Oswego County Legislature Chairman's Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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June 23, 2008

Remember Our Soldiers on Independence Day

Instead of focusing on local political issues in this column, this time I would like to talk about something that personally affects each American citizen. Over the past few weeks many of us have noticed the American flag flying at half-mast in honor of the fallen soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who were killed in Iraq.

I hope that as we celebrate Independence Day with our families and friends, we each pause and say a prayer of gratitude to all the men and women in the Armed Services, and all those who have served in past times of war and peace.

I would like to share with you a poem about the Army infantryman. Although the author is unknown, his words help us to understand the sacrifices that are made to preserve our freedom every day of the year.

The Infantryman

The average age of the Infantryman is 19 years.

He is a short-haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances, is considered by society as half man, half boy. He is not yet dry behind the ears, not yet old enough to buy a beer, yet he is old enough to die for his country.

He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He's a recent high school graduate; probably a C student. He pursued some sports and drives a ten-year-old jalopy.

He has a girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm Howitzers.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home; he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling; letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines; he applies first aid like a pro.

He can march until he is told to stop.

He can stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues; he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you're hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and his weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life -- or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian at half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime, and more than most of us will ever see.

He has looked down from atop mountains of dead bodies, sometimes mountains he helped to create.

He has held the hands of friends as they took their last breath.

He has wept in public and in private for friends who have fallen in combat, and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In sad irony, he has risked his life, and has seen friends die, in order to defend this right to be disrespectful.

He has seen protestors burn flags, with anger and hatred towards their country, yet he loves his country so much, he has gone to war and risked his life to protect the rights of those people.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy.

He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

This tribute brings our servicemen, members of all branches of the service, to the forefront of our minds. They ask for nothing, but are willing to give all. Please give them a moment and a prayer -- as we celebrate Independence Day. - Semper Fi

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