When Soldiers Safeguard Civilians


So I’m over at Heyman’s blog reading about John Gebhardt for the first time (am I the last person to see it?) And how awful is it that the first site I went to upon seeing the pic (above) and reading the story was snopes.com. Yep, that’s right Fuzzy the Skeptic at large . . . it just seemed like the sort of thing someone might make up to give our guys a (much needed) boost. But no. It’s real. And well, I’ve blogged before about When Soldiers Kill Civilians, so I thought it only fair to talk about this story, too.

Reading his own words and/or those of his wife one gets a sense that Gebhardt is in many ways “Everysoldier”; he’s patriotic, committed, proud of his fellow soldiers, strong, tough, and also (surprisingly to many who see our soldiers as mindless killing machines) a deeply caring, even warm hearted human being. And not just about his own family or Americans but about the Iraqi victims of the ongoing Civil War taking place over there (and I’m sure victims of our own war over there, as well). Insurgents killed the pictured little girl’s parents and badly wounded her (clipping of original news story), but this man slept in that chair for several nights because it was the only way the child would calm down enough to sleep.

Sure, we hear about the soldiers who have raped or killed civilians, and make no mistake, this does happen, and it happens on both (well, all) sides. But now it’s definitely time to sing the praises of our men and women who make us proud with their compassion and commitment. And frankly, I believe that soldiers on all sides are doing good and just acts, too. But this blog is about American soldiers, about Chief Master Sergeant John Gebhardt and all the men and women of our armed forces that he represents.

Reading through Gebhardt’s article (“his own words,” above), you get a real sense that he is totally commited to his mission and that the soldiers he sees are all equally commited to that which they fight for and are willing to die for. I wonder sometimes about things that normal people seem to take for granted, and one of those things is about the “support our troops” campaign that everyone seems to have embraced without much thought. I, as you know, totally support our troops, and I know that many of you do, as well. But I do wonder how people define “support” because it seems to me that if you support our troops but not their mission, what they fight for, what they are willing to die for, then it’s not really support. It’s more like . . . not hating them or belittling them as was done to Vietnam vets during and after that debacle. But I guess “I don’t hate our troops” or “I won’t spit on or boo our troops” doesn’t have the same ring to it.


One last look at Gebhardt comforting another baby in Iraq:



19 thoughts on “When Soldiers Safeguard Civilians

  1. Interesting thought…what does support mean. I guess in the old wars…support meant rallies, money, letters. Unless you know someone enlisted…the war is more political than anything. I know I kept up with it more while Mac was active duty. I know several other people active duty but they have done their “time” too and I don’t really worry about the troops now as much as I should. It is nice to see the other side of the story and I think they should drop more out in the public eye. I also think it would help if they let the American public be more involved in helping….needs, that type of thing. Good post.

  2. Nice post Fuzzy, I admire this Soldier Gebhardt, he may not get much salary from US, but I am sure God will give him greater rewards. My friend Cassie’s brother is also in the US Army, he has been three times and he talks about it to her all the time. There are many great soldiers like him, but only bad ones seem to get publicity and notice. God bless them all, they are doing their duty. There are lots of Videos of iraq in Google Video, you can see both sides miseries. If only Bush had gone along with the UN Presence from the beginning, we could have seen a different outcome, it is too late now, there is no perfect solution now.

  3. It’s stories like this that remind us that we are unique in our efforts regarding war. We are reared in a system of social values and though our soldiers are taught to use prejudice with enemy, they are not offspring from brutality. They are fighting to give us all a better world to live in and places like Iraq, Afganistan, Syria, and Darfur need help to end suffering for those too weak to defend themselves from those who know nothing of kindness regardless of religion, creed, or race.

  4. BBB, I went over to Heyman’s page to read up as linked above and let a comment there. Basically just saying that I have alot to say about the war in Iraq but how nice is it to just forget about that for a moment and reval in such a heartwarming story!

