Appeal Staff Writer
While the philosopher-kings of the right and left keep busy by slinging handfuls of political muck at each other in the blog-o-sphere and on radio and television airwaves about the war in Iraq, soldiers like Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Lawson are on the actual front lines of the battle, ensuring each side has the right to continue their conversations.
The 1989 Carson High School graduate enlisted in the military three months after receiving his diploma.
Since then, he has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, serving in Operation Desert Storm and in the war in Iraq.
A paratrooper with 118 jumps, Lawson serves an essential role in the military war machine – he is a mechanic attached to an M1 Division, making sure the fleet of Humvees and support vehicles are well taken care of.
“Our job is to make sure the trucks continue running at top-rate,” he said. “The politics of it all just don’t interest me.”
He said he knows some of the American people support what he’s doing over there, and he knows some don’t.
“Some of the Iraqis don’t want us there,” he added. “And some of them do.”
“We’ve met some really nice people that have come out of the local population and served as interpreters,” he said.
And once in a while, an Iraqi will even come up and shake his hand and say, “Thank you.”
Lawson said he simply smiles and tells them, “You’re welcome.”
The 34-year-old married father says he gives away most of the candy from the care packages he gets from his family to Iraqi children. Despite the heat (Lawson says he’s seen a reading of 150 degrees Fahrenheit), “They seem to like the chocolate best,” he said with a smile.
While always vigilant for the dangers inherent in fighting an unconventional war against an unconventional enemy, Lawson says he doesn’t dwell on it.
“You can’t,” he said. “It will make you loopy. You’ve just got to let your training guide you and take over.”
It’s the same way, he said, he’s managed to jump out of airplanes while at the same time admitting to a fear of heights during less hostile activities, such as riding ski lifts.
In January, Lawson will be deployed to Afghanistan.
“I’m just doing my job,” he said, his family gathered around him.
Saudi Arabia. Iraq. Afghanistan.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” he says. “It’s just a different place to go.”
Lawson looks forward to retiring from the military when his 20 years are up and maybe driving trucks for a living with his wife, Brenda.
For now, he says, he is just another soldier doing what soldiers are supposed to do.
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1215.