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The death of a soldier...The life of a patriot

By Frank Salvato
web posted September 24, 2007

What is a patriot? What is a hero? We throw these words around a lot these days and we bestow them on those who most often don't come close to warranting the honor. From athletes to artists, dissenters to politicians and movie stars, our society holds some of the most undeserving people in high esteem.

So, what is a patriot? Who really should be designated a hero?

Patriot: A person who loves, supports and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion. – Dictionary.com

Hero: A man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. – Dictionary.com

Last February my publication ran an opinion piece by a young US Army sergeant named Eddie Jeffers. Eddie was serving in one of Iraq's hot-spots, Ramadi, Iraq. His job was the hard job: clearing buildings, disrupting terrorist cells and operations, everything that we imagine when we think of what it must be like for our soldiers who are "in the thick of it."

After reading Eddie's piece the first time I realized the true definition of patriotism, of heroism. It isn't about voicing dissent or exercising free speech. It isn't about achieving political change or affecting the world politick. And while there may be some credence to the notion of standing up for what you believe in that's only one component.

Patriotism, heroism, is providing the protection so that others can freely voice dissent and participate in politics. A patriot takes up the banner of devotion to our country dedicating himself to the principles and ideology that make up its foundation. A hero has the courage to defend those principles, that ideology, so that others may enjoy liberty.

At 7am on September 19, 2007 in Ramadi, Iraq, on a sweltering Iraqi summer day, a good friend whom I knew but never met, a true American patriot and a hero died. US Army Sergeant Eddie Jeffers died in the service of our country, fighting the enemy on Iraqi soil so that we don't have to fight them on ours. He died protecting the innocent among the Iraqis so that they might benefit from the same principles and ideology that afford us the freedom to even consider debating the legitimacy of the conflict in which he fought.

Through the tears of anguish I cried upon hearing the news I felt a genuine anger beginning to envelop me. I felt the injustice and inequity that comes with experiencing the death of not only a 23-year old, but a genuine and fine individual. But then I began to contemplate the words Eddie chose to share with us from Ramadi, Iraq, an earthly hell which he endured and will never return from. I reflected on his concerns and his worries and I realized that anguish and anger – in the context of his sacrifice and the sacrifice of his family – are selfish.

I am not related to Eddie, but I feel a special brotherhood with him. I will be celebrating Eddie's life, saluting his honor and I am motivated by his service and dedication, his patriotism and heroism, his memory, to make sure that our country does right by his life.

I will not surrender to the visionless where this conflict is concerned. Instead, I will engage them with facts and foresight. I will not give-up on the mission in which Eddie was engaged simply for the pressure to do so. Instead, I will employ the realistic understanding of the consequences of quitting before the mission is through. I will not retreat because it is the popular thing to do, rather I will rely heavily on the truth of the matter, enlisting facts and reason in an effort to make others understand the cost of defeat. And I will not fail.

Most importantly, I will make sure that Sergeant Eddie Jeffers has the last word on his thoughts and feelings about both his mission and what is now his destiny. Here now is Eddie Jeffers if only in his words: 

Hope Rides Alone by Sgt. Eddie Jeffers
February 1, 2007, Ramadi, Iraq

I stare out into the darkness from my post, and I watch the city burn to the ground. I smell the familiar smells, I walk through the familiar rubble, and I look at the frightened faces that watch me pass down the streets of their neighborhoods. My nerves hardly rest; my hands are steady on a device that has been given to me from my government for the purpose of taking the lives of others.

I sweat, and I am tired. My back aches from the loads I carry. Young American boys look to me to direct them in a manner that will someday allow them to see their families again...and yet, I too, am just a boy....my age not but a few years more than that of the ones I lead. I am stressed, I am scared, and I am paranoid...because death is everywhere. It waits for me, it calls to me from around street corners and windows, and it is always there. 

There are the demons that follow me, and tempt me into thoughts and actions that are not my own...but that are necessary for survival. I've made compromises with my humanity. And I am not alone in this. Miles from me are my brethren in this world, who walk in the same streets...who feel the same things, whether they admit to it or not.

And to think, I volunteered for this...

And I am ignorant to the rest of the world...or so I thought.

But even thousands of miles away, in Ramadi, Iraq, the cries and screams and complaints of the ungrateful reach me. In a year, I will be thrust back into society from a life and mentality that doesn't fit your average man. And then, I will be alone. And then, I will walk down the streets of America, and see the yellow ribbon stickers on the cars of the same people who compare our President to Hitler.

