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To Know There Is To Go There

A SOLDIER’S STORY

Sgt. Scott Stream, of Mattoon, Ill., second from left, is one of 2 members of the Illinois Guards 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team who were killed by an improvised explosive device Feb. 24, 2009, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Family photo / February 26, 2009)

Sgt. Scott Stream, of Mattoon, Ill., second from left, is one of 2 members of the Illinois Guard's 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team who were killed by an improvised explosive device Feb. 24, 2009, in Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Family photo / February 26, 2009)

If it costs me my life to protect our land and people then that is a small thing…’

February 26, 2009

As President Obama and military officials plan for a marked escalation in the number of American troops in Afghanistan, the powerful words of a fallen soldier show how much the mission continues to mean to the women and men on the ground.

Illinois National Guard Sgt. Scott Stream, 39, of Mattoon, Ill., was killed Tuesday in Afghanistan. Below is a letter he wrote to a friend on New Year’s Eve. The Chicago Tribune received a copy of the letter from Stream’s mother.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 at 9:30am

A strange thing…

When I think about what surrounds me, the institutional corruption, the random violence, the fear and desperation. I feel the reasons why I am here more and more sharply. As we grow in our soldiers skills, surviving by finding the hidden dangers, seeing the secret motives and the shifting politics… we grow a set of skills that is unique and powerful in this situation.

We also see what you cannot see in the States, you are surrounded by the love of Christ and faith in freedom and humanity, like a fish you think water is ‘a puff of air’ because it is always there, you do not notice it… we who are out of the water look back and see the world we love surrounded by enemies, poison and envy that wants to fall on you like a storm of ruin.

We who joined with vague notions of protecting our country see how desperate the peril, how hungry the enemy and how frail the security we have is. So the more I love you all the more I feel I must keep fighting for you. The more I love and long for home the more right I feel here on the front line standing between you and the seething madness that wants to suck the life and love out of our land.

Does that mean I cannot go home? I hope not, because I want this just to be the postponement of the joy of life, not the sacrifice of mine. If it costs me my life to protect our land and people then that is a small thing, I just hope that fate lets me return to the promise land and remind people just how great our land is.

War is a young mans game, and I am getting an old mans head… it is a strange thing. I just hope that I am not changed so that I cannot take joy in the land inside the wire when I make it home. I want to be with you all again and let my gun sit in the rack and float on my back in a tube down a lazy river…

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