Gordon L. Bowen, Ph.D.
Political Science and International Relations disciplines
Mary Baldwin College
Staunton, VA USA 24401
This editorial by Prof. Bowen was published January 18, 2004 in the News Leader (Staunton, VA): p. A9.
From Iowa to New Hampshire, and across the land by means of television, bickering about the war seems the pageant of 2004 we cannot avoid attending. If Democratic presidential candidates cutting each other up over the issue is not enough to sicken us, now we have a former Republican Treasury Secretary sharpening his lance. Thus, Paul O'Neill has penned allegations that war on Iraq was plotted months prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks on America. From our national unity that dark Fall, to our partisan quarreling today, how far we have come!
Whether viewed as a mistaken over-reach, or as a necessary next step in stopping the terrorists, the only certain legacy of the war in Iraq, it would seem, is its ability endlessly to divide us. Quietly, somewhere, the man from Illinois weeps; a house divided still cannot sturdily stand.
But a different, better face of America's war on terrorism exists, and it is that larger America which will be on full display this week in Staunton. A homecoming of sorts will take place at noon on Thursday January 22, on the lower athletic (i.e., soccer) field at Mary Baldwin College. There Captain Sheri Sharpe, a 1999 graduate of the College (and of its Virginia Women's Institute for Leadership, VWIL) will fly-in her Chinook helicopter and crew. Sharpe - who was featured on NBC's "Today Show" the morning Saddam's statue fell-is a veteran of both the Afghanistan and the Iraq campaigns. From her home in Martinsville, VA, Sheri turned up in Staunton with the first set of VWIL recruits, and joined my course there on International Relations as a freshman in the fall of 1995. We all have done a lot of growing up since then.
Captain Sharpe now is based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, a member of the 159th Aviation Battalion of the U.S. Army. Personifying the opportunities that now exist for women to serve in close proximity to forward operations, Sharpe and much of her crew volunteered for a second tour after completing a dangerous first tour flying out of Bagram airfield, Afghanistan. While Chinooks are not battle helicopters, by transporting the troops and evacuating the wounded they frequently come under hostile fire. Much as every other U.S. soldier in those dangerous lands knows, flying in helicopters puts a person in among the most vulnerable positions. Yet, she opted for a second tour.
In April 2003, when interviewed by NBC news, Sharpe was typically modest and unassuming, suggesting to the interviewer that the whole reason to be in the Army is to be ready and willing to go to the front, to take risks so the rest of us here at home don't have to. In this time of politicians slicing and dicing the war on terrorism, it is useful to remember those who quietly are getting the job of protecting the rest of us done.
Here is a scan of the original January 18, 2004 OpEd piece:
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