He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sports activities, drives a 10 year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting for him when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or country and 155mm howitzer. He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dark.
He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle is 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues; he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteen full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If your thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime. He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and help to create them.  He has wept in public and in private, for friends that have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to "square-away" those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-Grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years. He has Asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding. Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood. We also have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition or going to war when our nation calls us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, remember this point... A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in his helmet may be all that he's got.
I ask you as me, Chris Friend, or militarily PFC Friend to do this!
Prayer: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops in Iraq, sailors on ships, and airmen in the air, also for this in Afghanistan and in various other parts of the world, as well as state side. There is nothing attached... this can be very powerful as prayer tends to be. From personal experience I have noticed that besides a "Thank you" prayer is the greatest gift you can give a U.S. Soldier, Sailor, Coastguardsman, Marine, and Airman.
"Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen"
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I want everyone you reads this to know the support you have for everyone of us over seas is appreciated more than you will ever know, I tell you this from a first hand experience. I'm been a Marine for the little more than 4 years. Ive been to war and I damn near got killed twice, I've seen friends of mine that I served with killed in action and heard about friends of mine from home that died with other units, and ive seen men I know harrassed and cursed at when we got home. I've been in long enough to where the protesting doesnt bother me but what it does to my junior marines pisses me off to no end. Many young marines see the protesting for the first time and think the many of the people they fight for could care less. Then they wonder why they even joined, it destroyes their sense of purpose, the story above is true in many ways and greatly resembles many of the young men I see coming into the Military every day, please I ask you even if you hate the war and politicians support your troops. They gave up their rights to protect yours. they deserve it.
Daniel Keith Mitchell