What Are We Fighting For?

A biweekly article series by

Chief Master Sergeant Bob Anderson

I’m Chief Master Sergeant Bob Anderson, and I’m honored to be writing to you from

Balad Air Base in Iraq.

Where were you on September 11th?          

Recently, we experienced the fourth anniversary of September 11th.

I received an email from my wife Pam that evening, and she was lamenting over that day.  So much has been written over the past years about that day, I don’t believe I can add much more to honor those that died, encourage those that survived and touch more deeply those of us that watched in anger and horror.  All of us remember that day, each of us have our own unique and personal images. 

I will never forget.  On September 6, 2001 I was at Sheppard Air Force Base to attend a military function.  That night I had a heart attack.  I won’t bore you with the details; suffice it to say it was a life altering experience.  The point of this story is that I was released from the hospital on September 10th and Pam and I were supposed to fly back to Houston on the morning of the 11th.

We arrived at the airport just as the third plane hit the Pentagon.  The next several hours we spent driving to Houston.  Once we arrived at home in Humble, Texas, we watched the reports on TV like everyone else.  Unlike some of you, I also dealt with the fact that because of my heart attack, I didn’t know if I would be able to remain in uniform at a time when my country needed me most; A time when nothing made sense.

With some hard work and some blessings, I made it back into uniform and was able to serve eleven months of active duty.  While I was unable to deploy overseas, I was able to function and support our kids stateside.  Our kids—my kids. 

The days, weeks and months after September 11th were filled with some of the worst times and some of the best times I have had in uniformed service.  Times like these bring out the best and sometimes the worst in people.

We were a united country!  We were hurt, devastated and pained, but we were also proud.  We were also angry!  Almost every home and business in Houston flew Old Glory.  Almost every car had at least one flag flying from its windows—many had several.  Six months after 9/11, the flags on many homes and businesses were frayed.  I found myself stopping along the Interstate to pick up the ones that had blown off the cars.  Within a year, we were almost back to “normal”.  For a while after the first anniversary, the spirit of 9/11 returned, but it was short lived.  Soon, we were preparing for new operations which included the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Four years later, I sit in Iraq.  Because of operations and the lack of communications here, I’m embarrassed to say I did not even realize it was the anniversary of 9/11 until the email from my wife.  However, at the same time—I don’t feel too badly about it.  I’m here because of that day.  Two evil regimes have tumbled.  Free elections have been held in both theaters of operations and we are helping to free people who have never known freedom.  We are working for our continued freedom in our homeland!

Is this war perfect?  Absolutely not!  No war ever is.  Have mistakes been made?  Certainly, after all, we are just human beings and humans are imperfect beings.

Selfishly, I am here with my other family, my other kids—my military family and kids!  They amaze me with their positive and professional attitudes.  We live under restrictions and conditions that are aggravating and bothersome.  But they have their purposes—they keep us alive! 

We have Individual Protective Equipment (IPE, also known as Battle Rattle) that we must have close to us at all times for protection again mortars and rockets.  If I get up at night to go to the bathroom, because we must be in uniform at all times outside of our living quarters,  I have to put on a PT uniform, complete with socks, tuck the T shirt in and walk 20 yards to urinate.  Some of the times, I have to lug the IPE with me, depending on the current situation.  It’s a pain, but it’s for a purpose.

It’s hot and dusty here.  I don’t get to sleep with my wife or talk to her for more than fifteen minutes at a time.  I don’t get to talk to my son and daughter two or three times a week like I usually do.  I don’t have a TV in my room, haven’t seen a remote control since I’ve been here, my brother had surgery and I haven’t talked to him yet.  I haven’t seen CSI or Law and Order since July, and have no idea what the March of the Penguins is even about.  My mail is irregular and I haven’t worn anything other than DCUs or PT gear since July.  Frito Scoops are a joy when they arrive from home and DVDs on a lap top are my recreation.  I’ve had two days off since July—and compared to most around here, I have it made! 

Most of my military kids would love to have my duty and conditions.  You see, misery is all relative.  I can tell you that I’m proud to be here.  My family would prefer me not to be here, but they support it.  Particularly my wife, without her support I could not have done what I am doing.

What are we fighting for?  Well—I guess it’s different for each of us.  The honor and privilege of being in uniform and serving with people who are making grave sacrifices to protect our freedom—for me—That is worth fighting for!

God Bless our Troops and God Bless America!

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