The Vote in Sadr City, Iraq

by John Vermeesch
This was sent to Colonel (Ret) Dick Toner by his grandson, Lt Colonel Chris Toner, Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry. Its author is John Vermeesch, one of our great soldiers serving in Iraq.


Family and Friends,

I hope you are having a great Sunday morning wherever you may be in America.

I want to thank each of you for the pride you feel for America and for the support you extend to those of us who serve her. Today may be the proudest I have ever been of being an American Soldier. As I walked the streets of Sadr City today, I saw the best the human spirit has to offer.

Despite the many cultural and religious differences between our soldiers and the local people, I saw men, women, and children genuinely ecstatic and thankful because they had tasted the first morsel of freedom.

Don't believe any negativity that may be in the news today. There were a few very isolated incidents in which Iraqi patriots lost their lives, but freedom and democracy moved forward despite it. You may have seen on the news that there was a rocket attack in Sadr City today. That was in our area of operations and I went there after the incident. The rocket hit about 40 meters from a polling station and killed 3 adults and a child, destroyed 7 vehicles and damaged buildings.

Despite that, the people cleaned up the mess and continued to flood into the polling center to vote. While neighborhood members mopped the blood into the gutter, others continued to enter the station to take advantage of their new found freedom. The mother of the dead child voted, despite her grief.

Elsewhere in our brigade's sector, two suicide bombers attacked polling stations. People were killed and injured, but the polling stations remained open.

I walked with my patrol today throughout Sadr City, down the very same street on which I was almost killed on the 7th of September, and the people thanked us for providing them the security they needed to see this day through. It was heart-warming; It made me full of pride for our soldiers and their efforts, not just this week but since this all began. It convinced me, maybe for the first time, that this is genuinely worth it. It absolutely convinced me that David Heath, Brandon Titus, Henry Risner, Yoe Aneiros, David Waters, Mark Stubenhofer, and the over 1000 others did not die in vain. It convinced me that SGT Mendoza lost both of his legs in the pursuit of a higher purpose. I am assured that the 91 soldiers from this task force who have bled in the streets of this city did so in order to make this day a reality.

Today exceeded my wildest expectations, and while much remains to be done, a seed is planted, and I don't believe any amount of tyranny and terror can thwart its growth.

Today as I watched men and woman swell with joy and pride as they showed me the indelible ink on their finger that proved they had voted, I developed new hope for the future. It took today, made possible by nearly two years worth of blood, sweat, and tears of both Iraqis and coalition forces, to make the hope for freedom a reality and paint genuine hope for the future in both the minds of our soldiers and that of the people of Iraq. I don't know if deep down, anyone ever thought today could happen. IT DID!

There will be more violence and deaths, and there is so much more work to do here that on any given day it seems overwhelming. Today convinced us who witnessed it, beyond any doubt, that the cause is just, and the cost and effort are worth it. Today was an amazing day for Iraq, for America and her allies, and for the world. As I type this I am nearly brought to tears by the pride I feel for the flag that adorns my right sleeve, and for all that it stands for. God Bless you all, God bless the seeds of freedom, and God Bless America!



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Updated 11/30/2014