Here is part 3 of the series “2006 Year in Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Ridiculous”. The bad things and the ridiculous things are what they are, but there was still some good in 2006.
I completed my first deployment this year. It was a tough time, but I was in a safe place and was able to participate in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. I wrote a lot about how this deployment affected the way I view things in my posts “Appreciate What You Have” and “Do Not Bend”. The Lord protected me over there, and my family at home. My oldest son stepped up and helped a lot while I was gone, and my wife kept everything going at home, in spite of how difficult it was at times.
Saddam Hussein’s execution was an important development in the War on Terror. Although he had been out of power for years, seeing him brought to justice after a trial is a great symbol of the power of democracy. Some people are upset that he was not tried for even more crimes; but, considering the 100 or so deaths he was on trial for was enough to get him the death penalty, what more could they want? You can’t kill the guy twice! (Some folks over at the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler (language warning in effect) have some ideas - as well as the video of the actual execution.)
As the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues, more and more of these high-level leaders are being either captured or killed. If they’re captured, the justice system will do its job; and, if they’re killed, well… that just saves time. And, as the people of the Middle East begin to see democracy and a rule of law take hold, they’ll be drawn to it.
In college football and NASCAR, my folks made a resurgence after a disappointing 2005. The Tennessee Vols followed up their first losing season since Phil Fulmer had become head coach with a 9-3 finish, losing only to #2 Florida, #4 LSU, and #13 Arkansas. Throughout the year, quarterback Erik Ainge matured greatly, and became more willing to hand off the ball to a running back, which lead to more big passes opening up for him. Freshman running back LaMarcus Coker had an outstanding year, and looks to be one of the best running backs Tennessee has had in a while - and that’s saying something. Congratulations to the Vols on a great year.
Jeff Gordon became the Nextel Cup Champion! Well, OK, Jimmie Johnson was top driver, but since Jeff owns Jimmie’s cars, he is the owner’s points champion. He did finish the season in 6th as a driver. The comes after a season when he did not make the Chase for the Nextel Cup (although he did finish at the “top of the losers” 11th spot). Consistency was the name of the game this year for Gordon, crew chief Steve Letarte, and the rest of his crew; he finished in the top 10 in half of the 36 races, and won 2 of them. Were it not for two mechanical problems and a wreck back-to-back-to-back, he would have given his protoge a run for his money. On top of that, he got married in 2006, and he and his wife are now expecting their first child. Congratulations x 3 for you, Jeff, and here’s to a great 2007!
Those are the best things to come out of 2006, in my humble opinion. If you’ve read all three parts, you’ll realize that in the big picture, these don’t quite balance out - Tennessee’s winning season doesn’t offset North Korea’s nuclear tests, for example. But, what this does illustrate is that even when bad things of enormous import are happening, it is still possible to be personally happy and satisfied.
Working with mail is a big part of my duties while I’m here. Once a day, we pull a few letters out of a tray and write down where it came from and when it was postmarked - that way, we can tell how long it took to get to us and make sure these letters are flowing. It’s interesting to look at the backs of these letters, which we see as we take one from the stack and turn it face-down onto another stack. There are, of course, the "We love you!"s, the "Happy Birthday"s, and the "Come back safe"s. Others have “SWAK” written across the back (Sealed With a Kiss). Today, I saw one that said “Go Vols!” - which I particularly liked.
Underneath that letter, the next one on the stack had printed across the bottom “Do Not Bend.” I’m sure that this wasn’t an encouragement to the troops - there were probably photos in the envelope, so they didn’t want them bent. But, on this 4th Patriot Day, 5 years after the attlacks on September 11th, 2001, I think it is fitting advice for all of us.
The enemy we face is not ourselves. There are some among us who are going too far, but as we demonstrated with Abu Ghraib, we are willing to punish those who do. There are also some among us who intend us harm; that’s for certain. However, there is a religious group that is not content to have their countries for their religious views, and live peacefully with the rest of the world. They want us dead because we do not believe the way they do. Our nation has decided (rightly, I believe) that we should take this fight to them, that we would rather fight on their soil than on ours.
I have not had access to ABC television, so I have not seen The Path to 9/11, although I have heard a lot about it. It sounds like an important film, one based on the research of the 9/11 commission, that dramatizes the failings in leadership that led up to this attack. Of course, it’s really easy to connect dots in hindsight - but the barriers that had been erected to stop information sharing did much more harm than good. Both Presidential administrations #42 and #43 are criticized for their lack of taking the issue seriously, and doing what needed to be done. Thankfully, #43 has made a nice recovery, and we are now prosecuting the war on terror as we should.
We Americans have short memories - and since, for all but a few of us, this war isn’t really impacting our daily lives, it is easy to grow lax, and forget that we were not the ones who started this war. But, we are the ones who will finish it. There has not been a major terror attack in this country in the five years since 9/11, and it is not because they haven’t been planned. Time and time again, dedicated professionals in the CIA and FBI have been uncovering these plots, and stopping them. Every terrorist killed in Afghanistan or Iraq is one fewer terrorist that will try something - and while it’s true that some cultures produce these terrorists, that’s just another reason why we must continue, we must press forward, and we must prevail.
Do not forget why we are at war. Do not think about giving up before the job is done. And, yes, as the letter writer said so unknowingly yet eloquently - do not bend.
Actually, it’s not just bandwidth - I can’t connect to this site at all from home. And, of course, authoring lengthy, high-quality blog posts is frowned upon from work. I’m not sure where the fault lies, though I’m pretty sure it’s with the provider where I am. My apologies - look for more content beginning around the first of October.
I had originally planned to post something on the 4th of July, but that day came and passed with little time. So, a week later, I thought I would post it less as an Independence Day item and more of just a general item.
I am currently out of the county - have been for about two months, with another two months to go. In my day to day life, I tried to be appreciative of people and things, but this has given me a perspective that I didn’t have. There are four or five of us that work together, and on the 4th, we were all down. We missed our families, and we missed our country. We didn’t see any fireworks, no parades with American flags, no concerts, no cookouts, no little kids in cute, patriotic outfits.
I’m not looking for pity - I’m doing what I swore an oath to do, and am fortunate to have not had to do it before now. What I am saying, though, is to stop and think about the familiar things in your life. Do you hug or kiss your spouse before or after work? Do your kids shout “Daddy!” and come running to you, and almost knock you over because they’re happy that you’re home? Do you get to sit down at a table with your family and eat? Do you wear a t-shirt that has the American flag on it? Do you pick up the phone and call your friends? Do you go to church with your family on Sunday mornings?
These are all things that I would be doing this summer, were I still at home. And, they’re also some of the things that I’m missing (though there are many, many other things as well). So, for my sake - make that hug or kiss count. Fall over and roll around in the floor and tickle those kids. Talk to those people sitting around the dinner table with you, and thank the Lord that you can display or even wear the flag without making yourself a target. Go to church, hang out with your friends, go to the grocery store, mow the grass, take a walk with your family - then ask yourself how you might feel if you could not do those things. I can tell you how I feel - it’s not good, and it’s the reason I’m taking the time to post this here.
Carpe diem is not just for intellectuals or party-hearty-ers. Enjoy the people in your life, and the things with which you have been blessed. Take that little extra time to take in the things you enjoy, and let the people who mean the most to you know that. You never know when you may not have the chance again.