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Support from home offers strength, encouragement

By By Craig Ziemba / guest columnist
May 11, 2003
One of the greatest sources of encouragement and strength that those of us who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom had was the knowledge that the overwhelming majority of the folks back home supported what we were doing and prayed daily for our protection. When you're missing your family from half a world away, nothing means quite as much as knowing that America stands behind you.
Presidents and prime ministers issue ultimatums, but history is made by the soldier driving the tank, the sailor manning a missile battery and the pilot in the cockpit over bad-guy country. We call it the tip of the spear. That spear is powerless, however, without the shaft of support and the arm of American will.
The longer I serve in the military, the more impressed I am with the incredible logistical and moral support given to those of us who serve overseas. Twenty-four hours a day, a fleet of cargo jets and ships circle the globe bringing everything from ammunition to MREs, from bottled water to packages from home. If anyone ever doubts America's will power, they need only watch a tent city going up overnight in the middle of nowhere to lay that skepticism to rest.
Just as important to us as the military hardware, though, are the letters from home. Whether it's a picture drawn by your 2-year-old, a package from a veteran, or Dear Soldier letters written by Mrs. Smith's home room class, mail gives us a link back that reminds us what we're fighting for.
Within days of the Magnolia Militia arriving at our forward location two months ago, folks back home got the word that we didn't have towels. Huge boxes of them arrived in the next shipment of mail. South Choctaw Academy sent us everything from wet wipes to mouthwash. An Avon Lady in Meridian shipped bottles of shampoo and lotion. We were the best smelling troops in the war.
When we saw footage of anti-war protesters back home on TV, we knew they weren't from Mississippi. I can't begin to tell you how proud it makes us all to know that we come from a place where patriotism is alive and where the community supports your family while you're gone.
America has plenty of problems, but we've come a long way from the days when draft dodgers spat on soldiers. Having a commander-in-chief that we respect, and knowing that most Americans stand with us in spirit, has done wonders for our morale. And coming home to American flags, yellow ribbons and neighbors who look after you place so you can take the family on a vacation sure helps take the sting out of a deployment.
I brought home a souvenir from the war last week. Kelsie, a third-grader, drew a picture of an American flag with lots of stars and stripes on one side and this letter on the other:
I hope most of you live. We have a lot of pride in you. A lot of Iraqi people are finally getting freedom. We miss you. When I say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, I think of you guys."
Likewise, Kelsie.
We know you are behind us. We feel it. And we appreciate it.
Craig Ziemba is a pilot who lives in Meridian.

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