Basic training for all ground forces is the same, whether it be for regular Army, the Army Reserve or the National Guard. Once given their weapon, it never leaves their side, and they are combat ready when basic training is complete. No matter what their role is, they are soldiers first.
For that part of the story, for this mother's son, it was nothing out of the ordinary. Her son's unit deployed, checked in and geared up in Kuwait, then went into Iraq to relieve a unit that was coming home. At his permanent station, this solider was ordered to be the gunner on a high ranking officer's jeep. On his second mission, he was ordered to shoot and he killed three Iraqis. This 19 year old soldier immediately began to suffer severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, yet fought orders to be sent home so that he could stay with his unit for the duration of his assigned deployment. He was treated, stabilized and rejoined his unit as he requested.
Another mother told me her son's story. Her son was assigned to a transport unit, and while on one of his last missions, though he had learned quickly how to drive to avoid them, the truck he was driving ran over a land mine he didn't see. He sustained several shrapnel wounds to an arm and his torso, and one piece of shrapnel went into an eye. He refused to be taken to a hospital and was treated in the field, and only agreed to medical treatment when his unit completed the mission. He said that he would not allow anyone else in his unit to put themselves at risk to drive his truck to the destination point.
A soldier's wife with two small children told me that her husband signed on for another tour, to remain in Iraq for another year. Though she wanted her husband home, missed him very much, she knew he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he came home. He had told her that the kind, gentle, giving Iraqi people needed so much more that he couldn't bring himself to leave with so much work to be done yet.
More than a few of the demobilized soldiers I talked with said the same thing. They wanted to go back, so much more had to be done. It's the insurgents that are the bad guys, not the Iraqi people, and all those people would be at a great risk if the US soldiers left. The insurgents would retaliate and kill anyone known to have associated with American soldiers.
A few months ago, I had a conversation with a US Army Reserve Colonel that is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in February, 2009. I asked him what he felt were the reasons why people joined the military, knowing they would be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. He said that most soldiers want to do what is right. They want to serve their country and stand up for what our country represents. Very close to retirement, he himself was thankful for the opportunity to deploy again, to do what is right, to serve his country.
I wish to say to every soldier, for all you do for our country and for me, thank you.