A letter from the Iraq war from a Tulsa soldier

Wednesday, February 2nd 2005, 10:14 am
By: News On 6

A Tulsa Police officer currently serving there sent an e-mail home Tuesday about what it was like to be there on election day. He says the day was quite emotional and helped him realize why he was there and why the sacrifices of our men and women are not in vain.

News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright has this officer-soldier's story.

We've known him for years as Officer Rod Russo. He's gone undercover for the News on 6 to teach people not to open their doors to strangers; he's conducted stings to test shopper's honesty during the holidays and most recently, has helped catch sex offenders as a detective in the sex crimes unit. But he is also Major Rod Russo, 5th Brigade Combat Team Commander.

Russo left his job protecting Tulsans months ago to serve Americans in a war zone. His letters home reveal many intense battles, but working on Iraq's first free election, brought his mission clearly into focus. He writes, "It was great to see people getting out and voting. The fact there was rockets and mortars going off everywhere that you could hear gunfire from all directions, didn't stop these people from voting."

Rod watched a family walk 10 blocks to a polling place, stopping every 20 yards to let the elderly grandmother sit in a chair to rest, a chair her family carried the entire way. "The best thing to happen to me was when I finally realized why I was here. To actually see the impact of the ability to vote and the look of people experiencing the power of government. I will vote from now on."

Rod worked a polling place hit by a suicide bomber that injured 15 and killed one, but after soldiers cleared away the debris, voters kept coming. "Iraqis came up to me and said thank you for bringing Democracy to Iraq. This was a great day. The cost of lives in this conflict has been great, but, at least I observed that the sacrifices were not in vain."

Rod's Quick Reaction Force had a roadside bomb and a suicide bomber, both about 400 yards away. What strikes him most is the non-stop shooting. He says he will never forget the powerful feeling of seeing freedom performed.