8/17/06: 'Soldier's Diary' Readers Respond to Captain Dan

Here are just a few of the most recent responses, as of Aug. 17, to Capt. Dan Sukman's 'Soldier's Diary' on FOXNews.com.

Hello Sir,

The coverage and communication to the troops are completely different when I was over there in Desert Storm (USN). We had snail mail and letters took a month to arrive. As you know, back in the states the propaganda ministry (ABC/NBC/CBS) is working 24/7 bashing anything they can, saying that Iraq is a lost cause. The American people that I visit weekly in four states (Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia) DO NOT SAY THAT.

Please thank your men for us on behalf of Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and Georgia on the great job, commitment and devotion for doing the right thing. Do not send a reply, just get home safe and finish the job. —Steven D. Shaffer, WT2-USN (now civilian)

Capt. Dan,

Here I am in N.M. The biggest desert in the USA, but NO water! I just wanted to tell you that you are doing an excellent job. God Bless You All. My eldest grandson left yesterday after a short leave here, as he is deploying to Camp Fallujah, IRAQ on or about the 14th August. He is a naval corpsman assigned to the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, Calif. I am very scared for him. He's only 20 years old, and has not had a chance at a life yet. He could have gone to NMSU/Las Cruces on an ROTC scholarship, but chose to serve immediately, much to Granny's chagrin! I am a 60-year-old granny, and have learned over the years living in the wild, to use a gun and rifle pretty successfully. And I would willingly change places and go over there to serve rather than him. I understand Camp Fallujah is pretty much run by the Iraqi army now. I just hope and pray that he doesn't bring home the shock and numbness of seeing what he will see. God bless you for your service, and good luck. —Carol Smith, Alamogordo, N.M.

Captain Dan,

Just a message of thanks appreciation for all that you and our soldiers do! I have to laugh at some of the ridiculous responses you get-people claiming that you don't even exist, or that we should not have gone in and taken out the dictator who was there. It's obvious that some people do not think for themselves, they are puppets who think what the media wants them to think. After 19 U.N. resolutions and attempt after attempt to allow weapons inspectors into the country only to be met with resistance, is it only obvious to the barely lucid that the WMDs were indeed moved? I mean, a sloth could have moved them in the amount of time they had to do so. Of course the WMDs are not there! Duh!

What I'm saying is that the cause for the war in Iraq was right on, and the cause for freedom and justice do not stop at the borders of the USA.You are doing a great thing in Iraq! Never stop believing that! —Denise Gilpatrick

Capt. Dan,

"The infrastructure of this country was ruined long before any U.S. soldier stepped foot on its soil." I think that you are a victim of the biased media we have both in the U.S. and the UK! Iraq had very good health & education systems — free to all citizens up to degree level.

The first Gulf War (which specifically targeted civilian infrastructure) and the decade of fierce sanctions, destroyed those systems sending Iraq spiraling down the ratings amongst developing countries (have a look at the indices). A country where obesity was one of the worst health factors suddenly found itself on a par with Haiti and other underdeveloped countries. The whole economy was devastated. Children, the old, the sick and the poor were the biggest losers. What worries me most: Our leaders have enormous military power at their disposal and we are unable to hold them accountable (we have not yet had a proper enquiry into the reasons for the UK attacking Iraq in 2003). I get the impression that you can do this better in the U.S.

The stuff about palaces is all spin. For the previous Iraqi government, they were about morale and defiance and a romanticized vision of Iraq. For the U.S. and UK, it was used to try and blame SH [Saddam Hussein] for the suffering caused by our sanctions. Absolutely ridiculous. One of the spinning UK officials has since admitted this.

Paradoxically your first paragraph does actually ring true. We had destroyed Iraq so completely that it was unable to defend itself against invading armies. They could barely provide their soldiers with uniforms! It was another massacre of Iraqi soldiers but of course we the public in our 'democracies' are not told the facts about the casualties suffered by the Iraqis. It is good that you are writing about what you see and think.

