Our soldiers needs gifts only Washington can give

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 24, 2004

When I was growing up, there were plenty of years when my brothers and sisters and I would get only things we really needed for Christmas.

Instead of the BB gun, we received shirts and socks.

We were thankful for these practical presents, but we really looked forward to the gifts that were slightly less practical and more fun.

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These most cherished gifts were the ones we didn't need but we wanted.

Over the past weeks, I've been in touch with some Ohio Army Reservists from Cadiz, Ohio, and their families.

They are a long way from home, and this year, they are hoping not for that special gift they want, but for the practical gift they need.

The gifts they need are a little more complicated than shirts and socks, but they are every bit as practical and even more necessary.

These men and women are part of the 660th Transportation Company stationed in Iraq.

Their job is to drive trucks filled with fuel long distances across the desert - a dangerous job anywhere, but an extremely dangerous job in a place where roadside bombings are a daily occurrence.

Here are a few of the things on their wish list this year: custom-made armor for their vehicles to protect them from roadside bombs, state-of-the-art night vision goggles so they can see danger ahead at night, and airborne escorts for their journeys so they'll know more about what's down the road.

These are some of the most basic tools required for the job they are being asked to do.

But the 660th has gone without these necessities.

Instead, they have scrounged up makeshift armor for their trucks.

But they know the stronger factory-made version would make them safer and prevent more serious injuries and deaths.

Here's what Staff Sgt. Jake Lucas of the 660th told Alex Chadwick of National Public Radio:

"We've been shot at numerous amount of times. And also, we also have a different job in our company. We're also convoy escorts for our fuel convoys. We are driving gun trucks. And yes, we have been protected by our makeshift armor that we have placed on our trucks.

"Actually, we got attacked last night. We had a roadside bomb actually attack my truck that I was driving…. I'll tell you, it's very hard. I had one guy in my truck get injured. He caught a piece of shrapnel in his arm; possibly broke his humerus bone in his right arm. And the truck was down. It was hard to go through."

Most of us have no idea what it is like to go through such a horrific experience.

But all of us know that these soldiers deserve to have every advantage we can provide to keep them safe as they do their jobs.

This is no time to play Scrooge.

It's past time to put the armor kits, the night-vision goggles and everything else they need under the tree.

As always, please let me know what you think about this and other important issues.

Write to: Congressman Ted Strickland, 336 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515; or call: (202) 225-5705.