Like a young couple forced into an arranged marriage (something you would be far more familiar with than I) I don't like you, and you don't like me. Still, I have much for which to thank you. I understand how contradictory being thankful may sound to you, but I assure you this is not a joke, unlike the literacy rate among your children in Afghanistan. For that I will refrain from making any other jokes for the rest of this letter because, as you will see, I have much to genuinely thank you for.
With so much to be grateful for I find it difficult to decide where to start, so I will begin by expressing my personal gratitude for the role you have played in the grooming of what is today, the man I am proud to be, a man far removed from the clueless child I was on September 10th, 2001.
As I write this, I can't help but think how ironic it was that your attacks on September 11th took place during my economics class. Further reason I am so compelled to write you now. I watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Center live from my school's computer lab, as well as the ensuing chaos and massive loss of innocent life. Little did I know, your attacks proved to be the foundation to save my guilty soul.
Flash forward a year and a half after the attacks of 9/11 as I watched the "Shock and Awe" campaign unfold on the television in the corner of my favorite pizza parlor, Mellow Mushroom. It was dollar slice night. Amazed by just a glimpse of our military's might I thought of my older brother, a U.S. Marine stationed on the U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, one of many ships headed to the Persian Gulf, where it launched Harriers that were responsible for dropping some of the first bombs in the campaign. He had enlisted in the Marine Corps before the attacks on 9/11, and I knew I now had a dog in the fight. The months between "Shock and Awe" and my eventual enlistment in the Marine Corps in October of 2003 were my darkest days. I was an awful student, not because I wasn't smart enough,but because, I now believe, I simply was not being challenged. That was soon to change.
With my grades in the gutter and graduation approaching I had planned to stick to the standard script of an American youth at that time. I was going to go to college. Now I know I said my grades were in the gutter, and they were, but in this great country even the worst student with a high school diploma or G.E.D. is given the opportunity to better himself through attending a community college. I told my parents that was what I was going to do, and that if I was unsuccessful at community college then I would join the Marines. It did not work out exactly to plan. Over that summer, my best friend died in a senseless car accident, no doubt attributed to the irresponsible behaviors we were practicing. This was a wake-up call not only to me, but also to those who today are my best friends. I was not going to waste my time nor my family's money on community college when I now knew I needed to change my life and do so immediately. And thanks to you, my country needed me, it needed my brothers, and it got us.
I would end up serving three tours of duty totaling 19 months and 21 days in Iraq. I witnessed firsthand an uneducated, close-minded, poor populace led by a twisted ideology, and realized just how lucky I was to be born in the great nation of America.
Thank you, Islamic extremists, for opening my eyes.
My younger brother would end up joining the Marines as well, bringing my family's tours of duty to six, and finding his true self in the process. He was always a "goody-goody" growing up, a smart kid able to see the mistakes of his older brothers and know not to make them himself. He was a stellar student in Advanced Placement courses and could have attended nearly any major university my parents could afford to send him to, but that was not his course.
As you already know, it was because of your actions on 9/11, and your hate for America and everything we stand for, that his two older brothers had committed to fight you, and as any good brother would do, he jumped in the fight. Today, my younger brother is a far different person from what he would have been had he not had a reason to join the Marines. The Marines gave him a newfound confidence in himself, and a new lens through which to see the world. He feels there is nothing he cannot do, and more importantly, there is nothing he is afraid of doing.
Present day, my brothers and I are best friends. It wasn't always that way, until you gave us the cause to unite. We spent a lot of time together in between deployments to Iraq, whether at Red's Birdcage in Yuma, Arizona or the many dive bars of San Diego, California. All three of us have an unyielding respect for each other for answering the call that you never should have placed, but I'm thankful you did.
You have declared us your greatest enemy, but you are not ours. In fact, you are an unworthy adversary. America's greatest enemy is itself. America's greatest enemy is the complacency that we tend to have because we have it so good here. But you woke this sleeping giant on 9/11 and reinvigorated generations of Americans to answer the call in any and every way they could. Thanks to you, an increased percentage of my generation has voluntarily served in the greatest military to ever exist. Meanwhile in your countries, young boys are forced to fight, impressed into service after being snatched from their villages. The young women whom you deny education and personal freedoms through Islamic Sharia law throughout most of the Middle East continue to serve America honorably and excellently throughout the ranks of our military. The same women you would cover from head to toe before they step out of the prisons they call their homes, proudly tan on our wonderful beaches wearing bikinis and patriotic tattoos, a symbol of their love and dedication to this wonderful country and their brothers and sisters who protect it. Those such as I who have served honorably in our military, are now pursuing college degrees or personal goals with the same tenacity they displayed on the battlefields of your God-forsaken land. We often hold more life experience than our bosses in the boardroom, and with our knowledge and life skills we are more prepared and determined than ever to enter our capitalist system and further America's economic dominance, and your economic inferiority.
And there is still more I would like to thank you for, Islamic extremists. You cannot break the will of this country, or that of its people, and while you won't stop trying, you will only succeed in making us stronger. With every sand-lot plot of yours we foil, every amateur video you shoot with our thrown-away camcorders spouting your anti-American propaganda, millions of Americans are taking it personally, and doing something about it. You have given us something to fight for together. You've taken selfish, lazy youth like me and turned them into great Americans, great people who are physically and mentally equipped to deal with anything you throw at us. With the constant threat of your cowardly attacks the people of my country are ever diligent to protect each other and the morals that bind us together. Without you and your actions in the past, present, and future, I promise you our focus would not be so clear as we set our sights on you.
Though you've had success in breaking the hearts of families across this country whose loved ones have died as a result of your terrorist attacks, or in protecting the innocent from you, it only hardens the souls of those who surround them. Your small victories provide far more powerful motivation to the caring communities of the American people. Their loss is a nation's collective gain, and that loss will not be in vain. In time, even the families of our fallen heroes will be stronger because of your actions, and they, too, will unite against you. You have provided an example, for all of mankind, of what not to do, of how not to live. The natural will of all men is to be free, to be free to interact with whomever they want, think what they want, and say what they may. Your suppression of free thought and expression has largely kept your side of the world in the dark ages, and shown the rest of the world how important it is to educate and encourage individualism.
I thank you for showing me your disgusting, degenerate, and devolutionary hate for us. It has made me realize how beautiful, gratifying, and important is love for thy fellow man. Everything you stand for is wicked, and everything you fight against is true. The very principles you dedicate every waking hour to destroy are made 1,000 times stronger for each attempted pass you make at them. Your closed-mindedness has opened the minds of all mankind, and long after you are gone, dwelling in my God's basement for eternity, good men such as I will prosper. Through your weakness, you have made The United States of America stronger, and I will be forever thankful.
-Andrew Kirkland, Sergeant, United States Marine Corps, October 2003 - October 2007