Another Election Day Story . . . This One From the Horse's Mouth.

E-mail from Major Scott Stranger of Benton , Arkansas, to his wife.

Reprinted in the Gazette by permission.


"They stood up for themselves today and stuck a purple finger in the enemy's eye."

Today I got to witness first hand a new democracy take its first steps. My day started early. Actually, my day started about four days ago because we have been going nonstop since then, hence no updates lately.

I was up at 5 a.m. and my head was pounding and my sinuses were killing me. I was up and out with my team by 5:30. The day started slow, and we had some small arms fire . . . eight rockets shot at us and we found one IED.* The small arms fire and the rockets missed us.

The IED was another matter. But we called our bomb guys and they took care of it with the bomb robot, which, by the way is their third robot. The other two died in the line of duty. The polls opened at 7 a.m. and that's when things got interesting.

The press showed up in droves.

It would have been impossible to swing a dead cat and not hit a reporter in our area of operation today. I met Campbell Brown from NBC. She was likable, but you could tell she did not want to be in Baghdad. She was very jumpy. I guess we were that way when we first got here, too, but you get used to the shooting.

We had very tight security on the polling sites and all around our area of operation. Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army Soldiers were at every polling site, defending them. I have been planning for about eight days for this mission, and it was the largest we have done to date. Infantry, armor, attack helicopters, engineers . . . you name it, we had it.

The Iraqi Government shut down all traffic in the country so the streets were deserted. At about 10 a.m. the streets were packed with large crowds of people walking to the polls. We were on edge waiting for more attacks that never came. By about 3 p.m. we could start to let our hair down and talk to the people. The sight was amazing.

We dismounted from our vehicles and were instantly mobbed by about 200 kids. The kids were all over the place, playing in the street while their parents voted. The kids walked with us for about two miles, while we were talking to the adults. I have never seen anything like it.

People everywhere wanted to talk to us and thank us. This is what it must have been like when the Allies liberated Paris. Iraqis of all ages wanted to shake our hands and thank us for allowing them to vote. The kids were proud to tell us that their parents voted. Adult after adult wanted to thank us for making this day happen.

When the Iraqis voted, they dipped their fingers in indelible purple ink so that polling officials could tell who had already voted. When we walked the streets the Iraqis would hold their purple finger up in the air as a mark of pride. They were very proud of their purple finger.

The Iraqi' statements to us were all the same:


Thank you for your sacrifices for the Iraqi people.


Thank you for making this day possible.


The United States is the true democracy in the world and is the country that makes freedom possible.


God blessed the Iraqi people and the United States this day.


We have never known a day like this under Saddam. This day is like a great feast, a wonderful holiday.


I shook more hands today than I have ever in my life. If you missed a hand they would follow for a mile to get a chance to shake and say thanks. It was nothing like we expected or have ever seen.

The Iraqi people were strong and brave today. The Iraqis, stoic to danger, faced fear and went out and voted. Then after they voted they stayed on the street to celebrate by singing, dancing, and trying to shake the hand of any American they could find.

Even though today was as great day for Iraq, they took their lumps.

There were six car bombs, two of them in Baghdad. One, I believe, did more for Iraqi morale than any other event that I have ever witnessed here. A suicide car bomber drove up to a polling site, which was not too far from us and blew up. The bomb did not kill anyone but the bomber himself.

After the bomb went off the Iraqi voters calmly walked out of the polling site and spit on the remains. The polling site stayed open and the voting continued. That incident ran all day on Iraqi TV. It was a beautiful act of defiance for the Iraqi people. They stood up for themselves today and stuck a purple finger in the enemy's eye.

Later in the day, I thought about our sacrifices that we have made. I wondered if the three men that my unit had sent home in flag-draped coffins was worth what I saw today. I am still not sure if that is the case, but when a grown Iraqi man thanks me with tears running down his face, it made me feel better about what we have accomplished.


Note: Underlining is Webmaster's.

Note from Gazette, who published this e-mail:

Of all the reports over the wire, we say none that had quite the impact of Major Stranger's. His unpolished prose said more to us about what's going on in Iraq than all the well-honed commentary we'd seen from press services, think tanks, and assorted Blogs.

One day, when the history of this whole miserable, noble, imaginatively conceived, poorly thought-through, magnificently executed, squalid, altruistic, and in short, very American endeavor is written, we doubt if there will be any truer account of what happened in Iraq Sunday than this e-mail from an American soldier.


* Webmaster's note:

An IED is an Improvised Explosive Device.

It can be found in an arrangement as simple as a cell phone w/battery, a pencil thin blasting cap, some wiring, and a block of explosive material, such as C4 (Note: terrorist use a different type, C4 being a U.S. term.)

But terrorists may want to fry larger fish by placing a much larger amount of the explosive materials somewhere near the smaller one, the larger one positioned so as not to be detected first. In this configuration, the smaller blast effectively becomes the blasting cap for the larger one, intended to do the most damage.

Thanks to Jim Doremus, New Jersey, for this contribution.





"Freedom is Knowledge"