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.

THE QUESTION |

December 12, 2006

THE QUESTION
Name: SGT "Roy Batty"
Posting date: 12/12/06   
Stationed in: Baghdad, Iraq
Hometown: Yellow Springs, Ohio

It is dusk, one of the few times of the day that Iraq seems like something other than the fifth level of Hell. The sky above is a pale cocktail blue, brightening to a washed-out yellow before sinking into a dust-brown shading of smog and sand just above the horizon. The air is cool, refreshing, now that the demon sun has dropped below the horizon, and the temperature is a balmy 100 degrees. A light breeze teases a half-hearted whirlpool of sand to life in front of me, and it dances across the road for a second before wandering off in search of another partner.

The moon is out already and almost full — a pale skull above the camp, the man in the moon’s phantom mouth silently agape in a voiceless scream. The locals have lit yet another trash fire just outside the perimeter wall. The thick black smoke, laced with the smell of burning rubber and human feces, curls and writhes in a thick, slow-motion band directly overhead, sliding greasily across the moon like a dusty veil over the face of a corpse.

In the distance, I can hear the faint crack-crack of gunfire, competing with a cheap loudspeaker wailing an Imam’s call to prayer. The sounds are utterly alien, inherently unfriendly, and yet instantly sum up being in Iraq — along with the choking punch of the acrid smoke in the back of my throat, the irritating rasp of sand in my boots, and the swarmy embrace of sweat-greased body armor.

I turn to my friend and say, only half jokingly, “Tell me again why we are in this country?” Phil just looks at me and grins thinly in his quiet way, and says nothing.

Comments

Nice word landscape. The last paragraph is a kicker, too. when you get the answer please let us all know.

Thank you for the interesting & visual post... Most Americans appreciate your being there, and we thank you, but when it comes to putting "why" into actual words, it's hard to say... Your answer is actually in your post... Words like "hell" & "gun fire" along with Iraqi children says quite a bit....You and Phil stay safe!

Hey there Roy, keep safe out there, and know that Young's Dairy will be waiting for you once you get home. We miss you in Ohio, and thanks for keeping us safe.

To escape 60s Dayton Ohio high school regimentation, Go Stebbins Indians Go, we'd drive up to Antioch in the fall. Trees full of colors that have never been labeled. The rustling of leaves when the wind blew over country that must have looked the same as when Daniel Boone first saw it. Roy, after you get back to that beautiful Ohio scenery please remember that there are parts of Texas that could be improved by a trash fire.

Glad y'all liked the post. I wrote it back in August or July, when we first got to Baghdad, and the temperature seemed to approach that of the surface of the sun. Now it's chilly, almost cold, although not by Ohio standards. The stench of the trash fires is the same, and hair raising calls of the Imams have not lost their alienness simply because we are not sweating to death anymore. Thanks, PJ and Alamoe, for the visual postcards of Ohio and Yellow Springs. Next time you are in the village, get one of Young's awesome cheeseburgers for me, and slap an Antioch student upside the head for me, hooah?

Sgt Batty - incredible reading from superb writing. Thank-you for another treat to the senses. Take care and God bless and keep you and Phil.

Thank you for sharing your feelings. Your words and feelings beautifully striked me and showered new thoughts into me! Take care! God bless. Keep going, America will keep supporting you!

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