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.


December 29, 2008

Name: CPT Beau Cleland
Posting date: 12/29/08
Stationed in: Iraq
Hometown: FLORIDA

I made it. Barring some mundane tragedy here in Kuwait, I will have survived deployment number two. A cursory review of the odds reveals that this isn't a statistically significant event, but if you're a member of the unlucky percentage you would probably disagree with that statement. I haven't been in significant danger since I left Sadr City after Mookie cried uncle back in June, but there was always the chance of a random rocket or mortar. On the whole, it still feels good -- there were a couple of episodes where my team and I could have easily been casualties, but we made it out with just one Purple Heart among us.

I thought that the last several months of being on staff (and a fobbit) would help me unwind from the tension that comes with being out on the street all the time, but by and large it hasn't. I've enjoyed the novelty of not having to wear armor or carry a weapon for the past week on this rear-echelon base in Kuwait, but I feel a great disconnect from (and not a little bitter hostility towards) the inhabitants of this place.

They get paid pretty much the same as everyone up north without sharing any of the danger. The only thing they have in common with us is being away from home and family, and I can't help but feeling superior to them, as if my comrades and I earned our gold medals in the Olympics of suffering and they got their blue participation ribbon, only to discover that the prize is the same. Sure, they probably didn't choose to be here and certainly had no say in the pay policy, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

This has made me reflect on my imminent homecoming, relative to my last one. I know a little better what to expect, but that doesn't necessarily comfort me. Will it still take me six months to stop thinking about it all the time? Will I still drink myself to sleep in that time? Probably not. I hope. I'm one of those types who thinks he has the answers, that I won't need to get any help because I know better. I've given the brief to my soldiers before, about not being afraid to go talk to someone if you are having trouble dealing with it, but I have no confidence that I'd take my own advice without some deep problems first.

Personally, I don't think most soldiers would willingly go to a counselor, out of fear of seeming weak or like a shirker. If the Army really wants to make sure no one falls through the cracks, they should probably just make it mandatory for everyone to talk with one in private during redeployment processing. It might catch a few more than the current screening system, which isn't terrible and is certainly much better than the non-existent one when this whole thing started, but there's always room for improvement. Here's to hoping I won't need their help.

Editor's note: Beau Cleland was an early contributor to this site during his 2006 deployment to Afghanistan. His post GETTING SHOT AT appeared in the Sandbox book.


at least they have learned to do some sort of screening. hopefully you won't be deployed a 3rd time, welcome home, and thank you for serving

thank you for coming home in one piece. it's hard for me to fathom why the military doesn't already have a mandatory counseling program in place already. how many more homeless vets without a safety net do we need to have before something gets done?

I understand the stigma attached to seeing a shrink, but jeez, they should indeed make it mandatory so the stigma disappears. It can be SO helpful. let's write our congressmen!

Thank you, CPT, for letting us know that there are a few improvements for you guys coming home. I don't think I'm alone in my worry and anxiety over your safety while deployed and your reconditioning when returning home.

As for what you will go through once you are stateside again, I'm afraid you'll have to work to make it otherwise from your first return.

Unfortunately, when a person -- especially a young person -- spends an extended amount of time in a situation completely foreign from their previous environment, it is very difficult for that person to find relevance when returned to it. This is not only true for soldiers in combat, but also for many who join Peace Corps or take time out from school to volunteer in poor neighbors, in the U.S. and foreign countries.

I hope you will find time to decompress and then search for something that you can identify as extremely relevant to you.

Welcome home and thanks for your time in country.

Cpt Cleland,
Blessings to you and yours and know that I wish you peace of mind as you return to civilian life.
Thank you for your service.
May your healing give you the gift of helping others heal.
Happy New Year!

My personal opinion -- is if the shrink didn't go to war with you, then the shrink doesn't have any idea what is going to happen when you crack. So, see one of the leftovers from earlier stupidity and trauma that hasn't cracked and tell him your worst nightmares, he will share.

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/31/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

My daughter is preparing to marry a young man who recently returned from Iraq. I worry about him and how he is adjusting to life back home. He has seen and performed duties that only he and his fellow soldiers will be able to talk about amongst themselves. He left as a young boy fresh out of high school and returns as a man. I hope if he needs someone to talk to he will. I am very proud of his continued service to our country.

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