ASK A VETERAN |
September 21, 2007
ASK A VETERAN
Name: SPC Ian Wolfe
Posting date: 9/21/07
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
I'm finally home after 22 months gone, 16 of those in Iraq. While over there I didn't really think much of it, I just did the job I was given. But it has been a strange experience. I try to be good about talking to people when they ask what I think. I try to tell them what most of us talked about: how the media is failing us and the public, how the news shows and papers are irresponsible in their reporting and presentation, the positive things we did and the people we met.
The first few weeks home were so surreal. I kept thinking, "How could a place this nice exist?" I was in awe. I had forgotten how nice this country is.
I did find it hard to talk about the wounded Americans I saw while I was working in the ICU. That affected me more when I got home than I thought it would. I think mostly that had to do with coming home and seeing people with such strong opinions, people who have never even left the country. Don't get me wrong, the "Thank you's" and the handshakes are plentiful. It's just that I live in the city, so it's mixed. I don't usually tell people where I was because some people get awkward and others don't know what to say. Mostly I think this is because they have never met a Soldier who has been there, and they are caught off guard.
When I hear people bitch about the war and give their views on it I can't help but think of those wounded guys, and think of what they would say. I have read some nasty things about the war and us, and I don't understand it sometimes. It's funny how nothing here is really affected by it.
Of course, some friends had to ask the token questions: "Did you kill anybody?" "Did you get hit?" I was in a medical unit. We typically aren't the ones shooting. When I went out, we were with a gun truck team. I wasn't running convoys, but I was around the villages for quite a bit of time. Thankfully I didn't get hit with anything. Sitting around with some comrades we were discussing what people must think it is like over there. I guess if all you see is the stock footage from the news media, you would think it to be a constant explosion. I almost get tired of trying to explain things, but I try to inform people as best as I can using the experiences I had. I always appreciate people who want to know.
I refuse to get an antenna for my TV, or cable. I just can't take it anymore. The politics drive me nuts. I feel so disgruntled with these presidential candidates and the talk of the war.
I have talked with friends who were in different situations over there -- Marines, Infantry, etc. -- and the funny thing is that all of us in our own way were mad at the media. Liberal and conservative, we all felt the same. None of us have agreed to do interviews because of this, though quite a few of us have been asked. The problem with this is that the media will find someone to interview, and it may not be the best person to represent us. So I am now encouraging vets to talk with the media, but to be cautious about how the media will spin it.
The other issue for me has been the Iraq War Vet license plates. I like to stay incognito, not to advertise. After telling someone my logic on the interviews, they pointed out to me that it is the same with the plates. So I am getting them. I have been walking around school trying to hide the fact of where I was. If people ask, I tell them, but there's that initial awkwardness.
Overall the transition home has been good, with a few bumps here and there. There are some images that I will never forget, and I don't think I want to. I went back to work and school after a month, and it's been good getting into a routine. It's still hard to see all this discussion of the war, and I do get upset and angry at times. There are other times where I am so overcome with happiness I almost get teary.
There was one moment that really caught me off guard. The day we were bussing back home we stopped to pick up the Patriot Guard riders. One of them came over to shake my hand, and did, and then he grabbed my shoulder and I saw he was tearing up. I thought to myself that I didn't deserve this, that he was a Vietnam Vet, and yet he was so emotional about us stepping off that bus. I know I couldn't have done as much as he did, or had it as hard as he did, but here he was shaking my hand and thanking me.
I understand it now. Past whatever you did, whether it was kicking down doors, patching people up, answering radios, or whatever, there is a common understanding of being in the military during something like that. It's everything involved, and when I talk to other Veterans from WW2, or Vietnam, there is that understanding that we all share. This is one of those things that people who haven't served in a war will never understand.
So while people discuss these wars they should remember that there is so much more that goes into it, and just watching the news or a movie does not help you understand. If you want to know, ask a Veteran.