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Letters from alumni about Princetonians in Iraq

January 18, 2004

When I read your October 22, 2003, article on Iraq, my mind was reeling with thoughts of my husband, an Army Reservist, with a military intelligence specialty, serving in Iraq. He had been gone almost two years, spending most of 2002 on an assignment in Europe.

— His end date had been pushed back twice. And the latest return estimate was going to take him over a 24-month deployment limit for reservists.
— He watched Active Duty forces leave after six-month tours.
— He watched foreign army soldiers working with him receive the best equipment, while he paid from his (our) own funds $500 for a bullet proof vest, $70 for a gun holster, and $200 for a GPS so he would not get lost in the desert.
— He watched one of his soldiers die.

Now the better news: After mass writings to Congressman by all those families affected by the 24-month limit, my husband was sent home three weeks shy of two years, just before Christmas. That was the best present of all.

These are my reflections on Iraq.

Sheila Dooley Holmes ’85
Silver Spring, Md.

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November 8, 2003

Thank you for this simple yet exceptional piece. There is nothing more enlightening than a diversity of first-hand perspectives.

In particular, one sentence from Captain Parham will stay with me for a while: "Our sortie was uneventful: We dropped our bombs, shot our missiles, and went home."


David Bonowitz '85
San Francisco, Calif.

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November 4, 2003

The cumulative effect of recent events has collapsed my interest now in flags and nations, partisanship and chauvinism. I find myself seeking a saner plane of humanism and the world writ large, as “City.” It is of course an impossible dream, but then “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for” (Browning wasn’t it?).

The concept of Princeton in the nation’s service begins to seem parochial to me, and I wonder why Princeton would not choose instead to serve the whole world in its entirety? The student body is increasingly (and presumably deliberately), international in form; and if the school seeks nobility in its service then it can certainly foster no greater goal than serving the globe.

And do not get me wrong please, my disinterest (even to disgust now), with flags extends even to anything like the fluttering blue banner of the United Nation’s. I prefer to pledge allegiance to no power, but I will also admit that I am no friend either of anarchy. And all of this internal struggle for me personally I can trace to reflections on Iraq, which is also the title of your last issue’s very thought provoking anthology of essays.

It was Tally Parham’s ’92's essay and photo that struck me. I was led to question myself further about my newfound discomfort with nation states. A locomotive to that woman and to her skill and nerve, her story is a tribute to personal excellence and personal accomplishment. But I am the father of two young daughters, and something in me asks if it would not be a better future for them (and others), if they were not soon piloting the latest and greatest state-of-the-art model of flying destruction.

And what kind of world would it be if 100, or 50, or even only 10 (not all, just some), of my nation’s once 500-ship Navy were hospital ships. What if they were platforms for dispensing life-preserving health care worldwide instead of platforms for missile launching?

The world will always be a place of struggle, but I find myself wondering what the diplomatic power of $1 Million of life-saving hospital care could gain our people (everyone’s people, all people), over the $1 Million cost of launching one cruise missile much too late after the fact. “Reflections on Iraq” stirs me now to ask myself questions like these. Thank you for the article.

Rocky Semmes ‘79
Alexandria, Va.

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October 29, 2003

As my class number would suggest, I've been reading PAW for many years, but never with more interest than I gave the stories from Princetonians in Iraq. All well chosen, well written and well edited. In my work here at NIMA I've had contact with many who were and are there, so this had special significance. Well done!

Wells Huff '52
National Imagery and Mapping Agency
St. Louis, Mo.

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