I’m sitting here in Arizona waiting to sleep as I’ve done for the pat 27 years of my life. The “waiting to sleep” part, not always in Arizona. For my entire adult life I’ve spent it at the service of the republic we know as the United States of America in the form of a US Army Soldier. I’ve done that for eight years now and will continue that for at least the next three. My field is a rather small specialty focused on technical matters related to national security, that for the sake of my anonymity I won’t go into. Needless to say my job in the Army has what I term “its moments”. I’m nothing special, I’m like many of you who may read this: a parent (my son is six), a Christian (though I attend no church), an imperfect human being (see last item), and an American.
I was born in Georgia and lived there all my life. I was first able to vote in 2000 for then Governor George Bush and I did so in the primaries in a voting booth in a subdivision of Savannah. That would be the last time I voted in any election in a voting booth. The general election came when I was in my first visit to Arizona, some eight years ago. I was in a building very much like this with a TV that spewed the confusing results to us all night until 3am when we couldn’t take it no more and had to go bed or the Drill Sergeant would have our ass. He let us stay up because of what we were watching…
Over the years I’ve cast votes from Hawaii and Iraq. However, I’ve been to Korea as well and watched the 2004 campaign truly ramp up. I was excited about voting again then but wanted very much so to do it from a voting booth, simple things please me. But alas, I went to Hawaii and watched President Bush continue as President for the next four years. Then I went to Iraq.
It was there I saw why I voted. Not in anger at President Bush, I was the one who volunteered for this job, not him. It’s my call to answer and as I was told by many veterans who came before me, “if not you? then who?” So why not… I’ll keep going and do my duty. Initially it was very cush but it wasn’t what Iraq was about for me. That changed on November 14, 2005.
The Iraqi Parliamentary elections were held that day. Earlier that week I had volunteered to help another unit with assisting the Iraqi government with securing the ballots for transport and ensuring no undue pressure was being placed on the election officials. Our role as Americans was very hands off and we only looked in from afar- this was an Iraqi operation. Some things changed and the site was changed. Now we were told to secure and unsecured building and await the ballots. When we got there, the ballots had already been there for some time as more came in and the officials were counting by flash light. This was the Iraqi “Continental Congress” as I viewed it. What must it of felt like to see a nation born in the night as its elected officials were being chosen? All through the night we covered alley ways, intersections, streets, and were on guard for car bombs, suicide bombers, and anything threatening this sacred process.
By the morning the ballot counting was finished and the Iraqi Army was loading the their trucks up with plastic boxes. Paper. Simple paper. With ink, stamps, marks, and footprints on it as some laid on the floor almost forgotten. An aware Iraqi ran through the auditorium the ballots were prepped for shipping and collected some that were strewn about. He hurried because every waiting moment meant a moment for those who wanted to destroy this process prepared and planned an attack. But nothing…
So a long story, yes? So why do I vote? Its a simple process: voter, voting booth, paper (now touch screen), and a box for it to go into. Someone counts it and there is a winner and loser. So why do I vote? Because I’ve seen first hand the sacrifice people are willing to make for simple paper that says: “I like this guy”. Who are willing to strap hundreds of ball-point ammunition, drive over 60 miles along IED pockmarked highways… just to deliver a plastic box, with votes. I vote because there are men who came before me who sacrificed their lives so that I might be able to have that God given right to press a touch screen. I vote because its simple and all I need to remember is the hard part was done for me, as it was done for the Iraqis, by those willing to sacrifice their bodies and soul for something so simple: a ballot.
I’ve already voted in this election. Yes it was in a voting booth but sadly it was not on election day. Nothing is more significant than doing this duty on this day. I had to vote early because once again I’m in Arizona and will likely be up till 3am watching results come in. So no excuses today for those of you who find it too hard or ask “why bother”, the hard work was done between June 14, 1775 and November 3, 2008: Go vote.