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Posted on Jul 19, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Red Bulls in Iraq – Pt. 5: A Different 4th of July

By Cpt. Fernando A Franco

4th of July came and it was a different 4th of July. We are here in a war zone. For all the American soldiers deployed to Iraq, 4th of July takes a different meaning. We are fighting an enemy who does not believe in freedom. Not just the freedom we enjoy in the USA to express our opinions, to tell our leaders that we agree or disagree with them, but the freedom of their own people.

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Yes, we are here thinking about our families back home and the 4 day weekend, the BBQ, the trip to the state capitol grounds to find the best spot to see the fireworks. For me this 4th of July took a different meaning. This 4th of July marked 12 years since I immigrated to the USA and found a country of freedom, opportunities, and a place where I could see and build a future for my family, my kids and the fellow citizens of my adopted country. A place where I could be out on the street without fear.

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12 years ago, when I stepped for the first time on American soil I promised to some-how pay the debt of gratitude to this my adopted country, one that received me with open hands. Shortly after, I enlisted in the US Army, my way to say thanks, to celebrate each day Independence Day, to feel the pride of wearing the uniform that so many American soldiers have wore before in past conflicts. This is a different 4th of July, because I am here in Iraq with my fellow soldiers defending our county for our families back home and fighting the global war on terrorism. While some may not agree on why we came to Iraq, there is a common point in that Al-Qaeda and many other terrorist groups want to impose their ideas via violent ways and bring that violence to the streets of the cities in the United States. Their violent ways have taken away some of our freedom, the freedom to not be afraid of walking on the street and not wondering if they will strike again like they did on 9-11.

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This 4th of July, I am also thinking on the three soldiers that our Brigade lost in June, three families that will be celebrating a different 4th of July, and it will be a personal journey for them. Here we will remember them, how they went to do their daily job like any other soldier in the Brigade, how they checked their equipment to make sure they could get out of the wire and face the road ready to fight back. We will pay tribute to them by doing our daily job, whatever our job is at this moment, and yes, we will be united with the love ones of these fellow soldiers, telling them that their sons have a permanent place in our hearts.

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I did not have to go out the night of the 4th of July, I was at my Headquarters and each time one of the convoys went out I prayed for their safe return. That I could see and talk to these soldiers again, and be with them the next time I was able to hit the road. I prayed that the next time I go out, I could see into the eyes of the gunner of the gun truck I am riding and see him facing the wind, being the eyes and ears of the crew inside of the gun truck. It is not easy sitting there in the gunner’s turret; it is not easy seeing this brave soldier ready to react to the enemy fire or the road side bomb explosion that can obliterate the whole crew.

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We are making progress in this war in terrorism and we are sending a clear message to the terrorists, specifically to Al-Qaeda, that we can celebrate 4th of July and will continue to hunt them down. Terrorism is not the answer for freedom. I have seen it in the eyes of the people of Iraq. From talking with some of them, I have learned that killing women, children, and common citizens in Iraq, that by trying to create a sectarian civil war between Sunnis and Shias, the terrorists are losing. In the long run, the terrorists will start seeing that the human spirit can not be broken by bombs or indiscriminate killing. I witnessed and suffered terrorist attacks in my native country, before moving to the USA. I saw the terrorists bringing the government to its knees, imposing a king of terror in the common citizen. But when the people got fed up with this, the same population rose up with the government to defeat the terrorists. The people of Iraq will start in the near future to rise and fight alongside with the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi police; they will start taking care of their own country to defeat the terrorists.

Yes, it really was a different 4th of July.

Until my next entry, CPT Franco… out.

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