The mother of a fallen soldier from Largo revealed a special letter her son wrote that helped convince Congressman C.W. Bill Young to reverse his stance and call for the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
We talked to the mother of Army Staff Sergeant Matthew Sitton about the role her son played in the Congressman's change of heart. We sat around Cheryl and Steve Sitton's dinner table, as Cheryl read a letter their son had written Congressman Young, back on June 4th.
Sitton knew their lives were in danger and he died almost exactly two months after reaching out to Congressman Young.
"I'm writing you, because I'm concerned for the safety of my soldiers," said Cheryl Sitton, as she proudly read her son's letter.
This was Sgt. Matthew Sitton's third tour in Afghanistan.
"I just want to return my guys home to their families, healthy," she read, her eyes beginning to tear up. She said her son never mentioned the safety of his own life, only the safety of his men.
Months before even writing the letter, he'd told his mom things were not good, but his attitude toward his mission never wavered.
"You know what, you suck it up and you get it done, this is our job," she said, touting her son's can-do approach to things.
"I am currently deployed with the 4th brigade combat team, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan," she continued reading.
Sitton recited her son's entire impassioned plea to Congressman Bill Young: that his men were in danger. He had already gone to his commanders telling them how bad things really were, but to no avail.
"They would send him away and say stop complaining," said Cheryl Sitton.
Her son said there was no time to sleep properly or re-charge.
"The morale and alertness levels of our patrols are low and it is causing casualties left and right," she read out loud.
Matthew Sitton worried about the constant danger of improvised explosive devices, or IED's, which eventually killed him.
"I know the threat of casualties in war, and I'm totally on-board with sacrifice for my country," he said in his letter. "But what I don't agree with, is the chain of command making us walk through, for lack of a better term, basically a mine field, on a daily basis."
"He said, ‘mom, they're continually making me put the lives of my men, in danger.' He said, ‘they're more concerned about collateral damage, than they are of the lives of my men,' " said Sitton, as she continued to read the letter.
His platoon was ordered to carry out duties, even though they were short of men, patrolling a mine-laden area twice daily for two to four hours.
"What he would call meaningless missons," said Steve Sitton.
"As a brigade, we are averaging a minimum of an amputee a day from our soldiers, because we are walking around aimlessly, through grape rows and compounds, that are littered with explosives," said Cheryl Sitton as she read more of his letter.
The Army told her they were sent there because they were the best of the best, yet things were so bad, when a local farmer accidentally flooded their camp, in-ground latrines soaked their gear with urine -- and command told them stay put.
"And conduct our patrols soaked in urine," said Cheryl Sitton, reciting it verbatim from the letter. "There needs to be a time where the wellness of your soldiers needs to take priority over walking around in fields for hours a day, for no rhyme or reason, but only to meet the brigade commander's guidance."
"My son, he truly was special," said Steve Sitton proudly. "And I think that the Lord will use this, in a mighty way, to accomplish things, so that's our prayer, that a good comes out of this."
He said, ask anyone in the Army and they'll tell you, your first priority is protecting your men.
"He did!," said Sitton solemnly. "He gave his life for it."
Thursday, Congressman Young goes before a panel of the Pentagon's watchdog arm, aimed at stopping IEDs. They'll hear Sitton's letter and more, with one goal now in mind: to get our soldiers out of Afghanistan before we lose anyone else.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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