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Face of Defense: Soldier Relates to Iraqis’ Hopes

By Army Sgt. Neil W. McCabe
1st Infantry Division

CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, May 26, 2010 – The struggles of the Iraqi people to build a functioning democracy have been compared to the efforts of the American people during the Revolutionary War.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Army Spc. Scott D. Warren, a New York National Guard soldier serving at Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq, is a direct descendant of Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren, a Revolutionary War hero. U.S. Army photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

This connection is especially strong for Army Spc. Scott D. Warren, a military police soldier serving here, who said he is a direct descendant of Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Warren, hero in America’s war for independence.

A resident of Schenectady, N.Y., and a corrections deputy for Schenectady County, Warren deployed to Iraq in August with the New York National Guard's 206th Military Police Company from Albany.

Warren spent six months as a member of the quick-reaction force at the Basra Operations Command before his reassignment here as a Humvee driver. He said that while he is happy he shares a family resemblance with the general, he only mentioned it once in school.

"One time, in the first or second grade, we were reading a book about Paul Revere," he said. "At one point in the story, Revere is ordered by Joseph Warren to ride out to Lexington and Concord to let people know the British were coming. I told my teacher that he was my great, great, great, great, great-grandfather. She went with it, but, I don't think she believed me.”

In the weeks after Lexington and Concord, the British grew concerned as the Americans sought high ground overlooking the British positions in Boston, such as two hills in Charlestown: Bunker and Breed.

Although he was the senior officer present, Warren, a widower with four children, volunteered to join the defense of the new American positions as a private on the line. It was June 17, 1775, the day British naval artillery and infantry combined to dislodge the rebels from their redoubts. It also was six days after his 34th birthday.

Despite being outnumbered, the Americans repulsed the first two assaults. But late in the battle, as ammunition ran out, the decision was made to retreat.

Warren, armed with his musket as a club and his ceremonial general's sword, stayed with the rear guard, protecting the American retreat. He was shot and killed by British troops in their third and final assault.

"My Warren grandparents always told me stories about Joseph Warren, and all the people he was friends with, such as Paul Revere, George Washington, John Hancock and Sam and John Adams," Warren said.

Another close friend of Warren's, Benedict Arnold, in an act of loyalty to his fallen comrade, successfully petitioned the Continental Congress to recognize his Massachusetts commission and grant his orphans’ payments at half a major general's salary until the youngest reached 21.

After the British left Boston in the spring of 1776, the general’s body was recovered for a proper burial by his brother and Revere, who identified the body by dental work the silversmith had done on his late friend, said Jeffrey R. Croteau, manager of Library and Archives at the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington, Mass.

"There's certainly no way of knowing what bright future Warren might have had, but his star was certainly rising when he was killed," Croteau said.

In the years after the infamous 1770 Boston Massacre, Warren devoted himself to the revolutionary cause, Croteau said. At the time of his death, he was the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and as a Freemason, he served as the grand master of the Massachusetts Provincial Grand Lodge.

"If he hadn't been killed at the battle of Breed’s Hill, he would have been as well known as Paul Revere or Sam Adams," said Army Maj. Terry J. Hawn, commander of the 48th Military History Detachment, assigned to U.S.

Division South’s command group here. "Because he died early in the revolution, he was forgotten a little bit."

Hawn said he has read up on Warren and admires the sacrifices he made as an established doctor in Boston who completely committed himself to the American cause in the revolution’s early days. "He was one of the rabble-rousers," he said.

In another twist of fate, the modern-day Warren had the opportunity to meet a descendent of the brother of 18th-century British Prime Minister Robert Walpole, who argued for ruling the American colonies with a light touch.

Serving as Queen Elizabeth II's consul-general to southern Iraq in Basra, Alice Walpole met with Warren at the British consulate here.

"In my job, I often hear comments - some of them supportive, some envious, some sneering - about the ‘special relationship’ that exists between Britain and the United States," Walpole said. "My own view is that it is indeed a very special, and precious, relationship, and I hope that it will endure over the coming centuries, even as our countries continue to develop into splendid multicultural communities far distant from those little bands of essentially Englishmen facing each other across the Atlantic in the late 18th century."

Today's Warren said he feels a connection between the early days of the United States and the struggle of the Iraqi people to build their own democracy.

"I've been out there with them on both [the quick-response force] and with the police transition team,” he said. “They are always smiling and going out of their way to be friendly."

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, 1st Infantry Division and U.S. Division South command sergeant major, echoed the sentiment.

"As the Iraqis are forming their new government, we as Americans must remember that over 236 years ago, our Continental Congress endured the same fate," Champagne said. "Dr. Joseph Warren co-wrote the 'Suffolk Resolves' with Samuel Adams in 1774. In the Suffolk Resolves, Warren and Adams stated, 'On the fortitude, on the wisdom and on the exertions of this important day, is suspended the fate of this new world, and of unborn millions.'"

Champagne pointed out how the recent national elections in Iraq and the important decisions made there also will determine the future fate of unborn millions.

Warren’s family legacy “has come full turn," the sergeant major said. "Warren's selfless service, like [that of] his forefather, Dr. Joseph Warren, is allowing the Iraqis the ability to choose their freedoms."

Warren's thoughts on the subject mirror those of thousands of veterans and their families.

"I really hope it works out for them," he said, "so our coming out here was worth it."

 

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