The Sunday Times newspaper, serving Lancaster, Pennsylvania, recently ran a heart-wrenching story about Christopher D. Johnson, a 20-year-old Marine lance corporal who was wounded in the war in Iraq, lost half of his right arm, and is now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he faces weeks of rehabilitation. He graduated from a local high school and told the reporter that the war in Iraq was “bull—-.” He added, “You go over there looking for weapons of mass destruction. You get Marines getting blown up by pipe bombs.” The paper reported, “He said he wishes his sacrifice could have been for a better cause.”
Such stories are disheartening, but they are important because they reveal how our soldiers are reacting to media coverage of the war in Iraq. It’s a safe bet that Johnson soured on the mission in Iraq not only because of his injuries but because of the invective directed at his Commander-in-Chief. Like the rest of us, Johnson was told repeatedly that President Bush lied to get us into the war by falsely claiming that Iraq was seeking uranium for nuclear bombs. Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson made that charge repeatedly on national television and in countless stories in the print press. The discrediting of Joseph Wilson has made it clear, once again, that Saddam did have a nuclear weapons program and was seeking uranium from Africa.
Chris Johnson was in Iraq for only three months before he was wounded and was sent home. Soldiers who have been in Iraq for a long period of time say they understand the mission and it is benefiting the people. Mark Palmer, a veteran of the Iraq war, who spent one year there from April 2003 to April 2004, says, “I am extremely proud of our country, our President and our military.” You can visit his website at www.markpalmer.org
The August issue of The American Legion Magazine carries a letter from an Army specialist serving in the Baghdad area. He says about the Iraqi people, “They want a democratic country free of violence and terrorism just like we do. Every day we see children so innocent and unaware of what’s going on around them. You see smiles on their faces as they wave to you, just hoping you will wave back and say hello. Things like that make me proud to represent and serve my country.” Dean Johnson, the father of Chris, is also proud. He was quoted in the Lancaster paper as saying that, despite the wounds suffered by his son, he saw positive changes in Chris when he joined the Marine Corps, and that the training instilled strong moral character. It’s a shame to see that undermined by false reporting of the war.
In more gloom-and-doom reporting, we are now being told that reenlistments are down. But that’s not true across the board. In Kentucky, for example, Kentucky National Guard officials say about 93 percent of those eligible to leave the Kentucky guard in the last 18 months have instead opted to re-enlist.
Major General Donald Storm is quoted by the local media as saying that the Guard has added 200 new troops since December. He said Kentucky’s re-enlistment rate has stayed high in part because of the support system for families left behind and because Kentuckians support the war effort.