Richardson: As we struggle with fiscal cliff, Newtown massacre, our soldiers fight in Afghanistan - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: As we struggle with fiscal cliff, Newtown massacre, our soldiers fight in Afghanistan

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Friday, December 28, 2012 9:00 am | Updated: 11:58 am, Tue Jan 1, 2013.

Just before Christmas we had a guest in our home. A young man who is a U. S. Army staff sergeant, a soldier, an infantryman who has led men in combat on the fields of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was passing through on his way to his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan where people want to kill him. He’s been to war a half-dozen times now since he enlisted a dozen years ago after graduating from high school. Going to war has been his adult life.

As a staff non-commissioned officer the lives of many are in his hands. When most young men and women his age who work in management or leadership positions make a mistake at work, they can usually correct it on their laptop. When he makes a mistake at work, the chances are high someone or many will die or are injured seriously. That’s an incredible amount of responsibility to carry but he does it willingly and admirably.

We didn’t talk about the war while he was here. There was no need to.

We talked about cold beer, women (he’s single, ladies, and quite handsome), and what he was going to do after the army and the days of carrying a M4 rifle and leading men in battle for a living.

We talked about the closeness you have with those who have served no matter what branch of service they were in. The camaraderie that comes with those you share danger and death with is as strong a bond as I’ve ever seen or experienced.

It never ceases to amaze me where we find the young people who are willing to put their lives on the line and bravely venture into the jaws of death in the service of their country.

It takes a special breed to seek out danger so that others may live and prosper while living a life of honor and sacrifice. Sadly sometimes the sacrifice is life and limb.

We spent a little time talking about the next war, you know, the one after Afghanistan. He knows there’ll be another war and he’ll be a part of it. There’s a growing military presence in Africa and no one talks about the things special operations forces are doing in Latin America. With his experience, leadership skills and training, the army will no doubt put him where he does what he does best: lead men in combat.

While much is said about those who went off to war during World War II, the last war America fought everyone supported and believed in, the soldiers, Marines, airmen and sailors who have taken up arms for America since World War II have served just as honorably, bravely and with as much sacrifice as any GI in United States history. War is war.

So while the country still tries to figure out what to do with the fiscal cliff and mass murder, the soldier I drank beer with will be trying to figure out how to accomplish the mission the army gives him and how he’s going to keep the men in his unit alive so they all get to come home and in one piece and have Christmas and New Year’s with their families next year.

It’ll be hard for me to say Happy New Year next week knowing our latest generation of warriors is off fighting a war in Afghanistan.

After a nice visit the young soldier was out the door and on his way to war.

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