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.

SUNSHINE POST |

March 31, 2008

SUNSHINE POST
Name: LT G
Posting date
: 3/31/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Reno, NV
Milblog: Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal

The few remaining authority figures in my life that I respect all have warned me that my writings are becoming increasingly bitter and hostile in intent. My bad, yo. While I’m aware this is the natural sequence of events for a young man at war, there is still a protected soft (and delicious!) nut in my pistachio shell of a soul who believes Hope can become Action, who would prefer being labeled an idealist and a fool any day if it means avoiding the black hole of cynicism, and who jams out to the Crocodile Rock shamelessly. I let that crazy kid out for the day to pen a post about the people, things, and events that make both of us smile appreciatively during our experience in the Iraq War. This is what he wrote. In orange crayon, no less. He likes lists, too, and made me put down the Hater-Ade I’ve been sipping recently. Consider this his counter-move to the last three months of my life:

THE SUNSHINE LIST, IRAQ VERSION

-- I’ll admit it. It’s pretty cool looking at my right shoulder and seeing a combat patch underneath the camo American flag.

-- The terp Biggie Smalls. From his always-present smile, to his old man hobble feigning a soldier’s stalk, to his goofy eyewear of Birth Control Goggles, to his unprovoked proclivity to yell at teenagers, to his thorough knowledge of Middle Eastern and Northern African history, and to his dinner plates always containing more than the allotted portion, Biggie Smalls has become an adopted Gravedigger through sheer power of persona. My platoon jokes that he is now “Mr. Untouchable,” because the Lieutenant would fire every one of them before Biggie Smalls went anywhere. While that is probably not true, I’ve reminded them that none of them get out of bed as quickly as Biggie does when I wake them up for mission.

And then there’s this gem of a quote, mined out of a lecture directed at myself, SGT Chico, SPC Flashback, and PV2 Boomhauer about the benefits of having multiple wives at the same time: “Americans are crazy (for attempting to maintain monogamy). Many wives means many childrens which means many of the sex! This is why I have two wives in the same house. One live upstairs, one live downstairs. I make them fight for me.” Biggie Smalls, ladies and gentlemen, keepin’ it real, from the Sudan to Anu al-Verona and straight into your living rooms.

-- For all kinds of OPSEC reasons, I can’t discuss the following mission beyond referencing it in passing, but I can say that “Other Unit” cats who go by “Pedro” and “Snoopy,” and are generally too cool for last names and other standard Army-isms, warm my heart. Their escalation of force rules, that somehow includes an AC-130 Spectre Gunship dropping 105-mm artillery shells? Not so much. And you’re damn right I’m jealous we don’t destroy *abandoned* houses on a whim.

-- Some of my gunners' occasional playing of the “Jack Sparrow Anthem” out of the Strykers’ speakers when I dismount to talk to the locals. It definitely feeds my inner-swashbuckler, vain monster that he is. Pretty handsome awkward.

-- Coors near-beers. All the taste, none of the plastic cup politics.

-- Making a difference in this counterinsurgency our way. A week or so ago, the Gravediggers were invited to dinner with Sheik Stack-On-Me (the nickname derives from another story for another time, but it involves CPT Whiteback, two intel soldiers, and the Sheik forming a four-man stack to clear a house on their own), a local leader who has been slow to reconcile. While one section maintained security, the other section went in and chummed around with the Sheik in question and his posse. Beyond the multitude of Middle Eastern delicacies brought in for the feast, we simply chilled out with the Iraqis all night. No business was spoken -- just general discussions about politics, history, and women, with a lot of joking and laughing intermixed. For one night at least, we were just men being men, bullshitting for the sake of bullshitting.

A few days later, we got a call from Sheik Stack-On-Me. Some of our top targets, who we’ve been unable to capture due to their escape ability and thorough back-alley knowledge of Anu al-Verona, were at his headquarters, looking for money. The Sheik had already called the Iraqi Army, who were in the process of detaining our targets, so he figured he’d give us a courtesy call too. Who knows if our dinner had any effect on this sequence of events. I don’t know, and don’t believe there’s any way of ever finding out for certain. I do know, though, that a lot can happen when you recognize the humanity in others. When you’re involved in an ever-evolving guerrilla fight like we are, coincidences don’t really occur.

-- The recent batch of Lindsay Lohan pictures. Thank you New York Magazine. I like to think that she did that photo shoot specifically for me, as she has discovered her inner yellow ribbon and wanted to give LT G some much-needed motivation. LiLo -- America’s neo-patriot.

-- An honest to God, twenty-minute debate amongst most of the Gravediggers as to which of Madonna’s songs has proven to be the most lasting. Finalists included “Papa Don’t Preach", “Frozen", and “Material Girl,” but pending a hanging chad, “Like a Virgin” took home the gold.

-- The badass switchblade given to me by a Sheik’s son, as a gift. It’s as sharp as a lobbyist’s tongue, has strange Arabic etchings on the side of it, and is long enough to draw the ire of U.S. Customs. It also kind of makes me feel like a character in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Take that right in the gut, you no good Soc.

-- New flavors of Rip-Its! No worries Momma G, I haven’t figured out how to freebase liquid energy fuel. Yet.

-- My men are redefining the limits of flexibility; I couldn’t be more proud or awestruck. Embrace the Suck is now more than a mantra. It’s the Gravediggers’ way of life.

-- PFC Cold-Nuts' civilian pajamas that he wears to bed at the combat outpost. We all have our ways of holding onto the old world. Flannel pajamas given to him by his wife happens to be his.

-- Care packages galore, bursting with healthy foods, fluoride toothpastes, toothbrushes, learn-to-read books, and small toys. The friends and families of the Gravediggers have responded to their sons’ current life-station, and bombarded the postal system with the pragmatic. Being able to pass these gifts out to the local Iraqis, on even the most mundane of patrols, reminds this soldier to give credit to the Great American Empathy. It still exists and still can be poignantly efficient, when properly informed and utilized. Big ups to these full people full of full words and full actions.

Comments

I like you bitter and sweet!
Thanks for letting the nice kids out to play.

That reminds me to get another care package out to a cute Marine I know in Ramadi. It feels good to know you guys do like them.

Embrace the Suck!

Morning here and this makes me smile, hang in there and hang tough, and laugh about it!

Thanks for the update...

You are the real and best reporter of the war

Keep on keepin on and come visit me over at Operation Celebratin (myspace.com/kdsaysthanks)

Kelly D <>< :)

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