Ferguson updates local vets on Iraq

Says encouraged by changes he saw in Iraw

while visiting U.S. military personnel
By:Roger Alvarado
   Congressman Mike Ferguson, R-7th, is encouraged by what he saw in Iraq during his recent visit and says troop morale remains high and the reconstruction effort continues to move in a forward direction.
   Mr. Ferguson made his remarks during a Town Hall meeting before members of VFW Post 2290 on Tuesday.
   The congressman says he came home with a "new determination" following a five-day visit to the Middle East in January and says he is "proud of the mission we’re working on doing over there."
   "I went over there for two reasons," he said. "To thank our troops for the service and sacrifice they have made and to monitor the rebuilding of Iraq, which is being financed largely through American taxpayer money."
   He says he was "encouraged" by what he witnessed.
   "I saw some important reconstruction efforts," he said. "They’ve made a lot of progress in terms of transportation, infrastructure, energy and the political structure of the country."
   Congressman Ferguson says it won’t be easy, but the arduous task of creating a free Iraq will be accomplished.
   The congressman also noted that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are well aware of the "different opinions" in America over whether the troops should be brought home.
   "Yeah, they hear about it," he said. "But to a person ever single one of them couldn’t be more proud of the mission they’re out there to accomplish."
   Upon arriving in Baghdad, the congressman says he was briefed on the country’s political schedule by U.S. Ambassador Dick Jones who told him that Iraq will be handed back to its people by July 1 of this year.
   After a briefing he met with U.S. troops and shared with them letters and cards he had personally brought over from Rosedale Park fifth-graders.
   The next day Congressman Ferguson says he was taken to an Air Force base in Germany that housed a medical facility.
   "The most moving part of the visit was when we went and saw a doctor treating a really struggling 19-year-old soldier who had lost most of his left leg after stepping on a landmine," Congressman Ferguson said. "He’d had to have it amputated and he was struggling."
   In an effort to raise his spirits the congressman says he told the soldier the story of Congressman Jim Langevin, D-Rhode Island, who was also on the trip and had gone through similar pain and overcome it.
   Congressman Langevin, who is wheelchair bound, was a police cadet when an officer accidentally fired off a bullet — thinking there were none in his gun’s chamber — in the locker room and it ricocheted into his neck leaving him paralyzed.
   "This man went on to college, the Rhode Island state legislature and was a secretary of state of Rhode Island for a full term," Congressman Ferguson said. "The congressman told the young man that ‘through faith and dedication something tells me brighter days are ahead for you.’"
   At that point, Congressman Ferguson said the young man was so overjoyed that he told the men that when they pay him a visit at Walter Reed Army Hospital in a few weeks he’ll probably be running around wearing a prosthetic by then.
   "That’s the type of determination that makes us proud," he said.
   Afterward, members of VFW 2290 gave Congressman Ferguson high praise for taking the time to visit Iraq.
   "I admire him for going over to visit the troops," said VFW 2290 Post Commander Jim Wisor. "I really enjoyed his comments and I think it’s important that he would take the time to come here and share this information with us."
   "I was very impressed," said Past Post Commander Mellant Palo. "He brought back some interesting stories."
   "I think it was wonderful for him to take time to tell us about how the troops are doing overseas," said VFW member and Hillsborough resident David Coleman. "It was a beautiful gesture to let us in on the troops feelings over the war. I know a lot of people here on the home front have been outspoken about President Bush’s so-called campaign against weapons of mass destruction, so it’s good to hear they’re in good moral spirits."
   Mr. Coleman says that after hearing Congressman Ferguson speak he now sees America’s role in helping to reconstruct Iraq in a more positive light.
   "I feel better about our commitment and decision to send troops over there," he said.
   Congressman Ferguson said he felt compelled to take the time to address the veterans on the status of the efforts in Iraq because of the great respect and admiration he has for them.
   "They are those who have already made sacrifices to make America great," he said. "They have created so many opportunities.
   "Their service can never be forgotten and I feel personally responsible to our veterans to report to them on the progress our troops are making to keep America safe and free," he concluded.