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.


March 07, 2007

Name: SGT Brandon White
Posting date: 3/7/07
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Hometown: Diamond, OH
Milblog url:

He was that tiny baby, who stared in bright-eyed wonder;
into his mother’s eyes, the blanket of security that he was under.
He was that three-foot toddler, who let you have it;
when he asked his Daddy, if you were pregnant.
He was that neighbor boy, who was always into something;
he pulled your flowers, and sent your hubcaps sailing.
He was that kid, who threw gum in your hair because he secretly liked you;
what he never knew, is that you liked him too.
He was the one, who sped through your neighborhood;
a new license and Mustang, life was too good.
He was that boy, whose name you can’t recall;
who helped you at the grocery, carried your bags and all.
He was that son, who made his parents cry;
when off to war he went, little time for goodbyes.
He was that young man, who always made you smile;
you wonder what became of him, you haven’t seen him in a while.
He was that boy, who became that man;
in a distant battlefield, that was full of sand.
He was that guy, whose letters came less and less;
the images too horrific, pen to paper he could not press.
He was one of those, that you heard on the news;
who was patrolling downtown Baghdad, when the enemy lit the fuse.
That boy you used to know, whose face you can’t remember;
bled out on a dirty street, this past May or maybe it was September.
That kid who meant so little to many, yet so much to a few;
his life was cut short, and it was still very new.
That boy who used to be in your life, and whose fate you will not allow;
Oh him, that guy. He’s gone now.

When I wrote this poem I was in a mood that I have yet to identify. I was having a range of emotions, from happiness to anger to sorrow and everything in between, because of this war. I have little doubt that readers will have a similar reaction to it. I did not post it to offend anyone. The message in the poem is clear to me but may not be to others:

Many of my fellow Americans feel that this war is distant, that it concerns them none. Heck, they don’t even know anyone in the service, or haven’t even had a family member in the service in all of the generations. This poem shows them that they have known someone in the service, whether they realize it or not.

It's also about the sacrifices that troops and their families are making on a daily basis, for which we need to hold them in the upmost respect at all times. The reality of war is ugly, and I’ve always been a direct kind of guy, so there you have it. Have faith in the mission and in your troops.


Everybody I know has respect for all of you over there, doing the best you can in a bad situation.

Most everybody I know supports the mission in Afghanistan.

Now, that OTHER war...

Sgt. White - You are not far from the truth in observing that "Many . . . Americans feel that this war is distant, that it concerns them none." The only people in this nation who are truly affected by the war, the one's who know its reality, are those who are actually in harm's way and the families that wait for them. By and large, the "support" of the troops from most Americans is magnetic bumper stickers on the backs of their SUVs, cheerleading when the local NG unit marches of to one place or the other, and, perhaps, some vague unease that does not last long if some local kid comes home in a flag draped coffin. These folks do not have a personal stake in the war; their Johnny or Susie is not marching off "over there"; they will not ever have the experience of seeing a military casualty officer and chaplain at their front doors. Their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, moms and dads, will not come home one day knowing (and having to live with) the reality of war that you and I know: The only thing that really matters is survival and you survive by fighting for the man on your right and the man on your left just as they survive by fighting for you.

Stay safe.

Pretty good job of it. Couple of bumps need worked where the rhythm is uneven but it is pretty darned good. Does a good job, too, of placing the soldier in all the frames of life, not just the boots, gun and helmet of the last display.

Hang tough, kid, there is a life when the war is over. You just have to make it that far. Then you can be the grumpy guy who yells at the Big Wheelers ruining his Sunday morning sleep-in. Yeah, ya will.

Sgt. White, I have the utmost respect for our soldiers. Still, even though I live in San Diego, with several branches of the military in my backyard, I rarely see a direct support of the troops beyond the ubiquitous yellow magnets on the SUVs. The more ostentatious and oil-guzzling the vehicle, the more likely it will sport that yellow ribbon magnet. I know there are people who are heartbroken over each death and injury, heartbroken about the impact on families, the suffering of soldiers with PTSD, the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries, and the injustice of returning home without a strong and nurturing support system. The funny thing is, when we try to support our troops by fighting against these problems, we are called "Liberal" (a bad word in uber-Conservative San Diego). We are accused of trying to distort the issues and destroy morale by bringing up the negatives instead of focusing on the positives. In San Diego, supporting our troops means supporting The Establishment and The Administration, not the individual soldiers. I’m hoping that our troops do know that we “Liberals” DO care, we are fighting to end the apathy, fighting to make our fellow citizens see that our soldiers are not being treated as they should be, and that those who serve our country should not have their lives squandered or their service taken lightly. They deserve material support in the field (proper training, body armor, vehicle armor, state-of-the-art weapons, etc.), and they deserve proper care medically, psychologically and financially when they return to the states. There should be no consideration of cutting taxes when we aren’t allocating the funds to cover these basic necessities due our troops. In past wars Americans patriotically sacrificed, rationing our resources so that our soldiers could be properly supplied. Now we are asked to support the troops by… shopping. What have we become? I’m sorry this post is so long… but I needed to say this. Stay safe and return to us soon, Sgt. White.