A soldier friend who went to Basra was told he was going on a humanitarian mission and to liberate Iraq. He found himself guarding an oil field! When he asked an Iraqi why they hated the U.S. and UK when they were there trying to fix water, power, rubbish collection etc., he was told that the U.S. and UK were the ones who'd destroyed everything in the first place. A real shock for an honest soldier!! —Mark Parkinson, Bodmin, Cornwall, England

Capt. Dan,

First of all, I would like to say I support the troops but not the mission. The head in the sand approach to Iraq has not been of benefit to the military, America, Iraq or the entire ME [Middle East]. Feel good talking points and pep talks represented by testimony from Lt. Col. Kunk at the Article 32 hearing coupled with the testimony of Pfc. Cross are not the answer to stopping the type of tragedy of the Iraqi family, the troops involved and the obvious collateral damage of the loss of three soldiers. The dispensing of pain pills and antidepressants coupled with self-medicating with cough medicine and alcohol are symptoms of great mental stress.

My comments have to do with the failure of planning, not the troops. The tasks of the mission not being broken down and supported with enough troops to facilitate the greater accomplishment of the ideal goes above your rank. But, I am thinking of those soldiers sitting alone at midnight chow. And the soldier who said that he never read what to do if ... and how to deal with the feeling of being a dead man walking. Has the discipline broken down? Is the mission impossible? —A military nom


I only know a few people personally who think the work you guys are doing is: a) a Bush-Cheney oil scheme; b) a misplaced priority when we should have been chasing down Usama in the friendly foothills of Pakistan; c) an arrogant attempt to force democracy on a tyrant-loving peoplee; d) a war founded on a lie about weapons of mass destruction; e) a quagmire.

If I knew more than a few of that ilk, the quality of my life would be seriously degraded. Fortunately, almost all my really close friends and acquaintances — and especially my wife and college-aged son and daughter — are so totally behind you guys, so proud of you to your fellow countrymen and so aware of the critical mission you and your men are fulfilling. Everyday, I pray for you guys and your families and all the true peacemakers and peacekeepers to whom this often ungrateful world owes so much. God bless you. God knows you continue to bless us who sleep safely at night because rough men like you stand ready to do violence on our behalf. —CK

Capt. Dan,

Your diary reinforces for me the enormous pride I feel in the military men and women who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. I'm humbled by your shadows. You are the best of our society, yet you are just normal folks. There are problem people and incidents to be sure, but the magnification they receive in our home media is not in the least reflective of the simple good heartedness and dutiful service that you and your buddies are delivering everyday. I wish you and your men well, captain, and safety and speed home again. —Bill Heller

Capt. Dan,

I am tremendously sorry more of your troops were killed. I know that "it comes with the territory" but, it can never, under any conditions or circumstances, be normal nor anything but a bad thing. You have my entire family and friend's condolences and please, if you think it will help in any way, pass them along to those that need them. Remind them there are many here in the States that understand and are deeply appreciative to all of you but especially to those that have given up all of their tomorrows so that we might have freedom. It's a high price to pay and it amazes me still that so many are willing to pay it and, for complete strangers too.

What sparked this note is your comment about "memorials." I feel they are important for healing, for putting a period at the end of the loss of a friend, comrade or just knowing a fellow soldier has died. They are like a funeral to me, something for the living, not the dead. A last farewell, if you will. I hope each person there will be able to remember that the important time was when they were alive. When you get to laugh and joke with them or, God forbid, when they are covering you six in a fire fight or night action. When you were able to put any doubt whatsoever out of your mind that they were indeed your buddy because they were in the same hell hole you were doing the same things. We are all marked to die someday and this is a sad thing because of the life we lived only.

A man or woman is not born to me. A human is, but not a man or woman. They come from the decisions we make along the way and, as Gen. Patton said, I can't understand why such good, young men and women must die when there is so much more to do but, then again, it is not given for me to understand, just grieve and accept. I hope all of you take heart in the fact you had some time to know them or at least, that their lives meant more then most, at least to me and mine.