  5. I really think that its the uniform in the picture that makes you think. After all if Gebhardt had normal everyday clothes on you probably wouldn’t blink an eyelid! I never seem to think about soilders who are at war, but maybe because I don’t know anyone at war who is a soilder! Very thought provoking again Fuzzy. Hugs to you and your clan. x

  6. A reminder that war does involve real people is nice. Dehumanizing our fighters is a trap too easy to fall into. Many people I was in the ROTC with has served or is still serving. Those photos pull at my heartstrings. Anything involving babies instantly grabs me. 🙂 God bless him and all the others figting to make a difference for the better.

  7. The problem with labels such as “I support our troops” is the assumed definition that goes along with it. People want simplicity; black and white. If you don’t believe in fighting a war, you must not support the troops. In black and white that means you spit on soldiers (and some do but that is the ugly side again). It is the same for most controversial subjects. If you are pro choice, for instance, you are not pro life which in black and white means that you have no regard for human life. Why does the world have to think in black and white? I personally believe that is the root of misunderstanding and hatred.
    This is a heartwarming story about a man who can separate himself from the violence of war and let his love shine through. We don’t hear enough stories like this and our opinions are sometimes tainted by the ugly stories that we hear so much about.
    By the way, bravo to you for checking out the story on snopes.com first before printing it.
    And cheers for printing a such a tender moment in a soldier’s active duty life.

  8. Hei Fuzz.

    One thing is for sure definitely: the man has La Touche – The Touch with them young ones!! Good for him to show the human side of the war machine called US Army. Take care n do keep well. Rii xx HUGGIZ

  9. Hey Pris, yes, that does bring up a good point about what does “support” mean. People used to buy war bonds, and when things got really bad chipped in in factories, etc. In a weird way that war was good for women because it got us out into the world, making money, etc. But I veery off somewhere else! As usual. Huggs.

    Hi Chris (have to say, I love your new avatar pic!!). I tend to agree that there’s no perfect solution now, and I feel so sad about that. But huggs to you!

    River, for some reason, reading your comments made me think of the Christmas Truce during WWI during which the English and German soldiers came together in “no man’s land” to celebrate the birth of Christ, they shared food, sang songs, and even though they didn’t share the language, they shared a pacifist moment as human beings. This sort of thing has been prohibited every since, of course, can’t be thinking of the “enemy” as a person, after all. Sigh.

    It is nice, isn’t it, Amb, to be reminded that war might be hell, but the people thrust into it, fighting it, aren’t demons or sent there by Satan.

    😀 Kerry

    That’s a good point, too, Snuggles, the uniform does give you pause here. Thanks for the comment, you give me food for thought right back! Love that.

  10. I agree, Sir, it’s something. I’d add it’s something very good.

    Thanks, Heyman, I don’t know how beautiful a person I am, but it’s nice that you think so. 😀

    Thanks Ceres, and yes, you’re right about the dehumanizing aspect of war; warriors are trained to do this, makes them more effective. Us, though, we need to work to remember that these are real people on both (well, in this war there are so many, so all) sides. Thanks for your comments.

    OMG, Nancy, you just made a point that really made me rethink my position. This does happen, of course, because I’m not rigid about things, and I like to be open to new ideas, but at my old age, I’ve usually got a lot of things figured out. But HERE, you remind me about similar reductive thinking in the “abortion debate”; as someone who is pro-choice, nothing gets me more riled than someone saying that means I’m “pro-abortion.” I mean I’m not promoting abortion, or saying that they should be mandatory for all pregnant people. I’m not saying I just love abortion and think everyone should be doing it, that to me sounds “pro-abortion.” I just think people should have a choice because there ARE so many grey areas. And thus the pause here. You do make a point, and I need to think about it. I wonder what peoople mean when they say “support” our troops but they really don’t support them; to me it is similar to telling your child, I support you, but I dislike your choices, what you do, where you go, everything you believe in. But now you have me thinking, as does Pris, because MY support of our troops doesn’t involve anything more than my sitting on my couch thinking “Yay! team” and supporting their mission, the President’s new plan. Oh, I did write a letter or two about their shoddy supplies and armor back in the beginning of the Iraq war. But that’s it. Hmmmm. I don’t know . . . maybe when it comes to war, things are a bit more black and white than usual just because it IS war? I mean we must stand together or divide, and standing together means compromise, means supporting things we may not either understand or even truly believe will work. But then that leads into “axis of evil” thinking which makes my soul cringe. Definitely given me something to think about, Nancy, and that is fabulous. Yay You!!

