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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

 

Soldiers' Pay


1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division * William Faulkner


Two days before the month ends the November death toll for American soldiers in Iraq is 63, mercifully lower than October (106). For the 1st Brigade of 3rd Infantry Division, about to begin their third tour in Iraq since 2003, it is a time of closeness, anxiety, and prayer. The way things look they might be back for a fourth tour before American forces exit from Iraq. President Bush,scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Jordan on November 29th, continues to maintain his "no withdrawal" position.

Ann Scott Tyson in the Post:




Fort Stewart, GA.

Col. John Charlton, commander of the division's 1st Brigade, which next month begins its third Iraq tour in four years, stepped forward. "Be thankful for your families, your health, and for every day that you're alive," he advised. The brigade's mission, he said, is to bring peace to Iraq's volatile western Anbar province and its capital, Ramadi, which he said despite progress remain "a dangerous area, a very dangerous area."

"Take this time . . . to be thinking about those soldiers represented behind or in front of you," he said, "and as you'll notice, there's still some space on the sidewalk there for more trees."

This week, U.S. troops will have been fighting in Iraq longer than they did in World War II, with no relief in sight. Soldiers from 1st Brigade preparing at Fort Stewart for their third Iraq tour have been spending as much time in Iraq as at home. The rotations -- a year in Iraq followed by a year at home -- dictate soldiers' most intimate decisions: They mandate when troops can marry and have children. They sever relationships that cannot sustain the stress of absence or danger. And they lead some couples to pray for the war to end.

After the memorial service, Lt. Col. Doug Crissman gathered his 1st Brigade soldiers and sent them on leave with a warning not to get hurt, go to jail or go AWOL.

"You're all a little bit nervous. Hell, I'm nervous," said Crissman, of Burke, Va., who commands the 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment. "The Army is asking us to do some tough stuff."

Then his voice softened as he nudged his troops to be attentive to their families. "I need you to think about this visit a little differently," he said. "Spend time with them. . . . Tell them you love them."


"Soldiers' Pay", is the title of the first novel published (1926) by the late William Faulkner who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1949. Excerpts from his acceptance speech in Stockholm, December 10, 1950:



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