" Think About it..."
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True Soldier Stories
"Courage is the ability to move;
when all around you are frozen in fear
My Name is Joachim Gloschat
I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My father had converted from Russian Orthodox in Germany following World War II. My mother, as far as I know descended from at least two generations of Mormons. The church was strong in my home and I pretty much coasted through life on my parentsí testimonies until my mission call to Taiwan in 1980.
The tremendous spiritual and emotional efforts required
This testimony served me well as I was an instrument in the Lordís hands in bringing many Chinese brothers and sisters to a knowledge of the Gospel. I had been off my mission two years when I came to another crossroad and chose to become a soldier. The Army offered to send me to the Defense Language Center to learn the Russian language and I eagerly accepted. Now in 2004, I look back at 12 years of Active Duty Army and 6 years of Reserve duty. I have never once regretted choosing the military and deciding to put my personal life second and my family life equal to the defense of our freedoms and the freedoms of our brothers and sisters around the world.
During Spring and Summer of 2003, I and 34 other soldiers from my reserve unit were transferred from Joint Task Force Guantanamo to the famous 4th Infantry Division out of Fort Hood. We had just spent eight long months extracting bits and pieces of intelligence from the 500 plus detainees who were being held at a special facility on the edge of Guantanamo Naval Air Station on the southeastern tip of Cuba.
We were all anticipating an early return home after our eight months. Instead, in February 2003, our group was assigned to the Analysis and Control Element of Headquarters, 4th Infantry Division, with orders to Iraq. Initially, the plan called for 4th Division to attack south through Turkey and seize the vital oil fields in northern Iraq. This was anticipated to be quite a struggle, since Intelligence had determined the oil fields to be heavily defended. After 2 weeks of nervous waiting, Turkey denied our entry and it was decided we would follow 3rd Infantry Divisionís path north from Kuwait.
We spent a very nervous two weeks in Kuwait waiting for the orders to jump the division north into Iraq. Every single day of those two weeks were accompanied by reports of convoys being attacked by rifle and rocket-propelled grenade fire. In fact, every convoy that traveled north into Iraq had come under fire. The 35 of us had grown to know each other rather well while in Cuba and we spent several evenings in that tent in Kuwait talking about life, love, family and death.
I was actually astonished
The threat of death, mixed with the separation from family and the loneliness we all felt, turned into some somber conversations about religion, life after death, the importance of families and whether we would see our husbands, wives and children after we died. I had several opportunities to share my conviction to my friends that life did not end here on earth. The possibilities of eternal recognition of family and an eternal relationship with the husband or wife you left behind struck a very emotional chord with some of my fellow soldiers.
Finally, on the 19th of February, we got the orders to move north. It was decided that 4th Division would make a statement to the Iraqi people and to Saddam Hussein. We were to travel nearly 800 kilometers into Iraq and make our camp in the heart of Saddamís ancestral home, Tikrit. In part we were thrilled to finally leave the oppressive heat and sand storms of Kuwait.
In part we were scared,
Partly because we were scared to be setting up camp
It was the adventure of a lifetime. For the first time ever, for most of us, we loaded 210 rounds of M16 ammunition in magazines, stuffed them into pockets, and chambered a live round into our rifles. Like any other military convoy, this one had nearly 250 vehicles in it. Needless to say, we drove at a painfully slow speed of 25 miles an hour. We drove all day and straight through the nights. The nights were particularly unnerving. Only a few of us were given Night Vision Goggles. The rest of us could only squint into the night. Southern Iraq is not like the U.S. There are no street lights or lights from towns or cities. It was dark, really dark, in fact pitch black. We were left staring out into the blackened countryside as we rumbled along at this excruciatingly slow pace. At any moment, we expected to see the flash of a rifle muzzle or hear the report of a rifle. It was nerve racking. We began to see Iraqis behind every hill, every sand dune, every mud building.
As we moved farther north, we began to see more vegetation and with that, more Iraqi people. I must admit I was taken back by the low standard of living the working people maintained. All the homes were built with dried reeds covered by mud or with mud bricks. There were no windows, and in most cases, no doors. I saw the women harvesting wheat with scythes, gathering dried wood for cooking fires, tending herds of sheep or camels and raising a meager supply of vegetables on small plots. I was moved by the hardship of their existence, and especially how little their lives had changed from biblical times. A country that, for decades now, had enjoyed billions of dollars of oil money, yet from where we sat, not a penny of that money had made it down to the citizens who needed it most.
I was struck over and over by
the oppression these people had suffered.
And yet, unlike Jordan and Saudi Arabia, the ruling class of Iraq did not push any of that money down. Instead they built huge marble palace complexes with dozens of mansions all over the country. It was no wonder the citizens looted as frantically as they did.
Wherever geography caused our convoy to slow down to a crawl, the local people came out to greet us. The children would offer us cigarettes and bubble gum for sale. They would also offer us old Iraqi dollars to exchange for American dollars. Regardless of what they were offering us, they all begged us for something to eat. We were ordered to not give them food. It was not to be heartless; rather it was to discourage the people from crowding against the convoys as we drove past. Already, some of the children had gotten too close to the convoys and had been run over. It was very hard for us to obey this order as we drove by and saw the horrible conditions the people and especially the children were living in.
I spent 4 months in Iraq, and on June 4th, 2003, my group of 35 hit our one-year mark and were allowed to return home to the states. As I sat waiting for our last leg out of Saudi Arabia home, I recognized the tremendous blessing Heavenly Father had bestowed upon me and upon my group of soldiers. We were protected at every turn from violence while in Iraq. I had formed friendships with soldiers that would last a lifetime. I had seen for the first time, an intimate portrayal of our countryís determination to stand up for the little guy. My relationship with the Savior had grown and strengthened immensely. My empathy and patience for and with others, to include my family, had increased several fold.
This is a consecrated and blessed nation.
My testimony of the Savior has grown exponentially since my deployment to Cuba and Iraq. My relationship with Jesus became so personal during that year that I actually felt like He was talking to me while I read the scriptures. I felt His joy and I felt His pain. I felt the joy and the frustration of the apostles as they tried to preach the Gospel.
To know without a doubt that our families are eternal,
I am so proud to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Joachim Alfred Gloschat Jr. Major,
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