“Without a doubt, of all the cities that I have visited in the East,
Baghdad is the most beautiful and the most important, to my mind.
It is an oasis in the middle of the surrounding desert, a queen born
of the desert peoples that traversed her land, and finally,
the capital of a powerful empire of the future.”
Count Laurent de Sercey (1840)
One of my new Baghdad correspondents is First Lieutenant Matthew J. Belfi, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman and helicopter pilot. From his vantage point in the heart of the Green Zone at the U. S. Embassy, Lt. Belfi can see and feel everything going on in that wartime headquarters building. He works on the travel coordination team for Ambassador Khalilzad, but he also recently co-coordinated the in-country travel for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
When I was in Baghdad in 2004, the embassy always reminded me of an old Humphrey Bogart movie. It’s located in Saddam Hussein’s former presidential palace and the place is filled with generals, admirals, civilian mercenaries, Iraqis and the soldiers and civilians from Coalition countries. With all the diplomats and spies lurking around, it seemed to have some of the intrigue of Rick’s Café in Casablanca.
In one of his emails, the lieutenant talked about the increase in rocket and mortar fire into the Green Zone. He said the front of the embassy was hit by an incoming round which failed to explode. The insurgents fire a lot of rockets, but rocket scientists they are not.
Like every pilot I ever knew, Lt. Belfi would rather spend his time flying and he has the warrior spirit that one would expect of a former infantryman. He’s also a cop in Philadelphia, so he possesses the natural instincts of a hunter of men. Guys like this are meant to be at the tip of the spear.
As someone who remembers what it was like to be a highly motivated young officer, I admire this American warrior. I am proud to serve in the war on terror with courageous men and women like Matt Belfi who are willing to step forward at such a critical time in our nation’s history.
Regardless of the political outcome of the conflict in general, these warriors have given every ounce of their dedication, their skill and their courage. They are the best of our nation’s soul and we are blessed to have them standing between us and those who would hurt us.
SFC Chuck Grist