Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
With our time here coming to a close, I was struggling a bit to think of something to write about. I had a small entry ready to send out last night, but then the news came over the net, we had lost another soldier to an IED strike. Once again, a memorial ceremony will be conducted early next week.
We have completed packing our containers and watch more of our replacements show up. The show is still ours, and a good chunk of the incoming unit has flown up to Taji in order to attend the COIN academy. The academy is where newly arrived units' leadership get instruction on the latest tactics and procedures for fighting a counterinsurgency (COIN). The instructors are soldiers who have fought here, and include leaders from units who are still in the fight.
I thought it would now be a good time to reflect on our year here, and write about some of those thoughts. The first thing I will talk about is probably the easiest to discuss — why we are here in Iraq. As with any of my entries, take it for what it is: One soldier's perspective. We still have our collective goals and missions but that is not the focus for this entry.
When I was on leave, I had many discussions and heard many reasons why U.S. soldiers are in Iraq. The opinions varied from person to person, and when you turn on a TV, or read a paper, there always seems to be an op-ed piece with someone explaining what brought us here.
The opinions have a wide range; some will tell you we are here for the noblest of causes — to bring democracy to the freedom loving people of Iraq. Others will tell you we came over here for oil, to keep the price of oil up, and others will say to keep oil prices down. Some say we are fighting for the president, while others will say we are fighting for Halliburton.
You can read stories about soldiers who refused to come over here. Some go to Canada, others call the media to make their case. Some people make them out to be heroes. The immediate thought is they have no idea what is means to be a soldier. The real heroes in those cases are the soldiers who came over and are doing the job for them.
When my brigade operations officer was promoted a couple of months back, he told us why he loved being a soldier so much. If you love being a soldier, it's because you love soldiers. It never really hit me until he said that. Combine those words with a year spent in south Baghdad and you quickly realize why you are deployed over here.
When I got into the airplane to come over here, there were no political thoughts, just thoughts on the soldier boarding in front of me, and the soldier walking up the ladder behind me. When I took my seat, the thoughts were focused on the soldier sitting to my left and to my right.
When you go overseas for a deployment, you understand there are risks you are taking. You put your life in danger and you may be asked to take the lives of others, be it directly or indirectly. Despite all the risks associated with our job, we go to work each day, knowing each of us is a small cog in a big wheel. The hope is if you do your job, perform it to the best of your ability, you made it possible for someone, at least one person to come back and return to their family.
I am not a big fan of the movie "Black Hawk Down," but there is a great scene near the end with the character portrayed by Eric Bana. He explains to a young NCO [non commissioned officer] why he is out fighting, and tells him 'it's about the guy next to you.'
We did not come here for democracy; we did not come here for oil. We came here for each other. If you cannot understand that, I am sorry, but I can explain it no further.