politics, history and the war on terror
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
The Reef 

Last weekend my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a close friend at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. Having never been to the Florida Keys, I did not know what to expect, but I was told I was in for a treat. This was the first time my wife and I had an opportunity to take a mini-vacation without our children, who are almost 2 and 4 years old, and as we have another little one on the way this summer, this will be our last such opportunity for some time.

One of my goals for the vacation was to put the world behind for several days, including home, work, the news and the blog. I talked politics as little as possible (which probably means about every other hour), kept the TV off, ignored the news and talked about my blog only when asked. My only planned outlet was an occasional read of Bob Woodward's "Plan of Attack".

The Ocean Reef Club is paradise; it is easy to remove yourself from the realities of the world. I was largely successful, and only bored my closest of friends about the evolution of the fourth rail (sorry Michael). But there were two moments during the vacation were I could not refrain from discussing the war, and both occurred by chance.

The first conversation occurred during the afternoon prior to the wedding. My friends and I were hanging out poolside, and after a good game of volleyball, the group cooled off in the pool and then prepared to head back for the wedding. I separated myself for a moment alone, leaned on the ledge of the pool and sipped my beer. A gentleman close by struck up a friendly conversation: nice weather, where are you from, why are you here, the standard. In the course of conversation I learned he is a Commander in the Naval Reserves, and served in Iraq during the first Gulf War, during the enforcement of the no-fly zone and during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He gave me great insight on the status of airline cargo security and flaws in the security program, the arming of pilots and many other areas of domestic airline security, as he is also a pilot for a major cargo carrier. Eventually we discussed the progress and setbacks in Iraq, and he stated the media has misrepresented the progress in Iraq. He also stated American soldiers are welcomed by the locals in most places, the violence is isolated to several specific areas (basically a portion of the Sunni triangle and among Sadr's supporters, as well some other small hot spots), the morale is high among the military, soldiers are volunteering for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and reenlistment has been above the set quotas.

The second conversation occurred later that night at a friend's room, after we were ejected from the local watering hole due to the closure of the establishment. I struck up a friendly conversation with one of the groomsmen, and it turns out he also serves in the Naval Reserves, as a Lieutenant Commander in intelligence. He explained the importance of the information we have received from al Qaeda members in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and stated the events at Abu Ghraib are not standard operating procedure for interrogations. Like the pilot I met earlier in the day, he stated the media has distorted the war effort, morale is high and we have had many successes.

At the end of both encounters I thanked them for their service and encouraged them to drop by the fourth rail to see how every day Americans are fighting the war on the home front, against the entrenched media that is indifferent or hostile to the war effort; against a media that is willing to distort or bury the truth for political ends. Based on the conditions of our meetings, I can understand if they have forgotten me, but hold out hope they contact me in the future.

It has been some time since I served on active duty (Army) or in the National Guard and I do not know anyone serving at this time. It was both enlightening and reassuring to talk to these officers. America has no shortage of patriots willing defend our freedom and way of life. With men such as these fighting for our nation, we can never lose this war. We can only lose if we lose our will to fight.

Posted by bill roggio @ 12:10 AM