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 25, 2007

Name: Eddie
Posting date: 10/25/07
Stationed in: Iraq
Milblog url:

Today started off with me waking up at 0700 in the morning. Considering I have not been working, and have nothing to do but waste away on the internet or playing games or watching movies, my sleep schedule has been all wacked and I have been staying up late. Late last night/this morning my old squad leader came back in off of leave. The reason I refer to him as "my old squad leader" is due to some shifting and changes that came about within our company the past couple weeks, while he was on leave. More on that another time. Anyways, he stopped by and we ended up talking and whatnot for a while, and by the time I finally went to bed it was somewhere around 0300. Needless to say I was pretty tired when it came time to get up.

I had to get a nice uniform ready, because the reason we were getting up was to attend a ceremony to receive our CIB, or Combat Infantrymans Badge. The CIB is a distinctive combat badge that is only worn by Infantry soldiers. It is something that every Infantryman looks forward to receiving one day, for it means that you have been through the ultimate test in your profession; to handle yourself while under enemy fire. The CIB represents an experience that all owners will take with them for the rest of their lives, as combat-proven Infantryman. Others that see the CIB will know you've probably seen some shit that they wouldn't care to, and that you volunteered to do so.

The thing is, when I think back to the soldiers of WWII and Vietnam, I realize that I really haven't done shit compared to what they did. To them a CIB meant fierce fighting for days and weeks on end, countless lost friends, and years of their lives fighting a determined and tough enemy. My experiences here are nothing like that, although according to the criteria for the award, I have earned it in every respect -- something that is not always true for many people that come over here. I have been shot at on countless occasions and had the opportunity to fire back and engage the enemy on most of those. I've spent the past nine months in a hostile combat zone, with an active enemy, living and working every day in harm's way.

But am I really a trial-by-fire tested combat Infantryman? Would I have handled myself in the same way that those who came before me would have? I would like to think so, but I will probably never know. This is probably a good thing, and I should be thankful that I don't have to experience that, but it gets me thinking about the meaning of the badge I will be wearnig. Don't get me wrong, I will wear my CIB proudly, and I am honored to have been able to serve my country and to help, in what ways I could, the Iraqi people. I am forever grateful to have been given that opportunity, and will carry those memories with me for the rest of my life.

So, with that said, we have officially been given our CIBs. After all these years of waiting and wondering if I would get mine, I finally have. As an added bonus to the day's celebrations, I got word that my flight out of our FOB, and the first leg of my journey home, will begin a day early. Not too long from now, if all goes well, I should be on my way out of here! I still haven't packed though. I am incredibly lazy, I know. I'm going to go do that as soon as I finish this.

I was watching a movie earlier, and halfway through I paused it to go have a smoke and all of a sudden like a ton of bricks it hit me, and I got butterflies and a very giddy feeling: I AM FINALLY GOING HOME! For the longest time it had seemed so far off, and even as it got close it really didn't feel like it was close. After nine months, one week, and one day straight in this place, I am finally getting a much-needed break. I can't wait.


Do not question the validity of your CIB. There are a lot of misconceptions about the nature of combat in WWII and Vietnam (I'm a historian), especially that it was unrelenting and all-consuming. There were plenty of guys in both conflicts, and especially in Vietnam, who got shot at only once and thereby earned their CIBs. Keep in mind that by virtue of serving in the military and especially in Iraq, your perspective on "normal" is somewhat skewed. Getting shot at in civilian life (or having a bomb detonate or a mortar land nearby) would probably be the single most terrifying moment of a person's life. Don't treat it lightly or shrug it off. You earned that CIB.

Congratulations on the CIB. That's one trial by fire that sooo many have never gone thru. Most people couldn't empathize with you except for the ones already having done the same. Please don't denigrate yourself or your actions. Enjoy your leave, and know that it is well deserved. Thanks so very much for doing your part in helping the Iraqi people, and know that MOST Americans do care and appreciate you ALL. I know I do.

Congrats on the CIB. It is a great feeling, but also one that many could do without. Bigger congrats on going home. I know that feeling well and as you described, it is almost orgasmic in nature. It seems like a dream come true to finally think you are going home for good. Congrats on all you have done and enjoy your time at home.

1SG W.T. Steward

Ditto to comments. I was shot at driving down a highway in California. Let me tell you terrifying isn't the word for it. At least you signed on to get shot at - I don't think I ever could. Praise God that my 1 bullet & your (God knows how many including IED's) didn't have our names on it. Rush home to the arms of those waiting for you and thank you for your willingness to get out & do what needs to be done. love lorraine

As an retired ex-canadian serviceman I have made fun of the US military for there (from my view )excessive awarding of medals,ribbons ,citations etc BUT the Combat Infanty Badge will always have my respect.Good Luck God Speed

Yes, don't question the value of your award. It's all comparative, but hell, bullets are bullets. PTSD is PTSD. God bless you and have fun at home!

I dreamed I gave my tour in Vietnam to a recorder of oral History a couple nights ago, and its been over thirty-five years and it was all there. You have earned your CIB, I think they give out too many ribbons, but they don't hug you enough nor have a beer with you while listening to your story, which you will need to tell to someone that understands, and many of them never will. Have a safe trip home, enjoy and then tell your story when you have it make sense. My Dad finally told be about Leyete landing after I came back from Vietnam - he thought I would understand - but I could never imagine him as a nineteen year old Combat Engineer. Tell the story.

Congratulations on your well-earned CIB. And thank you for your sacrifice and service. The above comments express my feelings more eloquently than I could. Be safe. Savor home. Thank you for sharing. You make me proud to be an American.

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