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 05, 2009

Name: The Usual Suspect
Posting date: 1/05/09
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog: Unlikely Soldier

It's true what you might have heard. We do sometimes miss being deployed. It doesn't make much sense and we know it. The truth, though, is that things were usually pretty simple "downrange".

Anytime we were forced to assemble together, it was for a reason. Not formation just for the sake of formation. If there was information to put out, a huddle was good enough.

Not drinking was easy. Some dudes handle it just fine, I ended up cutting mine down to a bare minimum -- a drink or two. Some dudes just need to not drink. Ever.

Our safety briefings are continuously lengthier now because we're all supposed to be harboring sinister, self-destructive thoughts or subconscious desires. Buying up sports cars and crotch rockets. Deliriously wasting money.

My friend and I took an ass beating a month or two ago in Seattle. I was logic-defyingly drunk and I'm pretty sure he was too. I came out of a blackout just in time to see him turn to face me and say, "Yep.We're about to get our asses kicked." Then five or six dudes proceeded to do just that. All I could think was, "This shouldn't be happening.Wouldn't happen if I had a gun." That's about when it hit me.

We aren't worth dick if we aren't armed. Myself especially. No eye contact in public, don't cut anyone off in traffic, don't turn onto the wrong street, hope no one smashes your windows out when you go to see a movie, neurotic social terror. But put me in full kit and give me my rifle again, and I'm God.

One day you're detaining some asshole who rigged a house to explode on you and your guys, negotiating with the train-tunnel-sized shotgun barrel. The next, you're John Q Whogivesashit, capable of not much.

Oh yeah, I thought long and hard about spending my last year in Iraq. It sounded like a really good idea too. More money, actually doing my job. Sounded wonderful. But there's more people to consider than just me. So it's John Q Whatsit.

You get back, and everyone goes back to focusing on their own little things. Their upcoming marriage and/or divorce. Their suped Volkswagen. It isn't Us vs The World anymore. And it's a law of nature that everything eventually goes downhill. When that happens, you can either pout and live in the past, in the good ol' days, or you can move on and find something new and good, and enjoy it while it lasts. Then move on again when it's drained of awesome.

See, I don't know if I ever made this clear enough: I didn't enlist for "freedom", and I didn't enlist for college. I didn't even THINK I'd go to college back then; thought it "wasn't for me". (Vomit blood here.) I didn't give two shits who the President was, I didn't care who the enemy was. I've said this a million times, but I did it for the dudes of my generation that were going. We could have been storming London and I still would have signed up. I signed up for dudes that I didn't even know. Some that I came to hate, some that I never knew all too well, some that were just too fucking weird not to love, and some that are the best friends I'll ever have.

That Band Of Brothers feeling is few and far between though. Only in rare moments that you don't talk about in the first place. But I've done some really stupid things to help or bail a friend out.

The Army is where you go if you're afraid to grow up. If you have that Peter Pan Syndrome. But it isn't always the party you thought it would be. For some reason, I really thought it would be a life of excess and all things awesome. Sometimes it is. But no one advertises the gray moments in between. I'm not against recruiting for the Army. It's actually a really good thing for most people. I just think there should be more honesty in the advertisements. But wait, that defeats the purpose.

The thing though, is that you almost have no choice but to try to plow forward. If not, all you can do is look back. And I can't do that. So I have to stay busy. Bring the new guys in, I promise not to ruin their attitudes and I'll do everything I can to teach them and look out for them, and not ruin their mindset. The Army really could use more high speed, low drag, motivated types.

My heart is just never going to be in this unless I'm in a war zone again. So it's time to move on.

I was reading a book full of miscellaneous writings by Henry Rollins when I turned the page and read an entry that blew my mind. Described my feelings better than I could:

All my war stories are old
They hang like old clothes in the closet
No one wants to hear old war stories
It's all I have right now
My mouth flaps dry in the air
I am in this room pacing the floors
Sun up sun down grinding my teeth
Jumping at shadows waiting
I don't want to think about that old war anymore
It's driving me up the wall with bad insanity
I need new war

High on war


you might check out a local vet center--mine's been my "band of brothers" for 17 years--and it might be good for what else is ailing you, too--time to come in from the heat/cold?

Awesome - and honest. You are not the only one in this situation. There are vets who are or have been there as well. It helps to be with your brothers - even here.

Have always appreciated reading your blog and your your utter honesty.
Hope you can find something as meanigful to fight for and with as your Band of Brothers. You strike me as a very intelligent and passionate man. Try to make wise choices. Do good. Write a book. You have the talent. Write it for your "brothers". Maybe it can help them and yourself as well.

Peace, Babe

Reads well, and sometimes knowing what you know about yourself, where you fought and the why can be shared with the DC unknowing politicos. They don't really understand, and garrison/training and maintaining aren't high speed but someone has to do it. Until the next one.

You guys fuckin rock. Wish I was 30 years younger.One of the best Vid's I've seen in a long time. Love you guys........GET SOME ! HOORAH

we're all unlikely soldiers.combat gets in your blood but it's a killer.the rush is staying alive versus can experience close to it in health care. get an emt and ride an ambulance. join the fire department.forget weapons. you don't have arty or air support the war i always wanted by brandon friedman.stay cool. stay alive. welcome home. bopdun

If you are a military soldier that is need of some extra assistance , then come and check out "The David H Brooks Foundation for American Wounded Soldiers"

Hsaving read his impressive post, Unlikely Soldier seems to have great insight into his own motivations and the situation of veterans. This should help him find a way forward.

Dude, you really need help (and no, I'm not trying to disrespect you).

Welcome back to the board. I'm glad to see you are thinking through some stuff with your keypad again. You are a talented writer and I suspect this is something you need to do. One of my favorite and now gone writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, said that writers practice therapy every day. He was serious. He was almost always serious but cracked us all up in the process.

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