03/21/07 — Honor defined: Nation should listen more to its heroes and less to its critics

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Honor defined: Nation should listen more to its heroes and less to its critics

U.S. Army Pfc. Michael Russell’s story ought to be required reading for every protester, waffling congressman or anyone else who is throwing around criticism about the war in Iraq or claiming not to understand why the U.S. went there in the first place.

This 23-year-old Purple Heart recipient and proud Goldsboro High graduate knows why he was fighting — and he puts it simply without fanfare or fancy words.

Russell said he was there to help the people of Iraq get their start on the march toward democracy. He likens that nation’s struggle to that of the original colonies in a fledgling America. Those men and women, too, faced tough odds as they struggled to build their country and to free themselves from tyranny, he said.

And he wants to be back in Iraq now, with members of his unit — the Army 2nd Brigade Combat Team. He worries about his friends, whom he says have been working with determination, courage and conviction to help get Iraq back on its feet — and to keep out the insurgents who threaten not only that country, but the region and world.

He hopes his story inspires other young Wayne County children to strive to be the best they can be — and encourages them to understand that making a difference in your country’s future has no socio-economic requirements.

All it takes is heart.

There is no question Michael Russell is an inspiration. His battle to get back to full recovery after his injury on the battlefield in Iraq should make anyone want to cheer him on — and this community proud to call him one of its own.

There will be many who will hear his story and think he has been coached — either by a superior officer or by the years of training to obey orders. They will discount his accounts of the progress that has been made.

And that is what makes the new turn to the arguments over the war in Iraq so disheartening.

We aren’t really listening to the soldiers who are there and who believe in what they are doing.

Sometimes it seems as though this nation has forgotten how to stand tall in the face of adversity. We want freedom, but some are not willing to protect it. We hang our heads when we hear criticism of a nation that has been a leader for generations in the protection of not only its citizens, but those who cannot fight for themselves around the world. We don’t stand proud.

That is why stories from heroes like Michael Russell are so important. It gives us a chance to think about the stakes, the job and the reason we went in the first place.

He says his medal proves he “still believes in something.” He treasures what it stands for.

Maybe it takes a statement — and a story — like that to get the rest of us to get our priorities straight.

Published in Editorials on March 21, 2007 12:14 PM