They can only dream of holidays at home

USA Today

They can only dream of holidays at home

By Al Neuharth, USA TODAY Founder

Most of us love to spend Christmas with our families, but many cannot. Some numbers of this year’s can-dos and cannots:

•More than 62 million of us will travel 50 miles or more to be with family.

•Most of our 2.4 million military men and women will be unable to go home for the holidays.

•More than a half million troops serving overseas will have little holiday happiness, especially the 138,000 in Iraq.

My saddest Christmases came when I was ages 19, 20 and 21 serving in the Army in World War II. The 86th (Blackhawk) Infantry Division took me far from my South Dakota home, first to Texas and California for training, then to France, Germany and the Philippines.

Some of my Blackhawk buddies and I often were watery-eyed when we heard the holiday hit song of 1943 and 1944 — Bing Crosby singing, I’ll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.

Despite unhappy holidays, nearly all of us who served in WWII were proud, determined and properly armed and equipped to help defeat would-be world conquerors Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Hirohito in Japan.

At age 80, I’d gladly volunteer for such highly moral duty again. But if I were eligible for service in Iraq, I would do all I could to avoid it. I would have done the same during the Vietnam War, as many of the politically connected did.

“Support Our Troops” is a wonderful patriotic slogan. But the best way to support troops thrust by unwise commanders in chief into ill-advised adventures like Vietnam and Iraq is to bring them home. Sooner rather than later. That should be our New Year’s resolution.

Neuharth Call for Pullout in Iraq Draws Massive Response

By Greg Mitchell
Published: December 23, 2004 5:00 PM ET

NEW YORK An E & P report on USA Today founder Al Neuharth’s Thursday column for that newspaper has quickly drawn dozens of (mostly negative) emails. In the column, Neuharth, noting how many soldiers were far from home and in harm’s way at Christmas, called for a U.S. pullout from Iraq “sooner rather than later.” A World War II vet, he said he would not serve if he had been called today for this war. And he noted that in WW II, troops were “properly equipped.”

Here is a sampling of the responses:

A.P. Oliver, commander USN (ret.): “To withdraw troops from Iraq would qualify as the greatest surrender in history and invite direct attacks here in this country and ultimately drastically change the way we live. No respectful American could agree with your illogical conclusion.”

J. Boke, Titusville, FL: “Al Neuharth’s war experience crippled his brain, or he’s just too old to have much left. War experience doesn’t necessarily make one wise. It CAN have a negative effect on one’s judgement. It sounds like Mr. Neuharth, as well John McCain, both suffered mentally via their strong emotional suffering.”

Michael Bustamente, Sterling Height, MI: “Tell you what. We leave and the sanctimonious jerks like you and your Free Press, you go there and stay after we leave.”

Richard C. Fairchild: “Al, thanks for your willingness to express your view that we should bring our troops home sooner rather than later, which I as a veteran of service both in the army and Marine Corps also hold. To me, in this case, sooner means right away. I applaud your courage, you will take heat.”

Henry Yang: “Did he really serve in France, Germany and Philippines? Where was he when our tanks were ill-equipped to deal with the hedge rows in France after the Normandy landing? Do we need to count the number of unnecessary casualties because we were not properly armed and equipped in WW II? By the way, how could we send soldiers to fight the Battle of the Bulge with not properly clothed for the winter and does he know how many soldiers froze to death?”

William Billingsley: “There already are way too many without arms and legs. Withdraw. Do it now. I hope we the people have learned from this but we didn’t learn from Vietnam. So I guess just more of the same.”

Cliff Hair: “Never heard of Al Neuharth! What makes him so special and who gives a damn what he thinks?”

David J. Horchak: “I agree with Al Neuharth’s sentiment that we should bring home our troops as soon as possible… once their mission is complete. Everything else is sheer fantasy and lies.”

Bob Armstrong, Clayton, CA: “Tell Al that my Pop served on Guadalcanal and they sure as hell were not properly equipped. The First Marine Division stormed ashore with WW I rifles and had to eat captured Jap food for 3 months. War is hell and every war has shorfalls. The M16 first sent to Vietnam was a joke. When the Iraqi elections are held and they demostrate a willingness to fight for freedom this will all worth it. If we fail it will be an Iraqi failure not ours.”

Phil Miller: “Bush and the Republican congress will do more to defeat Bush and the Republican congress through
this invasion than ANYTHING the Democrats could do. If Iraq actually gets a free election not picked by Bush it will demand U.S occupation troops leave asap and I would guess they will indict Bush, Chaney et al on war crimes. Then what will Bush say?”

Galen Heslet, Hemet, CA: “Al Neuharth should butt out. Nobody elected him to run things in this country. His liberal-leftist negativity isn’t doing the troops in Iraq any good with this kind of tripe.”

Bill Rollins: “Al, I want to thank you for your bravery and you pegged it correctly, we went into an un-moral preemptive strike that was foolishly planned and ill-conceived. We should have at least 500,000 to 750,000 troops well equipped to keep it a moral war. Now we have split our britches and put our men in harm’s way.”

Pat Giuffra: “I have asked the hotels to not deliver USA Today anymore to my room because of this type of distorted news reporting the it is putting out these days.”

Greg Mitchell gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com

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