His leadership in Iraq is well-documented. Under his steady hand, the military turned an uncertain struggle into a clear victory. He was rewarded with a promotion to CENTCOM with a secure legacy and a guaranteed place of honor in the history books.
But on July 4th, General Petraeus put his personal achievements aside and risked his legendary status because his country needed him. Again. Few people in history have willingly stepped down a notch to take a new job. Even fewer did so knowing they were stepping – once again – into another theater of war where victory was far from certain. Failure would result not only a loss of his reputation, it would represent a catastrophic blow to the safety and security of the American people.
But General Petraeus has broad shoulders.
In a letter sent to all NATO personnel in Afghanistan on the day he assumed command, he outlined his priorities and ended by saying, “I appreciate your sacrifices and those of your families as we serve in a mission of vital importance to the people of Afghanistan, to our nations, and to the world. And I pledge my total commitment to our mission as we work together to help achieve a brighter future for a new country in an ancient land.”
He added a hand-written note: “It is a privilege to serve with you.”
At his assumption of command, he said, “We are in this to win.”
The safety of millions of people in Afghanistan and – by extension – here in America are depending on him.
This man, a survivor of a bullet to the chest, prostate cancer, and a parachuting accident where his pelvis was fractured and pieced together with plates and screws, has once again taken on the burden of winning a war.
His body may be battered, but his shoulders seem to be holding up just fine.