    I think, Rii, it’s important to remember there is a human side to all the war machines out there, even the enemy’s army has its human side. I hope. I believe.

    Huggs all around, you guys make my blog a thing of joy to me!!

  11. Oops, Nancy, the text was all skippy jumping in the box I was typing in. I meant to say that I have my position on many issues figured out in my own mind, not to imply that I’ve solved all the world’s problems! LOL

  12. Fuzz…I am as outspoken as anyone and openly critical of the war in Iraq. As usual, I will state that we had no business there to begin with. Now having said that, you are putting warm, soft hearted men and women in a place that they would rather not be; trying to fix the suffering that political oversight has created. It is a nasty job and I am sure most would rather be doing something else but there they are. They take care of the world around them and the people in it with utter and unbelievable compassion. It is not about winning and losing a war anymore. I don’t believe it ever was. It is about managing chaos with as little damage to the collective psyche. These are the stories that our media seldom shows and it is clearly a fault of our society to take a big look at the bad events and only a fleeting glance at what is really going on.

  13. Hey Fuzzy. Bet you KNEW I’d be here to comment on this one, particularly after your reading of and commenting on my blog about war. This isn’t directly a response to that, as I’m just going round all the blogs I missed recently. Nancy, I think, has gotten right to the heart of the matter, there IS too much black and white. I have seen it in the comments on my own page. I AM against the concept of war, however that does NOT mean that I hate soldiers doing their jobs, I don’t spit on them (figuratively speaking) and I have great respect for them for putting their lives on the line every day. War is not the fault of the soldiers, they do what they are expected to do, what they are trained to do. If showing support is me saying I hope they all return home to their families alive and unscathed, then yes I support them. If by support you mean do I support the reason they are there in the first place, NO I DO NOT. I will give a fuller response in my reply on my own page in the next day or two.
    By the way….I think CMS Gebhardt is one great human being. I salute him.

  14. Yay!! I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Fab Mitch. I’m glad that you revisited the idea I had about “I won’t spit on or boo our troops” because it gives me an opportunity to explain it further. What I meant was the last time America was in an unpopular war, our citizens expressed their disdain for the war by attacking (verbally, physically, etc.) our soldiers. It was an embarrassing page in an embarrassing chapter. But not much has changed except that the troops aren’t getting the brunt of the public’s resentment and hatred. And that part is good. What is not good is the implication you (probably unintentionally) make that our soldiers are “just doing what they’re told” because they are mindless automatons. Nothing could be further from the truth; our soldiers are among the brightest and best trained in the world; they are in large majority doing what they believe in, what they volunteered to do (we do still have a volunteer military, of course). When asked in interviews I’ve seen, these men and women are not pawns in a demonic game pupetteered by President Bush, et al., they are patriotic Americans who fight for their children and our collective future. It’s not a matter of “well, the soldiers can’t be blamed for blindly following orders”; that’s an insult to the men and women in uniform.

    I saw a PBS show last night (oh, no, it was EARLY this morning because I couldn’t sleep. Again. But that’s another story), anyway, in it a retired Army officer who still works closely with the military as a civilian said that he was at a pre-shipment pep talk (whatever they’re called to get the troops in a good frame of mind for deployment); anyway, one of the speakers said, “America is at war.” And a listening soldier responded, “No, sir, the U. S. Army is at war. America is at the mall.” The retired light colonel said that summed up his sense of how our troops feel: abandoned, alienated.

  15. And no rush on your response on your own page (or here, should you wish to), this is a fun intellectual exercise, but we both know (very well) that we’re not changing each other’s minds. :)) Huggs to you!

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