Retail Business Owner

Bill Thomas


APRIL 5, 2003 · Bill Thomas is a retail business owner from Portsmouth, R.I. The New York Times recently quoted a Marine sharpshooter in Iraq explaining how he makes decisions that could ultimately claim civilian lives. The way this sergeant described two of his recent choices to fire while civilians were close by gave Thomas such pause that he had to write a letter to the editor. This is his War Diary.

I sat down at my computer and wanted to speak directly to the sergeant in my letter:

You quote Sgt. Eric Schrumpf of the Fifth Marine Regiment as saying: 'We had a great day. We killed a lot of people' and 'I'm sorry, but the chick was in the way,' referring to a civilian Iraqi woman who was standing near an Iraqi soldier.

Yet no one could know better that these are human beings: someone's brother, father, husband, mother, sister or child. People loved by someone, as the sergeant is loved. People whose hearts are bonded to another, as his is. People who will be grieved and missed for a lifetime, as he would be.

Sgt. Schrumpf, be the true warrior you'd like to be and respect their dignity, just as you would wish yours to be. May God protect you.

I don't know if I hoped that he would actually see it because I didn't expect that he would. But I just felt compelled to write the letter directly to him, as though I was able to... put it in the mail and he would receive it and read it.

What happened to me was that I felt the anger dissipate and I felt concern for his safety and wanted to let him know that as well. That I hoped that he would be protected and he would come home safe. I don't know, I was in the military but I was never in battle and so I can't imagine what it must be like. I'm sure he does recognize the humanity of it all but I just felt compelled to remind him.

"Either Take a Shot or Take a Chance," New York Times article, March 29, 2003 (Registration required)


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