Two years ago in Fallujah, my platoon was hit by a car bomb that killed seven fellow Marines and three patriotic Iraqi soldiers. I was wounded and was recovering in a Texas hospital when I received a call from a survivor of the blast, an Iraqi soldier named Sergeant Saleem.
He told me his brother died in the car bomb, but that he would continue to fight for Iraq. "My people deserve freedom," he said. "Even if it means I must die too."
Americans don't hear much about Iraqi patriots like Sergeant Saleem. Too often, the media focuses on carnage, ignoring the patriotism of the Iraqi Army, which has lost twice as many troops as American forces have.
What's more, when the fight in Iraq is viewed through a narrow lens of daily body counts, we lose sight of our long-term national security interests. If we give up on Iraq now, we will inevitably face a more costly military intervention down the road.
So it is imperative to treat Iraq with the seriousness it deserves right now. That means the President committing 30,000 more troops to secure Baghdad, to seal the borders, to defeat the insurgency and to help the Iraqi Army disarm the sectarian militias that are attempting to provoke a civil war
Iraq has turned out to be a much tougher fight than most Americans expected. But we cannot panic in the face of adversity. We cannot effectively fight a war by looking in the rearview mirror and we must persevere, for in this long, global war, success is achievable and failure cannot be an option.
Wade Zirkle is the founder and Executive Director of the Vets for Freedom Action Fund, a bipartisan political action group supporting pro-military, pro-mission policymakers in the war on terror.
Zirkle graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2000 with a B.A. in Political Science. Shortly thereafter, he was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He went on become a Marine infantry officer where his first duty assignment was with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion. He was a Light Armored Vehicle platoon commander in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with tactical command of over 50 Marines. Upon returning to stateside, he was promoted to Company Executive Officer, second in command of 150 Marines.
In February, 2004, Wade volunteered to return to Iraq with a shorthanded infantry unit from Camp Pendleton, California. He was named a rifle platoon commander with the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines (2/1), in charge of 43 Marines. Zirkle's unit deployed to Fallujah, where over half of his men earned Purple Hearts, and seven of his men were killed in action.
On Labor Day of 2004, Zirkle was wounded and evacuated to the States after being hit by a suicide car bomb. After rehabilitation, Zirkle was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. Zirkle is the recipient of the Purple Heart Medal, and two Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medals for Valor.
In the summer of 2006, Zirkle returned to Iraq for the third time, this time as a civilian reporter embedded with the Iraqi Army in Ramadi. Zirkle appears regularly on CNN and Fox news to offer commentary on the war on terror. His written work has appeared in numerous national publications including the Washington Post, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
He is from Shenandoah County, Virginia.