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A letter home:
On station in Operation Iraqi Freedom

By Staff
Editor's note: This is the final in a series of letters written by Lt. Col. Jeff Follett, a member of the 186th Air Refueling Wing in Meridian who deployed in June to Southwest Asia as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
By Jeff Follett / special to The Star
Oct. 19, 2003
My time here is almost finished and I will be returning home soon. But before I do, I want to share several random thoughts with you.
What is it like here?
Imagine packing for a long trip, say about four months. There are many things that you will need for this trip, dictated by where you are going.
Assume that you are limited to 200 pounds of baggage and your required gear takes about 150 pounds of that. You get to choose the optional items.
Now imagine that you are going to some distant land where you have no idea how to speak the language and you are going to be surrounded by a couple thousand people whom you have never met before, far away from everyone that you care about and that cares about you.
You will have limited opportunity to speak to those you left behind or to communicate with them, but will have the opportunity to make lots of new friends while you are there.
The weather will be hot. I'm talking about 125-130 degrees hot. But it gets worse when the humidity goes up, which it will on occasion.
The heat index will exceed 140 degrees on many days. How will you endure that four-month trip or, in some cases, up to a year? It won't be easy, but it can be done.
Knowing that you have the love and support of those you left behind means a great deal. Knowing that you are doing the job that you have spent your adult life preparing for is also satisfying. And I am not suggesting that we are warmongers, not by any stretch of the imagination. Quite the contrary, it is everyone's hope that by having a strong military, we won't have to use it in actual combat.
We love our country
Each of us volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces, be it Air Force, Army, Navy, or Marines. We did so for a variety of reasons, but I would like to believe that the primary reason is because each of us loves our country and are willing to do our part to protect our rights and our freedoms.
These freedoms include that of free speech and, even though we may not necessarily agree with everything that is said by all people, we value the right to be able to speak as we please. While we don't relish the thought of leaving everything behind that we know and love, we are willing to do so, so that when we do return we may continue to enjoy those rights and freedoms that are intended for all people. And along the way, if we can help someone who doesn't share those same privileges, that is a good thing.
That is our reason for having a strong military, to protect the rights of all.
So while we are limited in what we are able to enjoy, we take the opportunity to reflect and think about those things that are important. We remember what it is like to live in our own homes, thankful that our house is not a tent set up somewhere in the desert, thankful that our water does not have to be delivered by truck and stored in a tank outside of that tent as we see in many cases as we drive the highways of this country.