That doesn’t mean rejection doesn’t hurt. My heart aches to see a land and a people I grew fond of on the brink of collapse. It hurts all the more because we have been there and because we have sacrificed. But the presence of pain isn’t all encompassing; it isn’t all there is. There is a far greater feeling that outshines the pain: Pride.
It was in the sands of Ramadi that I learned most people want to be masters of their own fate. When we were providing area security for a week-long recruitment drive to re-establish the Ramadi police force, the turnout was overwhelming. More than 1,000 applicants stood in line when death approached in the form of a suicide bomber. The blast killed more than 60 and wounded at least 50. On that day, as on many days before and after, Americans and Iraqis were killed by the same enemy. They fell in pursuit of freedom. One for the other’s; one for his own. No matter how things turn out, there was a time when Americans and Iraqis stood united against hate and evil.
How many nations in the course of human events have sacrificed so much to give an unfree people a shot at self-determination? Did Alexander defeat Darius just to give Persia its freedom? Did Caesar conquer Gaul and then say, “Now it’s your turn to govern yourself.” No other country in history has defeated its enemies only to hand over the reins of government to its native population.