Paul McKellips is a USDA/Department of State communications specialist reporting from Iraq on the efforts to rebuild the Iraqi agriculture industry and just sent us this letter:
Hi everybody. I’m back for my third – and as my wife likes to remind me…final – deployment to Iraq. Things are much different now then they were even a few months ago. I sense two key differences: (1) the tone and constant drum beat of the Iraq War debate back home is now evident on the faces of soldiers and diplomats alike. I just got back from a mission to Ramadi in Anbar Province and I heard several Marines and soldiers discussing the futility of public support; and (2) safety in the Green Zone has been rather perilous for the past 30 days. Incoming rocket attacks have become much more accurate. Six of our civilian colleagues have been killed and dozens injured in these violent attacks. As civilians, we haven’t trained and drilled for countless days and months to prepare for combat. So when “war” lands at our feet in the form of incoming rockets, it probably affects us differently than our brothers and sisters in the military.
I realize that Americans are starting to have “Iraq fatigue.” The opinion polls are staggering. Congress and the White House are struggling with budgets and war funding. Everybody has an opinion on Iraq. But let me say this unequivocally…I will serve this President, support our military, and strive for Iraqi freedom every minute of every day until it’s my turn to fly home. I don’t care about the politics. I don’t care about the rhetoric. Our men and women in uniform are pulling off the impossible every day of the week. They deserve to have their stories told. I talked with a young Marine on a tarmac in Anbar Province last Saturday. He said, “if Americans don’t fight for these people’s freedom, then who will?” Hopefully his service will encourage more Iraqis to start fighting for their own freedom. I suspect they need to start doing that soon.
As conditions allow I’ll be sending you periodic reports from the field. The attached story features MAJ Kevin Wellington, a large animal vet who is running an A-I program to improve genetics in Iraqi dairy cows. As always, I thank you for your support, encouragement and prayers.
On detail assignment from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Paul also sent an audio report with a young Major working to help bring dairy industry genetics in the country up to par.