I am one of the soldiers who contributed to this piece. I have enjoyed reading the varied responses to this article because that's precisely why I agreed to be interviewed: I wanted to spark a conversation; a dialogue, long overdue.
Reading some of the responses from other veterans who found the piece to be a "hatchet job" full of drummed-up, exaggerated stories compelled me to write my own response. To overcome the polarization that plagues our nation we need to have an open, honest conversation.
Since I've been back from the war in Iraq, I have been very forthcoming with the truth about what I saw and experienced there. I have been labeled as an "unpatriotic traitor." I take no issue with being called unpatriotic because blind patriotism is part of the reason we got into this mess. I do, however, take issue with being called a traitor.
I am still very loyal to the men of B. Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. I am proud to have served with such a fine, disciplined unit. Our leadership was among the best in the military. Our Chain of Command inspired us to display integrity, discipline, and compassion on every mission. Some of my dearest friends are currently deployed to Iraq (again) and I support them with all of my heart...in honor of that cherished brotherhood that only an Infantryman can know. And I continue to stand by my oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" and I love my country deeply. However, all of these loyalties are secondary to my loyalty to the truth. And truthfully, in war, bad things happen.
I will not remain silent in order to protect my hero's status nor will I forfeit my conscience to hide the truth under a shroud of patriotism. I believe the world has a right to hear my story. And I believe it is my duty as an American, a veteran and a man, to tell the truth. The fact that I contributed to what history will someday remember as a societal travesty on par with Nazi Germany's Holocaust will torment me for the rest of my life.
I can not rely on the "only following orders" rationale to offset my guilt, take back my deeds, or justify my involvement. So my only choice is to share with others and to be honest. And I hope some of the other guys interviewed in this piece share my motivation. I want our troops to come home now. Instead, we argue amongst ourselves while our elected leaders are allowed to let politics trump moral reason. Meanwhile, the human cost of this war will continue its deadly toll, the hatred of America will grow, and the chances for a lasting peace will fade...and then, what will we do? Hopefully, the world will forgive us.
And that's the truth.