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.


January 18, 2008

Name: Zachary Scott-Singley
Posting date: 1/18/08
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog url: A Soldier's Thoughts

Slowly I assessed the situation; my gun was near and I know that it can feel so nice having that cold lethal steel pressed against your body, reminiscent of war in desolate sorrowful places where things seem to only become broken. In that place my body was perfect. My mind was not, however. It was bitter and un-amused with the daily carnage of "peace keeping operations". Money is nice but the purity of thought can become even more addicting, especially when you know you could die in the next instant.

That rare rain becomes so beautiful to you because of its simplicity as it brings life to such a dead place. The sun both harsh and incredible shines unrelenting on you and your bristling weapons as you ride under it with the thoughts rattling around your head of your own death or that of another.

There are times when I feel broken from my experiences, times when I can’t conveniently sweep them into that black hole inside me where I send memories to be buried for a while. For some reason they always resurface, and with them my retrospection brings both immaculate recreations of war, as well as regret and a sick longing for a place where people like me can be. A place where you could die and where it would be so far away that even the land you live and walk on feels like it wants your blood.

Sometimes I remember only colors. Then there are things like a night with another soldier who I have long forgotten. We sit and drink a beer we bought on the black market during a trip to Baghdad from our home in Fallujah. I talk about my family and children as he talks of his. This soldier whom I have forgotten, I make him a promise that we will get our families together. He is from another unit, but in war we are brothers. As we get home I hug my children and he searches the crowd of family members for his wife and kids. His kids he sees, they are with his mother. His wife has left him and his kids as well. We never have that promised barbeque and we are no longer brothers because his loss reminds him of that hot Iraqi night drinking Egyptian beer with me.

Those empty promises add up, and in my head I find myself remembering them and tallying them up as defeats of my soul. Maybe I could have been a better friend, maybe I could have remembered his name, and maybe we could have kept our promise. Everything revolves around that phrase, "When we get back we will..."  Perhaps we will be better dads, or we won’t ever argue with our wives, or perhaps we will simply cherish every moment.

I haven’t kept those promises I made in my heart. I have had fights with my wife, I have been short with my kids, and I haven’t cherished every moment with my family. In fact I have at times become just like everyone else. Iraq is a land far away and home is here and now. Home is stressful, home is bills, home is work, and home is uneventful as we forget all we learned on the foreign soils of war, and her spiteful malice which was such a harsh teacher. I am sorry, not only do I try to bury those thoughts; I failed to completely learn from them...


Your poetry is beautiful, and you haven't forgotten your drinking buddy, you have just introduced him to us all. Lucky he got to keep the kids, for just a moment I was in Vietnam with you until you mentioned Iraq's capital, can't spell Baghdad properly. I am comfortable with my life and future end. Hope you get comfortable with yours - the important memories make us value things that no one else seems to understand. Hang on to those that you love, no matter how much they change.

Well as we say here on the home front, "Home is no picnic, in fact
home is Hell"

It is both a blessing and and curse--life moves on and we do too.

This is achingly beautiful. Thank you.

I also remember all the promises we make when were at war. It to keep our minds from wandering I remember one guy I made a promise to in Vietnam, and to his suprise I found hin 40 years later, We still keep in touch by E-mail. just remember the good conversation you had and just maybe one day he will call you.

Hey, it's all too real. You will live through it. We are all extended family for your troubles. We can't do much for you, but we know what it's like.

You're real, it's real, it looks formidable, it can be dealt with. The empty promises; not defeats, but longings of the soul for normalcy, far past your abilities. Not then, not now, not ever.

We never could do as good as we hoped. That's why we call it hope.

Anybody who hasn't been short with their partner and or kids isn't human. No one keeps in touch with everyone they intend to keep in touch with; Iraq or not. You're just like the rest of us, maybe a little farther along than some because you're working on being better. Don't sweat it! Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and look for stuff to smile at. Good luck!

I agree with the above comment. At one time in their lives, everyone is harsh with a partner or children. Its part of growing up, being an adult. Add that to all that you have already been through...its enough to make anyone a little grumpy. The first steps is recognizing it, which you have already done. Just keep going.

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