June 26, 2007

: Eric Coulson
Posting date: 6/26/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url:
Email: [email protected]

I have received a large number of letters here. Most are from Mrs. Badger 6, some from my parents and hers, some from friends from before my blog, and some from new friends I have made through the blog. Outside of the ones from my wife and the dogs (she sends the cards for them) the ones from the children are the most meaningful. They are struggling to understand and be involved in the wider world. My three nephews and one niece have sent me memorable cards with touching notes; a friend from Virginia has children who have written me, as well as a dear friend from Chicago whose children are semi-regular correspondents. All those will be treasured memories from Iraq.

Today I received a letter from the child of a regular Badgers Forward reader that inadvertently touched me deeply:

Dear Badger 6,
     Hello my name is PC. I am a fourth grader in New Jersey.
     I hope you are healthy and doing okay. I am letting you know that we kids care about you guys as much as adults. My class and I would like to know what an average day is in Iraq.
     Do you have a lot of free time?
     My dad said you like Bruce Springsteen, we like him too and I have an autograph of him. He and his wife are very nice & kind. If I see him again I will try and get an autograph for you.
      -- PC
PS - My dad says Badgers Forward to you.

For me there are a number of layers in this letter. How wonderful to hear from a fourth grader who is not loaded with the cynicism of age, because you see I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan; his music has been the soundtrack of my life.

But most of my Soldiers would never know that about me; which would greatly surprise my wife, family, and virtually everyone I knew before I became associated with this unit. You see this war is deeply personal to me -- my involvement, my separation from home, my Soldiers' sacrifice -- and as big a fan as I have been of Mr. Springsteen's, his calls of "Bring Em Home" have never felt very much like support.

I am self-aware enough to realize how silly this probably all sounds. Does Bruce Springsteen really remember the time he tossed me a harmonica in the front row of his show in Nashville, Tennessee on April 12, 2000? Or when he tossed me the guitar to play the last chords of "Working on the Highway" the same night? Of course not.

One of the things though that brought me to him was his constant "searching for connection." And that is what PC is doing. And even though I don't "know" Mr. Springsteen, his music and shows have brought me together with a lot of terrific people, many of whom I now feel quite estranged from because of how we see this war. I don't like that.

Thanks, PC, for being out there searching for some connection.

I have a letter to write.


Sometimes life gives us other connections to replace those that our paths may lead us away from and those replacements are often finer than the originals.

Your little friends, relatives and others will also treasure the letters you send them and will have a personal stake in the war because of you and the letters you have written to them; because of the connection. I sense that you may well be shaping lives, Eric.

God bless you and keep you.

your words; ". . . Mr. Springsteen, his music and shows have brought me together with a lot of terrific people, many of whom I now feel quite estranged from because of how we see this war. I don't like that."

I don't much like it either. Hard to get this war stuff just right, ya know. Too much destruction, not enough destruction, too much sacrifice, not enough from others. Yeah, war just sucks balls.

I don't believe in the veraacity of the people who put you in that position. That's happened in war before, too. Politicians rarely have to suffer the real war, they just talk about it a lot.

Worst of it; guys like you, who believe in sacrifice, duty and helping your fellow man, get put in a spot where you may have to kill him instead. And the mission? What is the mission, now? What ever happened to Osama ben Forgotten?

I just scoped your web page. Lots to discuss there. Greatest thing about our country is: I may completely disagree with ya, but Gawd bless ya for having your own opinions.

It make sense to me that "Bring 'Em Home" doesn't seem like support to you -- you are focused on the mission given to you, and properly so.

However, we citizens _not_ sworn to military oaths have a different set of responsibilities, one of which is to protest (peacefully) against actions taken in our names which do not accord with our beliefs. It is exactly the recognition of this responsibility and the freedom to act on it that makes democracy worth fighting for.

So even if Bruce is not supporting you, you're supporting him. I hope you can let that be connection enough for you.

In any case, God bless you and bring you safely home.

How can ya not love a pint-size Springsteen fan? I hope you post a copy of the letter you write to him and his class.

Sorry! Hit the wrong button before I was done.

I want you and all your comrades home, with your wives and families, where you belong. Badger, I, and a lot of others, feel your mission is here, protecting America, not prosecuting one person's ill-thought-out personal vendetta against 'the man who tried to kill my dad.'

I am sorry if it doesn't feel like support, because it is. Part of my duty as a citizen is to question how one of our our most precious resources - the armed forces of the United States - is used and if that use is in the best interests of the United States.

That right to question authority is one of the freedoms you and your comrades have secured for me.

As for yourself and Mrs. Badger, keep your heads down and take care of yourselves, you are both precious to us.

You brought up what I've been thinking. What do we do, we Americans, you and me, when we disagree about the war but not about the warriors?

My brother was a Marine, 19 months in Vietnam. The country he came back to pretty much treated him like dirt. We don't want to do that again -- treat soldiers like dirt just because we don't like the war. You guys didn't start the war.

From my viewpoint -- ex-Army myself, Marine's sister, old grandma now -- I love you guys over there. You are my brothers; just like he was, you're idealistic, dedicated, and so damn brave. There's nothing that would ever be too good for you. I look at my 17 year-old grand-daughter, in Navy ROTC now, and she's the same way. I think about how she may be over there in another year or so. What can I say to her?

I too was a hawk back in the 60s, when I was in the Army. I was sure we needed to be in Vietnam. If they'd sent non-medical-service women to Vietnam, I'd have gone.

Here I am now, and I can't go back and think as if I were 21 again. I know now what they told us about Vietnam, and what they didn't.

Now I've come to believe war is a terrible waste of the very best young people that we have, sacrificed by scheming and callous old people. I can't help feeling that way, but I'm sad that it comes across to you guys as a lack of support for you.

I have to respect your view of the situation, but for whatever it's worth, I pray every day that you American soldiers will come home safe and live long and happy lives with your families.

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