The Believer

As an Army veteran who lost a son in Iraq, I felt it was my duty to go to Crawford to tell Cindy Sheehan why she’s wrong about the war—and why President Bush is right. By Gary Qualls

I GREW UP IN HARKER HEIGHTS and went to Killeen High School. My dad was in the Army and was a professional shooter, so I grew up hunting. I enlisted in the Army in 1974. I was sent to Saigon but was there for only a few days before the war was over. Later I was transferred to a special operations unit, and after that I went to sniper school. I was a pretty good shot. I’ve been accused of knocking a gnat off a fly’s butt. I said, “No, but I got the fly.” I got out of the Army but stayed in the Texas National Guard and worked at the VA hospital here in Temple as a surgical OR tech. I volunteered for sniper duty in Bosnia in 1999 and came home a year later. Two months after I retired, we were attacked at the World Trade Center—Pearl Harbor number two. September 11 was an eye-opener. It reminded us to always keep watching.

My son Louis was born in 1984. His mother and I divorced, and I raised him and his younger brother, David, by myself. Three kids lived in this household, and I was the oldest. That’s how we lived. All three of us would scuba dive together, go fishing, hunting, riding Harleys. Louis was born into the military—I always had him decked out in cammies—and he always wanted to go into the service and be like his daddy.

He joined the Marine Corps Reserve on his eighteenth birthday and volunteered to go to Iraq four times before he was finally taken. He had just started at Temple College, and as a reservist, you can say, “I want to stay in school.” He had every excuse not to go, but he said, “Dad, I can’t let my friends go without watching their backs.” But Louis didn’t do it just for his friends. He did it for the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our country, as well as the people of the world. In Louis’s last letter, he said that I was his hero. Well, now he’s mine.

I’ll never forget the day

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