croton blog for croton-on-hudson new york

John Hall here, reporting on my trip to Iraq and Afghanistan

May 7, 2009

To the editor:

Recently, I was part of a Congressional Delegation traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan to assess the situation in those countries. I deeply respect the incredible bravery and capability of our servicemen and women who are doing their best to bring peace and stability to Iraq, but that war of choice diverted vital resources from our essential efforts in Afghanistan. President Obama, after consulting with his military and diplomatic experts, has laid out a plan to wind down our efforts in Iraq, and to focus on improving the situation in Afghanistan, the base of the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. I was opposed to the invasion of Iraq, a country that did not attack us, but believe that the resurgence of the Taliban presents a grave danger.

Yesterday the Poughkeepsie Journal published an op-ed I wrote about the trip, and I hope you will take the time to read it, but right now, I wanted to leave you with just one story that has stayed with me since returning home.

I had lunch in Kandahar with servicemen and women from New York, including some from the Hudson Valley. At the end of our discussion, I said “You have your Congressman here; what do you need?” The answers were unanimous: Number one: Bandwidth so emails and web sites would download faster. Number two: Better showers so the water has more pressure and stays hot longer.

I already know they need lighter body armor for fighting at high altitudes and smaller MRAPs to defend against IEDs on winding mountain roads. But these simple things they asked for speak directly to the sacrifices that they make for us, far from the comforts of home and family. Regardless of one’s opinion of the policy, we should all remain aware of the costs borne by our military and their families, many of whom have children who are growing up with a parent deployed overseas for more than half their young lives.

I take my responsibility very seriously to provide for this nation’s security, to make well-informed and realistic decisions and vote accordingly. I take equally seriously the need to use diplomacy and “soft power” where and when possible, and to work toward the day when our troops come home, and the National Guard and Reserve are not facing repeated deployments. My gratitude and prayers go out to them and their families, with hope for a safe homecoming.

Your Representative,

— John Hall, NY-19


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