This is a letter received by Garnet McConville from her son-in-law stationed in the Middle East.
Have I tried any local food? I have only tried a dried fruit given to me by one of the water truck drivers. It was almost like candy.
Do they eat camels and do they taste like chicken? They do eat camels, but I have never seen or tasted the meat.
Do they get milk from the camels? Yes, they milk the camels like cows. Have I tried the milk? No, I haven't tried the milk, but I've talked to someone who has tried it. He said it was good. He also said it has lots of cream.
What is my best guess when I will be come back? When I was mobilized, my orders read 18 months. I have tried to accept the fact that it might be June of 2005 before I get to come home. The policy is for troops to spend a year in country. The odds are that I could be back in the U.S. by February 2005. I know that it may be longer.
It is about time I get on my soapbox again. Yes, that's right, I'm going to delve out some observations and opinions, in regard to being one of the many soldiers here in the Middle East.
We do not have CNN or Fox News here. What we have is Stars and Strips and I also get the Army Times online. I can get a sense of what must be in the papers back home. I can also guess what you see every time you turn on the TV. The photos and stories are painfully negative and depressing.
If you believe all the stories, you might think that the Iraqi people hate us and are waiting to kill us. This couldn't be further from the truth. The majority of the Iraqi people are not only benefiting greatly but are enthusiastically supportive.
Many people who knew only repression and terror now have hope in their grasp. Every day the Iraqi people stream into the streets to cheer and wave at the soldiers as they drive by. On patrol, crowds of people thank the soldiers repeatedly.
Baghdad has a population of a few million. If the people there were in an uprising, as you are being led to believe, we would be overwhelmed in hours. There are weapons everywhere and although efforts are being made to gather them, we simply can't.
The reality is that our enemies' defeat is progressing every day. This makes them more desperate. They are striking viciously and indiscriminately. I know these events cause all of you back home, stress and believe me, that stress is felt here, as well.
What you must remember is that the target of these attacks are aimed at you. They are attacking us to get at you. The same way 9-11 was made to cause fear and change our way of life. They are continuing terrorist activities here to cause us to fail and leave this country. They fear a free society, when they will not be tolerated.
We have restored schools, universities, hospitals, power plants, and water systems. We have engineered new infrastructure projects and much more. We have also brought security and order to many of Baghdad's worst areas -- areas once affected with chaos and brutality.
The mission is vital. We are transforming a once, very sick society into a hopeful place. Dozens of newspapers and the concepts of freedom of religious worship are flowering. So too are the educational improvements. This is the work of the U.S. military.
Iraqis today are embracing freedom and the birth of democracy. With this comes hope for the future.
Yes, there are terrorists who work to strike these things down. This is a test of will we must win. We can do this as long as Americans keep the faith with the soldiers in this war. This is a test for our country. We soldiers are doing great things and scoring victories in confronting terrorists. We can and must win this test.
MSG Douglas Gnuse
Information from the article "From one GI's perspective, progress shows" was used to write this letter.