THE G.I. JOE GENERATION GOES TO WAR
by First Lieut. Gabe Scheinbaum, U.S.A
American Reporter Special Correspondent
RAWAH, Iraq -- "Why did you join the Army?"
The question has been asked, and is still asked to the thousands of young men and women who volunteered to be part of the U.S. Armed Forces since the end of the draft a generation ago.
The answer is often simpler than critics want to admit. The answers are often more complex than Bill O'Reilly or Jessica Lynch care to offer.
To kids who grew up with GI Joe and John Wayne, the new role model for those who fight and the loved ones who reinforce their decisions, looks more like a kid named Adam Scott than Lee Marvin.
By his own admission, Scott used to be a "lard butt." He stands five-foot-ten in combat boots, and fought off Fritos and fries long before he ever heard of firefights and Fallujah. He lost 130 pounds to qualify for the U.S. Army, "doing what I love" as a combat medic.
If you're not up on your military hierarchy, take it from this grandson of a World War II infantryman who became a combat medic shortly after landing at Normandy. The combat medics are the hero's heroes.
At age 21, Adam Scott is the antithesis of all broad soldier stereotypes. He considers himself a Jew in a predominantly Christian army. Plain and simple, he didn't care about bonus money for college, he cared about freedom. He believes in freedom. "Not just for Americans, " he says, "but for those who never had it and those who aren't strong enough to earn it on their own."
The son of a Dallas policeman and a registered nurse, he played football in high school, has two younger sisters, and after Sept. 11 "really wanted to come here and kill the people responsible for messing with our freedom."
"Killing the people responsible" is his euphemism for keeping the guys who do most of the killing alive to fight another day, or at least make it home to their families alive.
He has already qualified for his Combat Medic Badge and has actively helped save the life of one of our men. Those who work with him consider him an exemplary soldier.
Scott is one great story out of the approximately 100 fighters assigned to my "Crazyhorse" Troop, 4th Squadron, 14th U.S. Cavalry Regiment out of Ft. Wainwright, Ala. He is the epitome of the GI Joe mentality, willing to do what others can't do to make things better for the future of America.
"I look at what our country was like after World War II, and there was so much progressm" he says. "We fought off a monster, brought races together, and bloomed into a world power.
"Now, everyone hates us. I wanted to help return America to its pedestal and erase the stigma."
Adam Scott is not alone. I'm surrounded by more than 90 other guys whose individual stories inspire me, and would inspire the entire nation if told through their eyes instead of through 30-second news summaries on television.
How did we get to this place, literally and figuratively?
I suppose it started in the mid-'80s, when the Cold War was cooling off, the spy movie genre was hitting a wall, Reagan was eating jellybeans, and a cartoon was voicing pro-Americanism to its audience of 10 year-olds. "GI Joe," the animated series based on the popular Hasbro toy, was a hit with kids.
The three-and-a-quarter inch figures fashioned after every type of soldier, sailor, Marine and others, with a kung-fu grip, boasted that they "Fight For Freedom Wherever There's Trouble." Americans could buy into that. They "bought" millions of those toys for their kids and grandkids. So why is it so hard to buy into the fact that this war, today, is necessary? As we start the New Year and another year in Iraq, I am reminded everywhere that this is what the GI Joe of today is certainly doing.
I'm reminded of Adam Scott and his training and dedication, and his true American vision of a citizen soldier stepping up for his nation.
I am tired of looking at CNN.com, admittedly my main source of American news, and seeing pictures of this war painted in broader and broader strokes. The vagueness of the reporting doesn't allow the American public to see all that we are fighting for. Too many people believe that our government is wasting precious lives, time, and money, on this :Global War on Terrorism." I am here to tell you that is not so. On the contrary: the opposite is true.
"Why did you join the Army?"
"To volunteer your life and time to the pursuit of something greater than yourself" is a phrase you almost never hear, whether it is true or not. But I can assure you that the men and women in today's Army are as varied as their answers, yet all believe that the success we have on the battlefield of Iraq is a requirement for the safety back home in the States. That "wasted" money and America's most precious of resources, its soldiers, are the sponge that soaks up the violence so retail sales revenue can be up at Christmas time. They are ambassadors of peace, whether they like it or not, and they will remain so until the job is done.
Look, I don't really care if "Nick and Jessica" get divorced, or if the Yankees buy another championship. That doesn't drive me or my soldiers. But what we need to know is that our country backs us. The pundits and the talking heads; the polemic naysayers; the far Right and extreme Left; Bill O'Reilly and David Letterman have no idea what is going on. Their intelligence is always a day behind, and their opinions are wearing thin on us, because they do not speak for us.
Only our dedication to service and duty speaks to what we want to say. And this whole "Oh, I support the soldiers but not the war" needs to go, too. You can keep it. They are one and the same, symbiotic with the issue. So please realize that before you open your mouth on "Crossfire."
I wish you could get a Fox News or Tom Brokaw profile on a guy like Adam Scott every evening on the news. I wish 99 percent of the reporters lived in tents with us, and patrolled the desert and back alleys with the troops. Sure, it's just a wish, because when you pick up the newspaper, login to a news Website, or watch tv, you'll be more likely to see a "talking head" soeaking from the safety of the "Green Zone." Instead of the real news, you'll get Geraldo, Jessica Lynch and a bunch of retired Colonels living in Silver Springs.