In the movie the Big Red One, they come upon a memorial on a battlefield. One of the soldiers looks at the names and comments how fast they put it up to their fallen soldiers. The sarge tells him its a World War I memorial and the soldier is shocked, saying the names on the plaque are the same as the unit's fallen. The sarge looks at him, pops a cigar in his mouth and says, "They always are." I think that about summed it up nicely. God Bless you all and may His protections shield each and every one of you from harm. And if not, may His comfort ease your pain. Thank you all. —Ben La Count

Dear Captain Dan (any relation to Gump's Lt. Dan?),

God bless you for taking on the burden of combat leadership. As a retired company grade (ADA, Patriot) who was never required to make the life-and-death decisions you now make on a daily basis, I am humbled by, but proud of, the job you guys are doing. I could not tell for sure from your last post whether the three who were lost Sunday were from your company or just from the BCT/Division. I can tell you that if the family of Spc. Zamora desires it, the Patriot Guard Riders of New Mexico (and some of us from west Texas) will be there for them. El Paso is just across the river from Sunland Park, N.M., and you all may rest assured that his family will be taken care of.

You guys are fighting the good fight and you can believe that most of us back here know it and appreciate the professionalism, courage, and resolve that goes into the work you do everyday. Be proud of yourselves, we sure as hell are! — Former submarine sailor James Kevin Richardson, El Paso, Texas

Captain Sukman,

I just completed reading "A Soldier's Diary" and I felt like contacting you. First, I appreciate you point of view. It is nice to hear a soldier's point of view about life there rather than the media take on everything. A few minutes of your writing was a lot more interesting than all the regular news reports we hear of destruction.

You mentioned dealing with the loss of colleagues and I have second-hand knowledge of that through my nephew who has already spent two tours in Iraq in the past four years. He is a scout in the regular Army rather than a reservist or National Guardsman. A very quiet young man, he was very closed-mouthed about talking about experiences there and yet one day he wrote his mother a letter that was eye opening and a bit frightening. It described how when he was away from his team for some reason, they came across a mine or something and one of them was killed. Paul had some real trouble dealing with that since he was a very sheltered boy growing up and had not experienced any death until that time and then it had to be someone he was close to. He is stateside again and just became a father and a husband all at once but I fear he will have to go back a third time since he is a career soldier now.

I served in the Air Force during the Vietnam Conflict (war) from 1968 through 1972. I remember how unpopular soldiers were then and how they were so disrespected when they came home and tried to regain their civilian lives, even those of us who never went into Vietnam. That bothered me for years and when this business in Iraq started, I urged people on campus and in the community to support the soldiers regardless of their belief about what value the war was. Thank God people around the country are doing that this time and you do not have to come home to hatred and people spitting on you like we did after Vietnam.

I am not sure I fully believe in the stated purposes of the war and I suspect there are political purpose not talked about but whether I am wrong or right, I still respect you and the other soldiers who risk life and limb and make such huge sacrifices for the country. Please tell the people you come in contact with that you are appreciated and we wish you safety and God Speed back home to "normal" lives. —Randy Wilson, director of Veterans Upward Bound, Western Kentucky University

Capt. Dan,

I cry when I read your messages. I get enraged when people and politicians come up with simple solutions, when they do not want to see the whole picture, but let me tell you, you are fighting for the preservation of our civilization and the freedoms we now have. How clear can it be? Iran soldiers killed in Lebanon, where there are supplies supplied by the Iranians, through Syria. Connection to Iraq? But of course.

My son is about to deploy to Iraq, leaving a child almost three, for the second time. First time he was a deputy plans officer working at CENTCOM in Qatar. He had four trips into Iraq and was in awe of our military serving there. All I can tell you is that he is in the Big Red One, and proud of it. We are proud of him. We are proud of you and your soldiers. You are all our "sons." Thank you, thank you for what you are doing. God bless you. —Solveig W. Stetson, Malvern, Penn.