I will watch the television and watch the Cindy Sheehans, and the Al Frankens, and the rest of the ignorant sheep of America spout off their mouths about a subject they know nothing about. It is their right, however, and it is a right that is defended by hundreds of thousands of boys and girls scattered across the world, far from home. I use the word boys and girls, because that's what they are. In the Army, the average age of the infantryman is nineteen years old. The average rank of soldiers killed in action is Private First Class.

People like Cindy Sheehan are ignorant. Not just to this war, but to the results of their idiotic ramblings, or at least I hope they are. They don't realize its effects on this war. In this war, there are no Geneva Conventions, no cease fires. Medics and Chaplains are not spared from the enemy's brutality because it's against the rules. I can only imagine the horrors a military Chaplain would experience at the hands of the enemy. The enemy slinks in the shadows and fights a coward's war against us. It is effective though, as many men and women have died since the start of this war. And the memory of their service to America is tainted by the inconsiderate remarks on our nation's news outlets. And every day, the enemy changes...only now, the enemy is becoming something new. The enemy is transitioning from the Muslim extremists to Americans. The enemy is becoming the very people whom we defend with our lives. And they do not realize it. But in denouncing our actions, denouncing our leaders, denouncing the war we live and fight, they are isolating the military from society...and they are becoming our enemy.

Democrats and peace activists like to toss the word "quagmire" around and compare this war to Vietnam. In a way they are right, this war is becoming like Vietnam. Not the actual war, but in the isolation of country and military. America is not a nation at war; they are a nation with its military at war. Like it or not, we are here, some of us for our second, or third times; some even for their fourth and so on. Americans are so concerned now with politics, that it is interfering with our war. 

Terrorists cut the heads off of American citizens on the internet...and there is no outrage, but an American soldier kills an Iraqi in the midst of battle, and there are investigations, and sometimes soldiers are even jailed...for doing their job.

It is absolutely sickening to me to think our country has come to this. Why are we so obsessed with the bad news? Why will people stop at nothing to be against this war, no matter how much evidence of the good we've done is thrown in their face? When is the last time CNN or MSNBC or CBS reported the opening of schools and hospitals in Iraq? Or the leaders of terror cells being detained or killed?  It's all happening, but people will not let up their hatred of President Bush. They will ignore the good news, because it just might show people that Bush was right.

America has lost its will to fight. It has lost its will to defend what is right and just in the world. The crazy thing of it all is that the American people have not even been asked to sacrifice a single thing. It's not like World War II, where people rationed food and turned in cars to be made into metal for tanks. The American people have not been asked to sacrifice anything. Unless you are in the military or the family member of a service member, its life as usual...the war doesn't affect you.

But it affects us. And when it is over and the troops come home and they try to piece together what's left of them after their service...where will the detractors be then? Where will the Cindy Sheehans be to comfort and talk to soldiers and help them sort out the last couple years of their lives, most of which have been spent dodging death and wading through the deaths of their friends? They will be where they always are, somewhere far away, where the horrors of the world can't touch them. Somewhere where they can complain about things they will never experience in their lifetime; things that the young men and women of America have willingly taken upon their shoulders.

We are the hope of the Iraqi people. They want what everyone else wants in life: safety, security, somewhere to call home. They want a country that is safe to raise their children in. Not a place where their children will be abducted raped and murdered if they do not comply with the terrorists demands. They want to live on, rebuild and prosper. And America has given them the opportunity, but only if we stay true to the cause and see it to its end. But the country must unite in this endeavor...we cannot place the burden on our military alone. We must all stand up and fight, whether in uniform or not. And supporting us is more than sticking yellow ribbon stickers on your cars. It's supporting our President, our troops and our cause.

Right now, the burden is all on the American soldiers. Right now, hope rides alone. But it can change, it must change. Because there is only failure and darkness ahead for us as a country, as a people, if it doesn't.

Let's stop all the political nonsense, let's stop all the bickering, let's stop all the bad news and let's stand and fight!

Isn't that what America is about anyway?

It is what America is all about. God speed Eddy. God Speed.

The family of Sergeant Eddie Jeffers, USA, asks that should you be moved to do so a donation in his name to the Fisher House would be appreciated. Eddie always took care of his men. ESR

Frank Salvato is the managing editor for The New Media Journal. He serves at the Executive Director of the Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(C)(3) research and education initiative. His pieces are regularly featured in over 100 publications both nationally and internationally. He has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor, and is a regular guest on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network, as well as an occasional guest on numerous radio shows coast to coast. His organization, Basics Project, is partnered in producing the first-ever national symposium series on the threat of radical Islamist terrorism. His pieces have been recognized by the House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at oped@newmediajournal.us.

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