Army Staff Sgt. Matt Sitton helped turn a congressman against the war in Afghanistan with a letter he wrote from the combat zone, decrying the conditions his men faced.
In a letter to his wife around the same time, two months before he was killed by an improvised explosive device, Sitton echoed those concerns – but also lashed out at his commanders, saying they were blaming their troops for failing to stop casualties, and wondered aloud why troops are even in Afghanistan.
Sitton also predicted in the letter to his wife, Sarah, that the conditions his men were subject to would have ramifications for them far beyond the battlefield.
Sarah Sitton made the letter available to The Tampa Tribune. These excerpts appear as Sitton wrote them.
"COL mennes had the audacity to say in an email that the guys on the ground must be doing something wrong cause 'experts say' that all IED's are avoidable," Sitton wrote, referring to Col. Brian Mennes, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
Sitton, 26, a paratrooper from Largo who served with the storied 82nd Airborne, also said, "We are so tired and so worn down and we keep getting blamed that we are doing things wrong but you can't stay focused when you are getting worn into the ground like this."
Sitton's email in June to U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young helped persuade the congressman to call for a withdrawal of troops ahead of the 2014 date set by President Barack Obama. The email also spurred Young, an Indian Shores Republican, to call a hearing into the agency charged with protecting troops against IEDs.
In the letter to his wife, Sitton questioned why U.S. troops are even in Afghanistan.
"We are not going to clear out the taliban before we leave and they will just flood the area when we do leave," he wrote.
"COL Mennes tried to get our deployment extended to a year, That got shot down but still what the heck are we doing here. We are serving no purpose. We are leaving and still the cmd is putting the lives of afghans over the lives of americans. COL Mennes said he would rather risk loosing a paratrooper then killing an innocent civilian over here. Thats why when we get into a big fire fight, he wont drop bombs. …"
Complaining about an unnamed company commander, Sitton wrote that he is too "stupid to realize that we are exhausted. There is going to be so many violent crimes and dui's and drug incidents when we get back. I'm telling you right now thats gonna happen cause people are so disgruntled over here."
Officials at Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne, could not immediately comment on Sitton's emails.
To Sarah Sitton, who lives in Riverview with the couple's 10-month-old son Brodey, the email sent by her late husband is a painful reminder.
"It's hard to go back and read the things he wrote and now know the outcome," she said in a text message to the Tribune.
"They were pleading for help as their command just left them high and dry. And to hear that suffering and that fear as a wife is heartbreaking because there is nothing we can do but comfort.
"It's awful to be over there in the first place but then to know your command doesn't have your back makes everything horrendous."