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.


September 18, 2007

Name: Teflon Don
Posting date: 9/18/07
Stationed in: Ramadi, Iraq
Milblog url

We're living in them. No, not those end times...I don't know anything about those. Our time here will soon be up. It doesn't seem that way; no matter how much gear I pack up and turn in, this desert still feels normal, still feels like home. A year doesn't seem that long -- twelve months, less than five percent of my life to date -- but I barely recall what "normal" life is like. It feels so distant to me now that it might as well be a second lifetime, an earlier incarnation of myself. Leave wasn't that long ago, of course, but that was only two weeks, lived under the specter of impending return.

Before I left for Iraq, before I even boarded the plane that would take me to my pre-deployment training, I worried that my friends would leave me behind. I thought it might be a little like excusing one's self from a party, coming back minutes later to find the party a year gone and the merrymakers scattered. That mind picture skirted the truth, but as usual, analogy is suspect. When I left, most of my friends were in college. Now, most have indeed graduated and scattered -- they range in domicile from Austria to China and many places in between. The difference is the time. Rather than a year for them and seeming minutes for me, a year has passed for my friends. A lifetime has passed for me.

It seems like it's been forever since I lived that "normal" life -- the normalcy that I know I'll never quite grasp again. Paradoxically, the last year blends and runs together into one long, blurred day. It doesn't feel like a year. It feels longer and shorter all at the same time. I want to leave, to go home, to take things for granted again. I also can't stand the thought of leaving now, of turning my back on so many things left undone.


Having been gone from Afghanistan now for 4 months I can tell you not day goes by that I don't think about the things I accomplished and the things I left undone. It was a year that will last a lifetime for me and my fellow team members. Normal is no longer the same and no matter how hard I try, I cannot take things for granted anymore. You will ajust but it will take a long time to do so.
As for your friends...if they are your friends they will still be there. Maybe a little further away physically but they will still be there and they will not understand what you have been through. Only those who have gone with and before you will have that insight.
Congrats on finishing your year and enjoy coming home to family and friends, their love for you never changes no matter where you have been.

Your description of the time spent in a combat zone was refreshingly familiar. I had the same exact emotions and perceptions of time and "normal" life when I got back from Vietnam. I guaren-goddam-tee you that your life will never be the same. You got out of the rat race and saw it from an exterior viewpoint. You got out of the "normal" and lived life on the edge. From now on you will align all life experiences with your experience in Iraq. Don't worry, it is okay. Life here in the "world" sucks. Life in Iraq is/was the real thing, or as close as you can get to it. Tom

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