Friday, December 24, 2004

Secretary Rumsfeld at Camp Victory

As part of his surprise (to the press at least) visit to Iraq, the Secretary of Defense stopped by Camp Victory, Baghdad this evening.

I just happened to be in the dining facility, in line for dinner when he showed up. I was nearing the front of the line and watching him make his way through the crowd of Soldiers when I noticed an NCO handing him a hat and apron.

Sure enough, as I got to the serving line Secretary Rumsfeld took his place behind the counter and served me a plate of fried shrimp with a big smile. He continued serving Soldiers for about 20 minutes until all the Soldiers had their food.

While we ate, he spoke to us and expressed his pride in what we are accomplishing and the importance of our mission. At the end of his remarks, he spoke about the sacrifice so many have made, and he showed sincere emotion as he mentioned the Soldiers and families he has spoken with at Walter Reed.

He finished by saying that he was "in no rush" (to the chagrin of his staff) and that he would stay for handshakes and photos. As he left the podium, he quipped "Maybe I'll take some questions . . . or maybe we could just sing Jingle Bells or something!"

When he was here this spring I wasn't able to meet him, so I made sure to get in line this time. I was surprisingly nervous as I got to the front, but I told him that I appreciated his work and I thought he was doing a good job. He thanked me, and as I was turning to walk away he shook my hand a second time and said, "That really means a lot to me."

Now having seen Rumsfeld here in Baghdad twice, I know the man genuinely cares for Soldiers and families, no matter how he signs his letters.

Also, today's stops in Fallujah, Mosul, and Baghdad prove that he's willing to go where the troops are; mortars, rockets, and suicide bombers be damned.