|SSG John Ashford of the Oregon Army National Guard, photographed in An Najaf, Iraq.|
Every month we feature inspiring, cautionary, or amusing anecdotes from travelers. If you have a true (short) travel tale to share, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a photo that illustrates it, please attach it. And don't forget to tell us your first name and the city where you live. We'd love to hear from you!
Thanks for the Chance to Escape
I was a Staff Sergeant in an Infantry Platoon of the Oregon Army National Guard deployed to Iraq for 12 very long and hot months.
Based upon our performance and capabilities, my platoon was selected by the Commanding General of the 1st Cavalry Division to be the division's Quick Reactionary Force while in Iraq — we were the "911" that other units called when they needed help. We were an outstanding unit and were requested by several Special Operation Forces to work with them, based upon our reputation and abilities.
Bottom line, we saw a lot of action and took the causalities that came with it. My platoon was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions in combat, the highest award the President of the United States can bestow upon a military unit.
There are not many things an Infantryman gets to look forward to in life except for hot chow and sleep. If things get bad, he will give up food for sleep because he knows that he can go longer without food than he can go without sleep.
On those rare occasions when we were back in our hooches after our missions were complete and it had not been another 18 hour day, I would get out my Rick Steves DVDs. I cannot tell you just how much your travel shows helped me to make it through some very dark days. It was my way of escaping for a brief time and not having to deal with all of the ugliness of war, both physically and mentally.
I am not exactly sure how many times I watched your DVDs but I can tell you that if it were not for them, I might not have been able to deal with some of the terrible situations we had to overcome while we were in country.
I just wanted to let you know that I truly appreciate you and your staff's hard work in putting together your travel guidebooks and travel DVDs.
— John Ashford in Vancouver, WA
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