Sgt White: First of all - this is a truly beautiful poem - there's not a thing wrong with it! We do have faith in you and the mission and you are not forgotten. You and all the troops so far from home are in my prayers every morning when I awake and every night as I'm going to sleep. There are no "conditions" to my support for you. Establisment or no - administration or no - it doesn't matter. What matters is that you and all your fellow soldiers belong to us here at home and we all wait for the day that you will all come home. And maybe its true that some of us over here at home put stickers on our cars and trucks with yellow ribbons or the flag and maybe that bothers some - but it doesn't matter because we do it for you and all your fellow soldiers. We do it to honor you and show our support! Unconditionally. We will never know the horrors of war that you all face every minute of every day that you are over there whether in Afghanistan or Iraq. But it doesn't matter because we are here to support you no matter what. You belong to us here at home. Someone once said..." one hates war more than the warrior..." You are all our heroes and our warriors and don't let ANYONE tell you different. God Bless you and all those so far from home! Semper Fi! carry on!!

Dear Sgt. White,

I think you did just fine Eagle soldier. As the son of a 501st Paratrooper I can say our country is blessed to have so many brave sons. Watch your back, stay safe and get home soon, we'll leave a light on for you. Geronimo!

Sgt White,
Your poem was great and I totally understand. I have someone in that other war and I believe no-one knows what this is like other than families. How we sit and wait for an alert on the computer or just any information. How we can't sleep and are up at 3 in the am. Or when our soldier looses one of there own, how the pit of our stomach just aches for his or her family. People outside the military family will never understand. We are so proud of you all! I pray day and night for all of our soldiers safety.
You keep safe!

Sgt. White ...
You may not know it but the vast majority of Americans are behind our soldiers 100%... The vast majority of Americans are not heard... The vast majority sit in little Churches on rural roads praying for our soldiers and our leaders who make the decisions on whether to continue fighting in Iraq... The vast majority are doing their absolute best to support you and all other soldiers the best and most effective way we know how... Some of us pray fervently, pay fervently or write fervently but with the same mission or goal... and that is to let you know (whether we have a family member or not fighting or dying,) we do feel the loss... I force myself to watch the news while they announce who lost their life that day fighting, it sickens me but I do it because I owe it to them and to you,,, Yes, I will get in my minivan at the end of the day and go home to my children and husband, and live and sleep safely but NOT ever forgetting about our military... We all have our moments, and you are having yours, but pleae don't let it last too long... You are not forgotten... God be with you and your fellow soldiers... Be safe...

Scott, Michael, John, Taquan, Derrick, Jordan, Antoine, Raphael, Jose, Peter, Mark, Leo, Kevin, Kurt, James, Rick, Bobby, Devan, Andy, Joaquin, Lucas...

Plug in a name and he is someone you know. He is someone's son or brother or husband or friend. He is the best of what our country has to offer because he volunteered for this. We've been at this now for five years, and it's past the time that those who were in the service when all this started would have been "caught" and unable to have chosen to go to war.

As the wife of a service member and a patriotic American, I am outraged at the lack of everything about this war---truth, proper equipment, limited time in theater, family support, direction, honesty, shared sacrifice, government leadership, proper health care for our wounded, and on and on.

Mostly, I am appalled by the lack of leadership from our government. We have been at this longer than our time in World War II, and have accomplished nothing. The big corporations get tax cuts, the rich get to keep driving SUVs at reasonable gas prices, the families of service members go on welfare, our soldiers come home to totally inadequate support and health care, and we go on with our lives as if people aren't getting killed in our names every single day. We have no ration coupons, no victory gardens, no stars in the windows, just faded "Support Our Troop" stickers on the backs of our cars and the occassional tattered flag flying from the porch.

We demand lower gas prices, tax cuts, and that somebody else's kid fights our war.

