For those that support our continued military presence in Iraq, let me share some thoughts.
I was 18 years old when I came to college. In the last three years, four months, and eleven days, 22 American 18 year olds were killed in Iraq. One of them, Pfc. Bradley G. Kritzer, U.S. Army, 1st Cavalry Division, was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device in Baghdad on May 5th, 2004, three days before I turned seventeen. He was from Irvona, PA. He joined the army to pay for his education so that he could work for the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission. His dream was never realized. Remember, he was 18 years old.
I am 19 years old now. In the last three years, four months, and eleven days, 149 19 year olds have been killed in Iraq. I turned nineteen on May 8th, 2006. Two days before that, on May 6th, Lance Corporal Leon Deraps, U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Marine Logistics Group, died in an Improvised Explosive Device attack in Fallujah. He was from St. Louis, MO. He was 19 years old. He was a Boy Scout who won 35 Merit Badges and was his Senior Prom King in High School. Remember, he was 19 years old.
I will turn twenty next year. In the last three years, four months, and eleven days, 273 20 year olds have been killed in Iraq. One of them, Pfc. Nicholas E. Messmer, U.S. Army, 2nd Infrantry Division, died on my eighteenth birthday on May 8th, 2005 in Khalidiyah in a hostile fire attack by the enemy. He was from Gahanna, Ohio. He was "into working out and wanted to be a firefighter." Remember, he was 20 years old.
I will be able to legally drink on May 8th, 2008, when I turn 21 years old. In the last three years, four months, and eleven days, 320 21 year old American servicemen and women have died in Iraq. Sergeant Elisha Parker, U.S. Marine Corps, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, died on May 4th, 2006, in a hostile fire attack in Al Anbar Province. He was from Camden, New York. Nicknamed Eli, Sergeant Parker could have "gone to any college he wanted to." He was on the track team. Remember, he was 21 years old.
I will graduate college soon after I turn 22 on May 8th, 2009. In the last three years, four months, and eleven days, 260 American 22 year olds have died in Iraq. On June 9th, 2006, while I was slaving away at my internship here in Washington, D.C., Pfc. Ben Slaven, U.S. Army National Guard, 308th Transportation Company died in Diwaniyah in an IED attack. He was from Plymouth, Nebraska. According to his frist Sergeant, Slaven always "volunteered for duties like cleaning the floor with a toothbrush." Remember, he was 22 years old.
As a college student, I know a lot of 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 year olds. They're my friends, my classmates, my TA's, my club Presidents, my star athletes, my brothers and sisters. They are my generation. Kids from my generation are the ones dying in this war. 1,024 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22 year olds have died so far in this war. Before we say that we need to stay in Iraq to prevent it from "degrading" into civil war, remember 18 year old Pfc. Brad Kritzer. Before we say that we can't just break Iraq and leave it, remember 19 year old Lance Corporal Leon Deraps. Before we say that we have an obligation to see success in Iraq, remember 20 year old Pfc. Nicholas Messmer. Before talking about how leaving Iraq would be giving in to the terrorists, remember 21 year old Sergeant Eli Parker. And before we say that we can still win in Iraq, remember 22 year old Pfc. Ben Slaven.
The war in Iraq is a failure, and we have made a lot of mistakes. How many more Ben Slavens will we have to lose before we get out? How many more Brad Kritzers will have to die before we realize that this war in unwinnable? How many more Leon Deraps will die in the blast of an IED before we accept that the U.S. military cannot make the Sunni and the Shia like one another? How many more Eli Parkers will have to die before we realize that we have created more terrorists? And how many more Nicholas Messmers will have to die before we realize that the best thing to do for Iraq and for America is to get our troops out immediately?
1,024 American mistakes who should have been at a college party instead of dying in Iraq. They should have been struggling with classes, not getting blown up by IED's. They should have been cheering their school's basketball teams in March Madness, not sitting at checkpoints, armed and ready to fire on Iraqis. They should have been working at a part-time job, not trying to put Iraq back together again.
Before anyone says that we should stay in Iraq, I challenge you to say that you are willing to go to Iraq and wear the uniforms that these brave men and women wear and hold the assault rifles and fear IED attacks. If any of you can say that staying in Iraq is worth it enough that you would be willing to go and serve and die, then I salute you. But if not, join me in saying that this war must end, and end immediately before we remember any more kids my age who needlessly died in a senseless and endless war in a country that does not threaten our national security. Join me now, before we lose any more.
Ernie Scott Garrett supports this war to no end. He backs the President wholeheartedly. We need a Congressman who will oppose this war and support our troops by bringing them home. Support Paul Aronsohn. We need a new direction.
Update: 44 New Jerseyans have been killed in Iraq, including 4 from the fifth district. Let us end this war.