by Paul Campos
Scripps Howard News Service
December 15, 2004
The Guard, Omdahl explained, was full of young people from modest backgrounds who had joined to help finance otherwise unaffordable dreams of a college education. Originally intended to be sent into combat only in times of national emergency, under-trained and ill-equipped Guard units were now being shipped to Iraq.
Young people who joined the Guard, Omdahl wrote, "had bargained for weekend training and emergency duty, such as fighting floods, policing events and serving as a community resource; but not for extended months of combat."
Omdahl's column eventually found its way to Wentz, a recent high school graduate from Williston, N.D., who had joined the Guard at age 17, and who was now serving in Iraq. Wentz's letter, says Omdahl, "reflected a sense of betrayal and abandonment."
Wentz described how he was assigned to travel up and down the highway looking for roadside bombs. This is one of the most dangerous missions in Iraq - but instead of an armored vehicle, Wentz and his fellow soldiers were given a gravel truck insulated with boxes of sand.
Wentz had told his family nothing about the situation. "I don't want to worry them," he explained, "because to me that is the worst part - having loved ones worry about us."
Wentz had just turned down his first opportunity to go on leave: "We knew everyone wasn't going to get leave, so I figured I was young, with no girlfriend or real need to go home. So I volunteered not to go, so someone else could."
Wentz's letter contained one request: "I hope you don't forget about us, because your writing can help people realize the reality of the situation."
Here are a few things that those who cared for Cody Wentz haven't forgotten.
As a child, Cody loved the classic hot rod cars of the 1960s and 1970s, and he learned everything he could about them. But his greatest love was football, which he both played and studied with all the passionate enthusiasm of youth.
Cody's ultimate dream was to play in the NFL. Still, he was a sensible kid, who realized that was a long shot. So all through high school he saved money by working as a waiter at various Williston restaurants. Then, in the fall of his senior year, he enlisted in the Guard. The Guard would help finance the college education that one day would allow him to become a registered nurse, or perhaps even an anesthesiologist.
Spc. Cody Wentz was killed on Nov. 4, on the roads north of Baghdad, while serving with Company A of the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion. An improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle.
Who killed Cody Wentz? Iraqi insurgents? The combat-dodging Ivy League cowards who sent him into battle on a gravel truck? The voters who support the Iraq war but oppose paying for it? The secretary of defense who expects our soldiers to dig through scrap heaps in search of improvised armor? Or those, like me, who oppose this war but have done nothing to stop it?