Capt. Dan,

Just wanted to drop you an e-mail to say thank you for all you have done, and continue to do, for our nation. We appreciate you and we are very, very proud of you. I'm so sorry for all of your losses ... we will not forget them. We will always, always seek to honor their memory. Each and every one of y'all is and will remain in our prayers. I hope that once you return home, you will continue writing your column. I think it would be hugely beneficial for us to read about how a soldier readjusts to life back home. This is something that ordinary Americans just don't think about. As someone who has adopted several soldiers and seen them come back home and how they are going through their readjustment processes (some have had it easier than others), it has truly been an eye-opening experience for me. I am firmly convinced that "supporting our troops" should — MUST — extend to when our soldiers return home, not just while deployed. People need to be made aware and educated about this kind of thing, and your blog would be a great means to help do that. —Momma Kat

Captain Dan,

Since the beginning of the ages there has been war to protect and keep our countries free. Not all decisions are the right decisions, I think you would agree. But the men and women that have fought and gave their lives through out time for our freedom are our true hero's. All of you !!! You put your lives on the line for us, the people, for freedom for all. My prayers go out to all of you who are all over the world protecting and trying to keep us safe. Which is a challenge in of itself any more. What critics don't get is you fight so they can run their mouths off, be unsupportive and negative. The American way. Well, I feel safer for knowing you are there. I thank all of you for offering your lives so we may live in hope for the future. God bless each and every one of you. Military, policemen, firemen are and have been the true hero's. —Lucky Gee

Capt. Dan,

My daughter, Katrina, graduated with a degree in criminal justice from Illinois State University in 2005. She had been very affected by 9/11, and met a bunch of ROTC people she respected during her undergraduate studies. She decided to join the National Guard and has completed Basic and AIT at Fort Jackson. (She kicked ass, but that's just a dad bragging!) She'll compete for a spot as an officer 18 months from now, after her ROTC classes. She wants to learn to pilot helicopters and her greatest desire is to be deployed to defend her country.

I haven't read enough of your war diary to know much about you, but I wanted you to know that you made me feel better about sending someone I love more than anything into harm's way. I hated her career decision, and am very scared. Knowing that those of you over there believe and feel that the mission is worthwhile makes it better. Thank you for all you do and best of luck. Hooah. —Mike Markus, Decatur, Ill.

Capt. Dan,

As a sergeant in the Army, I would like to thank you for taking the time, and trying to help the public understand more about what us soldiers go through while on deployment. Unfortunately, I was just picked up for recruiting duty, but I wish I were there for my brothers. "Brothers." That word has a lot of meaning to soldiers. I couldn't ask for a better group of friends than those I serve with, you are all like brothers. And I would give my life for any one of you. …People would be scared to leave their homes when I first arrived to Iraq. But whenever we came around, they would come out into the streets cheer for us, the children would play soccer. The Iraqi civilians you [a diary reader] speak of dying, how many of those were killed by suicide bombers and car bombs? Almost all of them, so don't speak of something you know nothing about Jason. And Jennifer [another reader who responded], you knew this could happen all along so don't act like its such a shock, but I do understand the stress it puts on families, just please stay behind your husband 100 percent. I wish to say the same for your friends, just knowing that you still care, and support him is all he needs to get through the long days, or 48-hour missions.

But personally, I feel a specific unit should be put in one spot and stay there until the job is done, rotating the troops like they did in Vietnam, about 10 percent at a time. Because this here crap is no good. By the time we build trust with the Iraqi population, we leave them a new unit comes in, insurgents see the new unit, so they test them every way possible and once again the new unit there is trying to build trust with the people. It's like a never-ending cycle. A unit fights hard for a year, gets the area stable and has the support of the local community. Then they leave and it's like nothing was accomplished. So us as soldiers and our families should just suck it up and be willing to stay until the Iraqi army and defend for itself. I will say I was honored to fight along the side of the Iraqi commanders. I have more respect for those guys than a lot of so-called Americans today. The Iraqis at least believe some things are worth fighting for, their country and family is more important to them than their car, or money, or trying to be cool. Then there are fine Americans like a Tony Edwards, who I respect and thank him and his family for what they do for our country. It is good to hear that support is still there for us in other parts of the country. I am currently around Boston, Mass., where not many people believe in service to country anymore. It's sad that a state can be so liberal and not support their own country, but just evolve so much around money. I am ashamed to say I live in this state.

