Sharpsburg Army Veteran: A Chance to Elect a Fighter for Maryland’s 6th District

The Herald-Mail

Letters to the Editor

February 19, 2024

Link to Full Letter

To the editor:

I thought I was going to die during my last firefight in Afghanistan. Then I was saved. Now, it’s America that needs saving.

The realities of war are harsh. You hear about it in boot camp, but nothing can fully prepare you for when the bullets start flying and you’re trapped in a field of enemy IEDs on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

At 17 and a half, fueled by a sense of duty and patriotism, I enlisted as an 11 Bravo, U.S. Army Infantryman. After completing basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia, I was ready to defend our country with an M-16 rifle.

I deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. My unit’s primary responsibility was guarding supply routes, riding in convoys daily, engaging with the local population and traversing the harsh landscapes across Afghanistan from base to base. Our unit was confronted by the enemy daily, and we were engaged in over 60 firefights.

Then came the day of the ambush.

What began as a routine supply run quickly spiraled into chaos. Our Humvee was struck by an IED, unleashing an ambush from our right. As I found cover behind another Humvee, my leg was hit with a piece of metal, altering the course of my life forever.

Amidst the chaos, our team leader yelled “danger close,” signaling the arrival of the F-18 close air support. The swift response of the combat aviators is the reason I’m still here today.

They saved my life.

When our unit came under attack, the Armed Forces sent the F-18 aviators.

Now, the country I risked everything for is under a different kind of attack, and it’s time we send former F-18 combat aviator Tom Royals to Congress to fight back.

Like me, Tom knew he had to answer the call to serve after the attacks on Sept. 11. In the Navy, Tom flew combat missions in his F-18 over Afghanistan and Iraq — missions like the one that saved my life.

When I first met Tom, we immediately connected, bonded by a brotherhood that only those who have worn the uniform will understand. Tom is a fighter and patriot whose commitment to God, family and country is sorely missing in Congress.

Tom Royals will fight to keep America safe from foreign adversaries. He’ll fight to secure our border and keep drugs out of our communities. He’ll fight to stop the lawlessness in our streets.

He’ll fight for our veterans. He’ll fight to fix this broken economy. And he’ll fight for the rights of parents.

I believe in this country so much that I was willing to lay down my life to defend her. It pains me to see the country I fought for going down such a dangerous path, so I ask you to join me in supporting former combat aviator Tom Royals for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District — because when America is under attack, you send a fighter.

Dustin Burns


Read the full letter to the editor on The Herald-Mail website HERE.

Learn more about former combat aviator Tom Royals HERE.