In 50 years, no one will be writing books about us called "The Greatest Generation." They'll be wondering why we didn't stand up and demand better.

SGT White, thank you for all you do for this country. My family is deeply in your debt. Thank you for a wonderful poem that reminds us what we have at stake.

A man I work with back in December asked me if my husband would be able to come home from Iraq for Christmas. I've gotten a little more calloused to it over the past few years, but it still frustrates met that the burden is borne by so few. Thank you for keeping it relevant.


Having a son and a nephew who were downrange(Ar Ramadi)not too long ago, it made me wonder if folks really do realize the sacrifice you guys make.We are proud of you but I just wish most folks wont be too timid to show their appreciation.

Keep the faith Sarge and always check six.

Great poem and thanks for sending it out, it needs more visibility and a greater audience. The Sandbox is only feeding the ones that care to know what is going on - everyone else is at the Mall or watching some mindless sitcom. Hang tough, keep writing, reading and talking and Know that you are going to be cast aside when your worth to the Powers that be is finished, but those that answered your poem today - they will care because they know they didn't speak loud enough to keep you from being hurt. There are lots of little people with no power but lots of love, kindness and care that would stand in your place to protect you, but you are the kind of guy that wouldn't want that. Hang tough, work hard today for that future that you know will be better. You are building it now and it will be worthy of its builders...

Dear Sgt. White,

Soon I will be discussing with students at a local college "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien. After I had heard that many students can not relate to the book because they don't understand what a book about the Vietnam war has to do with them... I was determined to show them the relevance. I am so grateful to have found your wonderful poem - it is not just extremely well written but it also made me cry. I hope you don't mind that I will share it with these students. Hopefully, it will open their eyes. Thank you so much for sharing it! May you and your fellow soldiers return home safely!

Very touching. Brought tears to my eyes. I have two teenage sons and it's too easy to see their faces mirrored in your poem. Fine work.

Naw. I know. Bitch of a wake-up call, ain't it?

Stay alive, come back. We have much to fix here at home.


I know a young woman in the service. I watched her grow up. She joined to meet her parents' expectations. She tries very hard to make them proud of her. Now she is risking her life, and her parents are beginning to be confused. They believe that patriotism means unquestioning belief in the President and his policies, yet their daughter who wants to please is in danger and they are having trouble seeing the logic in the situation. They are not speaking of it, but it is plain they are deeply troubled. It is affecting their health and ability to work, which is also confusing, because they have always associated not working hard with being worthless. I can only watch and hope like hell nothing bad happens to the daughter, and she will come home healthy and still love her parents, because now they are going to need help and understanding from her.
Faith in the mission in the is a tough sell. When Ronald Reagan (voted "Greatest President Ever" in a citizen poll) shook hands with Taliban leaders, gave them guns, money, training by the CIA , photo sessions, the name "Freedom Fighters" and comparison to the Founding Fathers; some of us were stunned and horrified. How could he, the leader of the United States, (literally) embrace murderous, fundementalist bigots? These guys were as nice as the Khemer Rouge! Now the administration has a problem? An administration composed the of same recycled appointees? Sure, the Taliban are awful! Yes, the military people are doing what they can from a military perspective! Has military intervention ever worked in a third world country guided by fundamentalist principals? Sorry. The only thing that will work is education and jobs, and that is the careful work of many generations of intelligent and benign foreign policy. And Afghanistan seems straightforward compared to Iraq.

Thank you for posting the poem. I see my son now at Al Asad there. I used to think more people understood, now I know they don't. This is a great place to come and find out what is going on where you are at.

that was touching, thanks.
stay safe.

Thanks for all of the great comments everyone. It's good to see the strong showing of supporters, the blog should be back up soon.

Dear Sgt. White, first of all, thank you for your service and for protecting the freedoms of the citizens of the United States. In re: your poem,
It is a touching powerful piece.

You can rest assured that one American will not consider any soldier lost as That Guy...He's gone now.
You, as millions of other Americans along the course of our nation have sacrificed some of the precious time of your life with duty to your country.
America is populated by millions of veterans and their families.
We will not forget that kid in the Mustang or the one who delivered the paper for We ARE HIM.
We die a little every time there is a loss but We live on, in freedom through the courageous actions of you and your fellow service men & women.
May god bless and protect you one and all.

John D. U.S.A.F. Vietnam 66-67

Hi, Found a cool news widget for our blogs at Now I can show the latest news on my blog. Worked like a breeze.

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