As for you, Scott Carey [another reader], I'm drinking a beer for Cpt Dan right now. I believe after 12 months of service in a combat zone, those men/ women deserve a beer, and I am sure you never took time to learn about your soldiers, but while away from home, talking about things they miss is how they keep their morale up. Does that make them alcoholics?


I really enjoy your column. I am a 30-something wife but new to the life of a true army wife. My husband is currently serving as an ALO in Baghdad. His job is cushy in comparison to what you and your unit do, but I know that protecting all of you is his heart. As difficult as his six-month tour has been on me and seven kids, I can imagine how extremely difficult it is on your wives and kids and families. Not just the separation but the anxiety of never knowing if that Class A will show up at the door. I thank you for the sacrifice you and your families are making. I know how hard it is to run the home and family with your husband gone and in danger every day. I consider it a privilege to support my husband as he protects the country that we love so much and works to try to forge a new government and bring a better life to millions of people. Taking care of our home and family is my way of serving and I am proud to do it. Thank you again for your article and thank you to all of the wives, kids, and families who are also sacrificing for our great nation. —Kathy Smith

Good morning CPT Dan,

Thank you for recognizing military families and the service they give to our country. As the spouse of an Army Reservist, I must disagree with your statement "family members don't volunteer, they don't sign a contract" because they do, in effect, volunteer and sign a contract when they marry their warrior spouses. Prior to our marriage, my chopper flying fiance sat me down and explained what he did for a living — professional soldier — and how it would impact our life (field exercises, deployments, TDY for schooling), what I needed to know should he "buy the farm," and how, in essence, the Army worked. He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that his job was to be prepared to go to war and it was in my best interests to learn everything I could about benefits, entitlements, and how to take care of myself when he deployed. It was my choice to join a splendid cadre of Army wives after getting all the facts.

Being a military spouse or the child of a soldier is a tough thing to cope with. Same goes for the parents, fiances and friends of a soldier who is in harm's way. But, military families could make it easier on themselves, and their soldiers, by being proactive in educating themselves on every aspect of life military - from reading an LES (leave and earnings statement) to benefits and entitlements should, God forbid, their warrior die in the service of his/her country. Soldiers need to be more proactive in educating their families about their jobs and helping them prepare for mobilization and deployment. There are so many excellent resources out there for families, including Family Readiness Groups — for that personal touch — and Military OneSource for one stop reference and referral. Take care and come home safely and soon! —Kate, Arkansas

Dear Captain Dan,

Even though I do not agree with the war I do however hold each and every soldier and there families in the highest esteem. I thank you for doing what you believe is right and for the sacrifices your family and friends go through. We as Canadians have lost many of our peacekeepers and even though most Americans believe we are not there we are. You're in our prayers and in our hearts.

Captain, I am glad to see someone who has spent time in the AO [area of operation] write about what he sees. Your men and women should be proud of what they are accomplishing. I wish more soldiers would write about the good and bad things that are happening in Iraq. I hope the next unit can continue your good work. Continue to be safe and I hope all of you and your unit come home safely. When you come back home, be proud of what you accomplished and remember those who did not come home and honor them. All Americans should stand up and salute you for laying your life on the line to keep all of us safe. —CWO2 Adams, USN-Ret.

Capt. Dan,

My family is full of men and women that served and are serving in the military and I want to say to you and all the soldiers that you are doing a great job. I am so ashamed of some of these people who write you and tell you what you are doing is disgraceful, for that I am sorry. I would bet that if they were put in your situation they would not know how to handle it. I have traveled the world with my family several times because my father is a retired Navy captain and we have seen some beautiful places, but we have also seen that no one in the world lives quite as good as we Americans, and the reason we live like we do is because we have honorable men like yourself to preserve our rights and privileges. I salute you. God Bless you. —Stephanie, Virginia