Summit soldier returns thankful |

Summit soldier returns thankful

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

SUMMIT COUNTY – Nathan Reynolds and a small unit of Marines were scoping the outskirts of Rawah, Iraq, for defensible positions after setting up camp in unfamiliar territory near the Euphrates River. While traveling near the urban center of the city, enemy fighters ambushed the convoy from three different positions. The soldiers scattered to higher ground and engaged in a 30-minute firefight before helicopters provided cover and the Iraqi fighters disappeared into the city.”No Marines were hit, which is a small miracle,” said Reynolds, who returned Tuesday to the Silverthorne home of his parents, Craig and Kathy Reynolds, after an eight-month tour of duty.Under those circumstances, it is nearly impossible to think about the larger issues surrounding America’s war in Iraq – issues that civilians debate every day. It’s an election year, after all, and the war in Iraq is a contentious issue.But a soldier’s focus must remain on the ground and with the unit. Start thinking about the overall reasons for the war and you are doing a disservice to your job and your fellow soldiers.”You’re fighting for the man on your left and the man on your right, and all the political issues fall away,” Reynolds said.But now that he’s returned to the United States, the 26-year-old Marine – a specialist in imagery and intelligence analysis – can reflect on America’s job in Iraq.Although Marine protocol prevents him from commenting on the decisions of President Bush, the commander in chief, Reynolds holds opinions on what the future holds for America in Iraq and in the greater war on terrorism.

“We’re already in Iraq, regardless of any opinions as to why we’re there,” he said. “We have an obligation to the Iraqi people to finish our commitment to them. We came in and dismantled their government, and I don’t think It would be morally correct to leave their country worse than we found it as far as security.”There’s definitely people there who don’t want us there, but there is a silent majority of people there who are depending on us to provide them with a future.”He said daily engagement with a shadowy enemy is providing the U.S. military important lessons on how to fight a nontraditional war – the type that America is likely to face more of as it continues its global fight against terrorism.”The mistakes we make now are providing the improvements we’ll need for future involvements,” Reynolds said. “Right now it’s frustrating. We want to see results fast in this country. We’re looking at a 10-year commitment, probably.”Reynolds experienced that frustration during his work with Iraqi security forces as part of the American military effort to train remnants of the old Iraqi army for the challenge of securing the new Iraq.”You’re really dealing with polar opposites when it comes to military theory,” Reynolds said. “When you have a dictatorship, it doesn’t leave much room for initiative. You have lower soldiers who won’t do anything unless they are told. The American military is the complete opposite. The Marines teach leadership, so even at lower levels, you have people willing to take initiative and responsibility for the people underneath them. “We disrupted their chain of command so severely, we had battalions just stuck with nothing to do.”Training them and instilling the American military ethos was one of Reynolds’ responsibilities in Iraq, and it will ultimately determine how successful America is there – and when U.S. soldiers can come home.

Reynolds is living in Aurora now, close to the Auraria Campus in Denver where he is taking classes. He also works for Raytheon part time. After months of sleeping on the ground in a foreign country and facing real danger every day, waking up in Denver or at his parent’s home in Silverthorne has made him thankful to be an American.”You don’t appreciate America until you leave it,” he said. “Especially after being in Iraq and Kuwait, you really start to appreciate everything America offers.”Going back and forth for me isn’t as much a shock as it used to be. But when you’re over there, you think about all the stuff you’re missing. You appreciate where you come from and all the things our country offers. And it’s the smallest things that you don’t think of that you appreciate the most.”One thing that helped Reynolds greatly was the generosity of Summit County.Reynolds’ mother, Kathy, along with Summit County Rotary Club member Brenda Cameron, organized an extensive drive to mail food, letters and supplies to the troops, focusing on four platoons with Summit County ties.Kathy Reynolds works at Safeway, which turned into the headquarters for locals and visitors to donate.”I got really fired up and excited, and I just got everyone fired up,” Kathy Reynolds said. “We have such great people in our community that they wanted to get involved.”

Summit’s generosity made Reynolds the envy of many other soldiers.”The support has really been phenomenal,” he said. “(We) definitely received the most packages of anyone stationed with our units.”Over the spring and summer, locals sent more than 100 Under Armour shirts – body cooling shirts that helped soldiers who often carry more than 75 pounds through heat that reaches as high as 120 degrees.”The Marines were really impressed and thankful that someone was not only thinking about them, but went through such an extensive fundraising drive,” Reynolds said.Reynolds graduated from high school in California before moving with his family to Summit County. He joined the Marines as a reservist in 1998 while living in Frisco, committing to one weekend a month and two weeks a year for six years, knowing that he may one-day be deployed overseas. After two tours in Iraq and one stint in Germany, Reynolds said the chances he will be recalled to the war are slim. He plans now to continue going to school and working at Raytheon while fulfilling his duties as a reservist for the remainder of his contract, which expires in February of 2006. He will then use the skills he is gaining as a Marine – the work ethic, leadership and his ability to stay calm in stressful situations – to enter the workforce, likely in the field of computer engineering.Jason Starr can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at

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