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Soldiers in Iraq are making each day count
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Editor’s note: State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, currently is in Iraq as a U.S. Air Force Reserve chaplain. He began his service there earlier this month. He is reporting weekly on the activities at his location. His e-mail address is

Life is interesting on a base that is forward deployed in a combat zone.

Over the past few weeks as I have worked and lived among the many people who are assigned to this base, I have found that for the most part much of what we do is routine.

However, there is always an uneasiness that lets you know you are not in a place where you can feel completely relaxed. I am asked in e-mails I receive what life is like on a day-to-day basis for the folks. Well here is about as good a look as I can give you from here.

The base that encompasses our world is alive 24/7 with activity and typically is very LOUD and dusty. People work different shifts to make sure the base supports its mission. From flying to finance the base has the heartbeat of a city that never sleeps.

The difference is that, in the midst of what is a normal day, we have reminders of the war that surrounds us. It may be an alarm or a
report that came in of activity somewhere. It is in these moments filled with uncertainty that you must react, but at the same time remember that you have a job to do.

People handle the day-to-day monotony in various ways. Some people are working on college degrees, others are taking fitness classes, while others do a lot of sleeping. Our leadership made a statement when we first arrived. He said that we can count the days or we can make the days count. I am pleased to report that I see many of our folks making the days count.

Many volunteer at the hospital, others volunteer to teach classes, others may lead a Bible study or even sing in the praise team or choir. They are finding ways to make a difference in the community that for a short span of time we call home.

The human spirit is a wonderful thing. So when you wonder what our folks do every day, you can know they do their jobs, from finance to security to mechanics and nursing. They do their jobs well and, at the end of the day, they try to take care of themselves by sleeping and then getting up to add something to their life and those around them. They want you to know that they are doing a job that matters, and they are proud of the country they serve.

One thing before I close for this week. One of the many jobs I have is helping to get the mail from a box at the chapel to the post office. It is always fun to see the many envelopes written to friends and family back home. However, in every batch I have taken over the past few weeks I am seeing one other envelope that is marked with the words "official ballot." In my other life I speak of the importance of voting, but seeing the dedication of those who have to make an extra effort just for the privilege reminds me of the responsibility that everyone back home should take when it comes to voting.

No matter your preference, please vote.

If our troops can take the time to request a ballot, wait for it to come in the mail and then take the time to send it back, I have to ask: Does anyone have an excuse not to vote when you can do so, so easily back home? It makes me proud to see each of these envelopes go in the box.

It reminds me that freedom to vote and to live in our great country does not come cheap.