At the end of the Iraq War, much can be said about the accomplishments and the mistakes over the past eight and a half years. But foremost in my thoughts are some remarkable examples of individual courage.
In 2006 Iraq was going badly. The violence was vicious and widespread, much of it caused by members of Al Qaeda who had flocked there to kill Americans. But there was great deal of sectarian violence as well, with Iraqis fighting other Iraqis. Many Americans and Iraqis were dying every day. The predominant opinion was that the situation was hopeless, and the U.S. needed to find a quick way out and leave the Iraqis to their civil war.
President George W. Bush, against the advice of many of his advisors and public opinion, decided to send more troops to Iraq to stop the violence. This surge of troops, plus the disgust of Sunni Iraqis against the brutality of Al Qaeda in Iraq, turned the tide. Politically, it was the wrong thing for President Bush to do. But for our security and for the future of Iraq, it was the right thing, and that decision made the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from a relatively stable Iraq possible. It still has a long way to go, but now the Iraqis have a chance to build a stable democracy.
The other example of individual courage that I honor is that of the families who lost loved ones in Iraq. My wife, Sally, and I will never forget attending the service at Arlington National Cemetery for a young man who was a member of our church in Amarillo. The pain of his family will be with us always, but so also will be their inspirational faith. Unfortunately, that was just the first funeral service for a fallen hero from our area that I attended.
Each of the young men from our area who died in Iraq died while bravely serving our country, as did all those who gave their lives there. And each of their families has had to be brave every day since that loss. I admire them very much. I think of them and pray for them as our military involvement in Iraq comes to an end.
Today and every day, I continue to be grateful for those who serve and those who have served our nation in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world. America is blessed to have them protecting us.