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 Sack
Posting date: 10/17/06
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Omaha, NE
Milblog url:

This is not my grandfather's war.

One of my grandfathers was in a naval ship steaming towards Japan as part of the ground invasion force when WWII ended. He was saved from forcibly liberating the country by the decision to drop two atomic bombs. My other grandfather was a Navy Corpsman who was decorated for defending his Marine platoon during an ambush in the Korean War. He treated his wounded comrades while simultaneously defending their position against an ongoing attack, as most of the leathernecks in his unit were too badly injured to fire a weapon. They awoke in the morning surrounded by their own wounded and piles of enemy dead.

I wondered aloud the other day what my grandfathers would think about this war. 

What would they think about the 50 pounds of body armor that we wear, when they wore not much more than a steel pot? About our only being allowed to move tactically in armored vehicles, when they had forced marches of large groups of soldiers? About fewer casualties in four years of fighting than in some single days of WWII fighting? About wearing a reflective belt at night on a Forward Operating Base? About Baskin-Robbins in the DFAC, daily phone calls home, email and internet access, when they didn't eat for days upon days and the best they could hope for was a three-month-old letter from home? About two-man air-conditioned rooms, air-conditioned offices, and air-conditioned Humvees, when they slept in the mud?  About two-week leave back to the States in the middle of our one-year tour?  About the four duffel bags of gear that I've been issued, when they often had boots with holes in them or no cold weather gear in the middle of the European winter?

I think that my grandfathers would understand the advancements that our military has made in the last 50-60 years. 

I think they would even understand the constant complaining by soldiers who have living conditions infinitely better than they could have dreamed. After all, it is every soldier's right to complain about the hand they've been dealt, while at the same time sacrificing countless nights away from their spouse and kids, missing irreplaceable births of children and deaths of parents, sacrifices that even for a staff NCO like myself are greater than most at home can fathom. All for an idea that is America. 

All for the same reason my grandfathers fought. 

All for freedom.


Thanks for posting this. I think about this a lot too, but from the spouse's side. Here I think it's hard to have my husband gone for a few months, to have limited phone calls, yadda yadda - but my Grandmother did it with two children at home, worse casualty rates, no realy communication, and for years - not months. It's hard to remember that we could really have it worse.

I do think, however, that they at least didn't have the fealing of isolation that we do today, of feeling alone in your situation - I mean, where are the 'home-spun clothes' or 'women taking over the factory' war efforts of today?

Thank you again for your words and, more importantly, your service

Just loved your post. I heard all the bickering too. I was a medic in Taji (March 2004 to 2005). We had it made. When I look at history, and see what my relatives did and had to go through, I get very grateful, for the conditions we had. Hey, we could even get satelite TV in our trailors! We still had a few people that were still living in hangers in Taji, but there was still a place to shower each day, free laundry service, MWR to go to. I really did not consider that I was making a 'sacrifice' by being there. I think that the people that makes the real sacrifice is our wives, husbands, children, and relatives that have to endure our absence. Yes, I got shot at, and dodged mortars, rockets, and IED's, but we could return to the trailors after duty in a/c and relax. Oh, by the way, I am going back again, (as a volunteer). I am 52 years old. This will be my last deployment.

Thanks for this. One of my uncles was a marine who was dropped off at Guadal Canal(spelling?) by the Navy and left there without adequate food, water, and (eventually) defense. In between starving (practically) and fighting off Japanese assasins (literally), he was one of the lucky who made it off the island and out of the war--alive.
But still in all--war is never easy, nor filled with comforts of any kind. God Bless you for your service, and God keep you from harm.

(and, if you can view it, enjoy World O' Crap's Blog and movie reviews!)

It matters not the "little luxuries and comforts" we have. But I too wonder aboubt what those that went before would think. I bridged the aftermath of Viet Nam, through the worse of the Cold War to the emergince of these new threats. Those I served with and I saw the change from contact, maybe weekly to contact daily for some when deployed and employed far from family and friends.

It leads to a massive disconnect in the National Psyche, millions are sacrificing and the rest go about their business.

And that gets back to you SGT Sack, and all the others serving with you. I faced it, my comrades, my brothers and sisiters faced it.

We served, we survived, and we are back here in the "Land of the Big PX," trying to make sure that more of us here in safety recognize and are aware of what you all do.

We will NEVER forget or foresake you.

God Speed.

SGT Sack,

I don't think our forefathers would begrudge us the luxuries of our time. Just as we have it easier than they did, they had it easier than their forebears in Gettysburg or on the Potomac, as did they over their European ancestors fighting hand-to-hand with rusty swords and pitchforks. We live in the time we live in, and would be fools to give our military anything less than what they need to succeed. Moreover, I believe that the timeless military adage "You don't need to train on misery" is as applicable today as it ever was. Be grateful, not guilty, that you are blessed with technologies to share your story, touch your family and friends, and enjoy the small comforts gratefully afforded to a soldier in the greatest military on earth. Our enemy has certainly learned that our small margin of comfort has not made us any softer, weaker, or less diligent--quite the contrary! As I recall, that 30 lbs of body armor may keep you safe, but it can get awfully uncomfortable in 120 degree heat. Keep the faith, and thank Grandpa as you accept the little comforts he never knew.

They'd say, they wish they'd had it then, but don't wish it on anyone. My Dad was in WWII and was thankful I avoided VN. Not that I wanted or didn't want to. Timing is everything. I've often thought what would've been, had I been born a couple years earlier. Get your job done and come home. Live, and remember, for those who can't. We are with you in mind and spirit... another Omahan.

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