The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.


October 17, 2006

Name: SGT de la Garza
Posting date: 10/17/06
Stationed in: 101st Ft. Campbell
Hometown: TX
Email :

A relative of mine once made a comment that has stayed in my mind for years. I can't remember who it was that said it, but both my grandfathers were in the Marines during WWII, and the majority of my family is currently in the military. The comment was, "Those who tell war stories have never seen the true face of war." In all honesty I think that's the brutal truth. Those who have been through more than just the concept of war, more then just being deployed to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or Vietnam and the like -- those who have done more than their duty on an FOB, those who have seen their buddies die in front of them, or seen how far a person's body parts will fly after a suicide bomber has blown themself up, they are in no hurry to tell that story.

Think about it. I myself have been deployed to Iraq twice -- in 03-04, 05-06 -- and I'm in no real hurry to validate my wartime experiences to anyone. Stories are stories, experiences are a part of life, and I'm not saying don't share them, but don't let them validate you, don't use your comrade's death to enable you to be the person you wish to be. I know this is something hard to understand for a lot of people, and it's taken me a lot of time to be able to work to this point, but here it is:

To my comrades still out there, keep the faith. After all, without faith in anything, without believing in anything, including yourself, who are you.


You are spot on - the men I have known that were in WWII and Vietnam never told war stories - maybe stories about being in the service but not about the war. The ones at the bar "boosting" of their wartime experiences were probably sitting in a bar at the time of those experiences!
Thank you for serving your country!

My father was a rifle platoon leader in Europe during WWII. He grew up in a fairly small town where nearly everyone's brother or son went off to that war and did something, some in comabt, others not. When I was growing up in that same town, there were several veterans organizations that had their own "clubs" where the vets went to drink and socialize. It took me a long time to figure out why my dad never went to any of them until I came back from Vietnam. I went to the Legion a couple of times for a drink and to renew some acquaintances. Every time I was there, there were guys at the bar telling "war stories" a la Arlo Guthrie's "blood and gore and guts and brains in my teeth" from Alice's Restaurant, and laughing and going on and on about it. It was way beyond the pale for me then and remains so now. I have only recently let go of even a little bit of what happened to me there, stuff that had been safely tucked, I thought, into some very deep recesses, far from conscious thought.

It was towards the end of his life when I was trying to come to some rationalization for my experiences that I ever got him to tell me much about his. Up to that point, I had only ever heard tales of the "good times" in England before the Invasion and in Paris after the war was over. He loved those stories and, if you didn't know him, you would never have known of the horror and terror he experienced between England and Paris.

Maybe some of what he and I heard at the bars at the Legion and the VFW was true at some level. Maybe those guys had rationalized it somehow so they could laugh and joke about it. But I don't see how.

My dad fought in the Phillippines during WWII, and I never could get him to talk about it. When I was older and had friends who had been to Vietnam, they would not talk about it either. They said unless I had been there, I wouldn't understand. I understand that.

My father served in the Army in World War II and Korea. The only times he talked about combat was when he had been drinking.

All of you are right! No one who ever did anything in combat really wants to discuss it. It is hard to bite your tongue at times but "It don't mean nuthin.".
God bless,

During world war two Senator Lyndon Johnson was an observer onboard a US bomber on a mission over the pacific that might have been fired on by enemy aircraft. LBJ recommended himself to Gen. MacArthur for consideration for the silver star, which MacArthur awarded him hoping that it might win more funding for his theatre of operations which was being given second billing to the war in europe. No one else on the bomber was ever even considered for commendation . Lyndon was never without his silver star when canpaigning for office and was only too happy to elaborate, or fabricate, on the heroic reasons he deserved that medal and you know where that got the rest of us.

My father was in WWII and never during my childhood did I hear him speak of the war. I did hear him cry out at night sometimes during his nightmares... you are so right. I can understand how it would be hard to speak of. Come to find out, near the end of my father's life, he pulled out a box from under his bed... it was full of medals and awards he was given for his bravery during the war. We have that box, but he never could bring himself to tell us about them.. only bits and pieces. We didn't pressure him because he was very sick and you could see the anguish on his face when he spoke about the war... 50 years later! He passed away 5 years ago and I still miss him as if it were yesterday he left us. He was my hero. YOU are our heros now. Keep the faith, we are with you.

Wow where do I start..your comments hit home with more of us than you can imagine. My father fought with Carlson's Raiders during WWII. I used to ask him about it and he would change the subject. As others have already said unless you have lived it you would never understand. My father has been gone now for 6 years and I cherish all he did for his kids and his country. May God Bless you and all those that fight and serve our Country to keep us safe.

I never thought about your take on war stories before but it's true. I know a few vietnam vets and they NEVER tell stories, nor did my Grandfather who was in Pearl Harbor. If only there was someone who could put that in a context our leaders, who've rarely meaningfully served, could understand. Maybe then they would prepare our troops better and show more respect for those that paved the road for their flippant and arrogant political leaders with a lifetime of nightmares, grief and blood.

Sgt. de la Garza,
Thank you for your contribution in service and helping to make America realize our TRUE values.
Hopefully, you're back in the "World". Please, do not go to any "Veterans" clubs! You will only be embittered. It is hard enough to listen to the BS in public establishments, populated by all the cooks, clerks, promoted before you, morphing into Seals, Rangers, SOG's, etc....who have no knowledge of real patriotism.
God bless you and yours,
I am not religious but we need some intervention here!

When my daughter Helen came back from Iraq, I expected to hear all sorts of tales (other than the 'sheep story' I mentioned in an earlier post.) She and I have always been very close, and I just knew she would, as usual, talk for hours about her experiences. Just like when she came back from camp. She would talk for a week about what she did and saw. But no. When she came back, she was pale, skinnier than when she left, and quiet. Not my vivacious, talkative daughter of before Iraq. For three days she laid on her bed and read. That was always her unwinding. A book. I just left her to be alone, and in the quiet she seemed to seek. I noticed when she came out of the bedroom that she would still be darting her eyes around, always alert... Always aware...
But this passed, and my old Helen seems to be back, But something changed. I cannot put my finger on it, Maybe she grew up. Maybe I did.

I still have not heard stories, nor do I ask for any--other than a few funny tales she shares. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps she will only share them with those who have been there. I know she kept a journal (a lifetime habit). I would give anything to be able to know what is in there...

Or perhaps not.

dear sgt. de la Garza. In Vietnam the biggest lie we told each other to cope was " it dont mean nothing", Go into a Vet Center and discover that every thing means something to somebody, including yourself. Semper Fi.

So so true. I am in Afghanistan now, was in Iraq in '03. I find it easier to tell stories about this place but still lack the right words to describe my experiences in Iraq. I usually hand the "didjakillanybody's?" pictures, that stops the questions.

Although I am Canadian I want you all to know that your service to our world is very much appreciated and I hope that you guys and gals get home safely. all the best from your neighbours in Canada.

These posts keep getting better and better keep posting.

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