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.


April 04, 2008

Name: LT G
Posting date: 4/4/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: Reno, Nevada
Milblog: Kaboom: A Soldier's War

The pale curtains of the desert sun loom softly every dawn. Spring has arrived, bringing with it a heat eager to oppress.

It’s the same everywhere we go in this (insert writer's misleading and skewed adjective here) country. Same confused mixture of anger, sadness, and hope. Same matching black pools of the wild browbeaten, same bottled mistrust that could quench even this nation’s thirst. Caged, hellbent on survival if only to see you gone from their sight so they can focus this sensual wrath on something new. The only difference over here is that the poor aren’t afraid to openly cast it. Not jaded, like the homeless back home. Too vacant for that, and more hostile in intent. More like a junkie without the hallucinating hope for another fix.

When there’s nothing to lose, it’s easy to be honest.

The eyes tell all.

The Stare. History’s dirty little secret. The victor’s too-deep-even-for-tweezers thorn. The bat signal of the voiceless. The American G.I. received the same stare forty years ago in rice paddies while hunting down Charlie. Billy Yank felt it on his back while he Marched to the Sea with Sherman, saving our nation from itself. Redcoat Sally came to understand it in a Boston town square, while a brave new world teetered on Revolution. Hell, Jesus’ family -- if not the Master Messiah himself -- unleashed it at more than a few Roman Legionnaires, I’m sure. It’s the same look any foreign power -- or more accurately, the flexed bicep of said foreign power, the soldier -- gets when a majority of the local populace feels that they’ve overstayed their welcome, if such a welcome ever existed in the first place.

Telling them we know what is best and that they need to start relying on their own government and police so we can leave and everyone wins and that any help we can and do provide at least offers a new spring in a land of endless, destitute winters doesn’t often have the effect you think it would. Or should. Or could.

Whether I think we’re here for something other than oil doesn’t matter when they think that we are. Open up your freedom and treasure it! That’s a bow of independence. Pretty, isn’t it? And give back the wrapping paper, we’re trying to recycle our exports.

Thanks for Leave a blank check and go home and try to eat us away or drink us away or life with the white picket fence us away.

If looks could kill, there’d be far more than 4,000-plus American ghosts trapped in Babylon’s sand-spunk. That’s not commentary on politics, foreign diplomacy, or even an assessment of the state of the Iraq War. It’s just a fucking fact. Take it from someone who lives it every day and deaths it every night.

I’ve heard it before -- the Hawaiians have a term for this eye-hate. Da Stinkeye, bruddah-man, bettah stay in Waikiki haole, ya dig? I’ve seen it before -- drunk college-boys in pastel polos should be more careful where they venture in the doldrums of the Dirty South; good thing I’m fleet of foot, even after I’m Eighty Ounces into Enlightenment. And I’ve felt it before -- tourists with cameras and smiles and white teeth don’t penetrate this far into the seedy backwaters of Dublin, Scarecrow from across the Sea, unless they’re wanting trouble. You ever knife another man before just to feel his very essence pour out of him in pools of running red blood and guts of unidentifiable slop onto the sidewalk?

Umm. Yes we do. And no, no I have not.

This is different, though, now. And not just because the frequency of the Arabian stinkeye has escalated it from curious, unsightly phenomenon to something as natural as burping the worm. This is war. And five years deep, too. You never can really let your guard down when you’re never really safe. The flowers and hugs and cheers only last for a few months before one stare becomes ten stares becomes 100 stares and suddenly the stare is the norm house-by-house and block-by-block and town-by-town and all the flower petals have dried up and you suddenly recognize that those cheers of gratitude are actually pleas for salvation. Ask my NCOs. They know, and are far more familiar with this pattern of starbursting degeneration than I am.

Degeneration nation. Build, nation, build. Like that Transformer, Iraqticon. Ever heard of him? He cuts a nasty robot stinkeye. He used to be able to transform into a vintage Ford Mustang until I broke him. I lost a wheel. Or a muffler. Or something.

You can’t change a culture overnight, Lieutenant. Okay. Fair enough. How about over-millennia? Would that be reasonable?

I hate being hated. Strength and hardness don’t necessarily have to coincide. But it sure is cleaner that way.

The Iraqis may not believe our black-as-the-abyss sunglasses can see through walls anymore, but they still make me feel better when I put them on. And not for the cornea integrity, either.

It makes it a lot fucking easier to keep walking past the hollow stares of people when you think that they think you aren’t looking into their eyes. They want me to escape their pain without effect or a spare thought. They need to believe I’m that cold, and that is the reason why I walk past them.

I wonder now if that was an overlooked option. Tuck what you can away, try to ignore it for now, and harden up. It’s going to be a cold spring.



Your words; "Thanks for Leave a blank check and go home and try to eat us away or drink us away or life with the white picket fence us away."

At least you know what the choices are . . .

"I hate being hated. Strength and hardness don’t necessarily have to coincide. But it sure is cleaner that way."

Yeah, choices.

Thank you LT G, for beautiful writing, and an honest, open heart. Those under you are blessed to have you as a leader.

Sandbox should be required reading for our nation....

I'm glad the stare reminds you that you are never really safe there. It helps keep you alive. I believe that. The sunglasses are a great tool.

I look forward to the time when you are away from the war and learning to live with the lesser stares again. Thank you for opening up for us to read about your time and life there.

Do each of the posters read all the comments??

I hope so cause there is something I would like to say to each of you.


If I could I'd shake the hand of every member of our military and tell them individually....a post on a blog is a poor substitute indeed.

A heartfelt and intense point of view; I wish all in positions of power could see through your eyes, LT G and at least consider that your perspective likely resembles the truth. Stares are very important in primate communication.

I and many others here at home regret that our system of government has allowed this mess to go on so long.

All our people in uniform deserve better leadership than they have had these past 7 years.

I pledge to work to resolve the situation through all available means. I will forward your post far and wide.

Please keep writing; I believe you have a grip on the raw truth and excellent command of language.


You are doing a job that is a hundred times harder and a thousand times more complicated than my generation ever had to deal with. Geezus, a three year tour in the Fulda Gap or a twelve monther on the DMZ is like ten minutes of what have to put up with, each and every day.

I hope folks realize that. I hope everyone appreciates it. Not just the yellow-car-magnet crowd back home, but the folks wearing four stars or chevrons with wreathed stars who have the ears of the current and future administrations.

Stay low and come back with all faculties intact, brah.

to be honest I don't have families in these conditions but I think it's a little uncomfortable so I consider them much!

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