue of the war to date, but today my little brother was bombed by Saddam; the feelings came
welling up. I know how he is feeling right now; mostly he is afraid that he will not see his family again. Tammy and Chase
will be on his mind constantly. He'll worry that Tammy will become overwhelmed by daily life and the news. He'll pray a
lot. He'll think of his mom, brothers and sisters. Then he'll check his Biological and Chemical gear and make sure it's
clean and ready for use. Oh, and he has already started making plans for when he returns. Things he wishes he could have
done better; projects that will be finished this time.
You'll notice that he is not afraid of the war, this is his job. He is proud to be in the desert defending his country, because
you see he knows that there is a link in the Middle East to defending our great nation. There is no doubt in his mind that
our Commander in Chief is right on the money. He trusts him so completely that he volunteered to sacrifice time with his
family. You see the time away from his family can not be replaced he chose to give it so that people here at home enjoy
the freedom of their rights. We sleep comfortably at night because men and women dedicated to their country make these
sacrifices daily 24-7. But even this sacrifice pales in comparison to the men and women that will not come home. We must
rest assured that God has his hand in the situation.
If he chooses to "recall" our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers
at this time it is not because he wishes to cause us spectator's pain but because it was time for them to receive their
reward. You see I know this because this is a Just war. To break it down into simple terms; if you do not support this
effort, it means you do support tyranny, oppression, terrorism and evil. Our borders have been breached and we must
demonstrate our resolve to protect our citizens. Please don't misunderstand me; while I love my brother dearly and he is
unique to me, I know that he is 1:300,000 and that his situation is replicated through out the nation.
Why do I know these things; you see I too am a veteran. I was there in 1991; I experienced the pain and joy of the Iraqi
and Kuwaiti people, soldiers and citizens, every one of them that came through our Collecting and Clearing medical
company. I experienced hugs, relief and extreme gratitude. But it really came down to one day, when I walked into the
triage area and two little girls where sitting on a gurney next to each other, they looked up and smiled at me. I don't know
what if any atrocities they experienced but the emotion I experienced told me that we, the United States, were
instrumental in taking care of these two little girls. Just these two girls validated the entire seven and a half months I spent
away from my family during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The waiting, the nights of sleeping with my gas mask on my
chest at the ready; the anthrax vaccine (experimental at the time); sleeping on concrete and waking up in a puddle of
sweat; the long lines waiting to call home to let my wife know that I was OK. All the Meals Ready to Eat; crawling back
to God; and worse, having to endure the experience of my youngest daughter not knowing who I was when I came
So you can protest this war, it's your right. It's your right to ask this Nation to put our head back in the sand until another
Pearl Harbor or 9/11 again spreads crimson across our land, and then, your fervor will demand retribution because that is
your choice and your right. It troubles me that insinuations have been verbalized that the decision President Bush has made
is motivated by any thing other than the safety of our people. He was elected by a majority vote of our people (which you
have the right to disagree with) and I believe in my heart that the agony of this decision is a great weight to bear, not made
lightly but with great consideration of all the facts including facts we are not privy to.
Mainly I want you the American, to never forget, its men and women like my brother John and the suffering of their
families, under the leadership of great men and women who secure that right for you.
I pray for you the protestor, that God may remove the veils that cloud your vision. I pray for President Bush that he
continue to have God given wisdom to make these agonizing decisions. I pray for the Iraqi people that they experience
liberty and joy. I pray for John and his compatriots that God keep them safe. I pray for our families that they seek solace,
comfort and peace in God, and I pray that God continues to bless our Nation.