David, Please Come Back

I was reading the news this morning, and found myself thinking: what would General Petraeus do to fix this? You remember General Petraeus, don’t you? He was the brilliant military strategist who led from the front. He was the guiding light of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He created and led the surge that allowed our forces to exit Iraq with dignity. Then, after thirty-seven years in uniform, he retired and became the CIA Director. And then resigned because he had that affair. He just pleaded guilty to some kind of something in order to stay out of prison.

That Petraeus.

I’m certain that America could benefit from having King David back. He is a natural leader, who possesses huge amounts of courage and talent. He is a veteran of multiple conflicts, and most importantly, he’s a war hero.

Besides, he yelled at me once.

I mean it. He did. Well, he didn’t know it was me and he wasn’t General Petraeus at the time. He was Major General Petraeus, which means that he had two stars on his collar instead of the four that identify him now. It was 2003, and we were in the North of Iraq; I was covering another episode of the Tigris River Valley Commission. The Commission was a weekly meeting between the military and the local Iraqi leaders. Like every single meeting that I ever attended during my time in Iraq, this one was focused on listening to the Iraqis and then getting their buy-in for projects that the military was already invested in.

Covering a meeting is tough. Covering a meeting in a war zone is impossible. You can’t leave once you have the obligatory shots required for the ninety-second television news story. You have to stick it out, until everyone is ready to get back on the Blackhawk.

This particular meeting starred the celebrities of the 101st Airborne Division, General Petraeus and Colonel Ben Hodges, in addition to an assortment of officers, NCOs, CNN, a couple of prints guys, and me. We were in a medium sized room with lots of chairs, a stage, and Iraqis sporting everything from grey suits to gray robes and red-checkered headdresses. Think YMCA recreational room over Christmas. I was in the back row. I have no idea what they were discussing at the front of the room, but it probably had something to do with benzene, money, and electricity.

I got bored.

I decided to move to a good close-up spot in the front of the room. Unfortunately, I moved right into the path of the CNN guy and we both almost fell over. And then it happened. In the calmest, most authoritative voice anyone has ever used to yell at me. General Petraeus issued his orders.

“Sergeant Blackwood (my name at the time), be still. Set up over there,” And then he pointed to a spot on the left side of the room.

I immediately knew what to do. He gave me direction without causing me, or anyone else embarrassment. I moved to the side of the room and set up my gear. I stayed there for the remainder of the meeting without incident.

You don’t get that kind of authority over night.

He did with me, what he was so good at doing: He took care of his people.

We need him right now. We need a leader who can show everybody how to do the right thing, and take care of the country by taking care of their people. Plus, in an era of war zones, he’s got experience.

David, please come back.

Sylvia Bowersox first went to Iraq in 2003 as a US Army broadcast journalist. She was stationed in Mosul and Baghdad, but reported from Coalition outposts around the country. A year in Iraq wasn’t enough, so she returned to Baghdad as a civilian, spending almost two years working in the US Embassy as a State Department press officer. Bowersox received her BA in English literature from San Francisco State University, and is currently completing her MA in creative writing at California State University, Chico. She was recently honored by a Pushcart nomination for her nonfiction essay, “This War Can’t be All Bad.” Her nonfiction essay, “The Importance of a Dollar Bill,” has been submitted to the National Associate Writing Program Awards competition. She lives in Chico with her husband Jon, her son Holden, and her service dog Timothy.