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.


September 28, 2009

Name: SGT B.
Posting date: 9/28/09
Returned from: Iraq
Hometown: Rockford, WA
Milblog: The Gun Line 

It has been one month since I returned home. So far, it has gone smoothly, more sweet than bitter. I  have a few issues on which i am working with the VA. They all are physical, and not so debilitating as to have a major impact on my quality of life. There’s the tinnitus that I suspect was caused by the daily exposure to the pairs of F-16s taking off three times a day about 200 meters from where I lived and worked. There’s a lump in my right trapezius that’s been there for four months now, with something going on down the cusp of my right shoulder. All in all, though, I came out of the deployment intact, especially between the ears, and I count myself lucky to have done so.

It’s a new beginning, in many ways, beginning with what I hope is an increased sense of maturity. I had time to think over there. I had the chance to examine my life, and chart the “sustains” and “improves” that life’s lessons have imparted. I came to many realizations, many epiphanies; some painful, some chagrined, some quite positive. I’d like to think that I grew up a bit, which is a helluva thing to say at the ripe old age of 44, but better late than never, eh?

The greatest realization is in the field of self-identification. I’ll not bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I shifted gears: from the artificial identity imparted by the Marine Corps (which is great if one is surrounded by the total Marine support infrastructure, but not so much once you leave the protective arms of the Corps) to a confidence to just be me, to be “Bill”, and take strength in who I am as a person, and in what I believe, who I want to be.

I am content to be me, to be Bill…

Not to discount the experiences I have endured in the past. I will always be “veteran Marine Sergeant B.”, I will always be “Iraq War Veteran Army Sergeant B.” – and proud to have earned the titles, but I don’t need to define myself in such terms, not every day. I have earned my bones, but there is so much more to me, and I am confident to be “just” Bill.

There were casualties, however. In a years-long campaign to try to live life is something approaching a stable manner, I pushed off on others some the responsibilities I should have shouldered myself. While I was out being Superman, and saving the world, I didn’t take care of the business right in front of me, and the person who I should have been working with as a partner was forced to step into a situation she neither expected, wanted, or was really prepared to assume. In such circumstances, disaster was the only logical result, as the structure of our relationship fell apart through a series of changes that caused major rifts on a fundamental scale, culminating in the tragedy of divorce. The fault is shared, but I was the one who blew the final bridge, and I did a bang up job of it. If there is a bright spot in all of this, it is that KM6, despite the pain and stress this has caused, has agreed to attempt to maintain an amicable relationship, for the sake of the children, and her fortitude in the face of all of this deserves the highest accolades I can voice. I’ve read many accounts when one “ex” uses this public forum of ours to vent about the other “ex”.  I am not one of them. We knew, going into this deployment, that we were through. 

At that time, KM6 was well armed with a General Power of Attorney, and she could have completely blown my world out of the water – selling my civilian truck for a dollar, selling my military truck for a song, racking up debts out of sheer spite, and initiated any of a thousand other actions to make my life a living hell – but she didn’t. She took on the challenges of a single parent like the spouse of any other deployed soldier; she paid the mortgage, kept the lights on, kept the kids fed, dealt with the cats, all while holding down a full time job and going to school for her Master’s Degree. (She has just recently completed the academic phase, and needs to take the State Board Exam in October, and complete a specified period of OJT -- my term, not hers -- to finally be able to realize her own dreams in terms of self-fulfillment and professional achievement. Her Master’s Thesis was received by her instructor with not a single correction, and has been said to be one of those submittable that future student should use as a reference of how to do it right.)  Despite our differences, I am very proud of her, and it is my intent to support her in any way, shape, or form as she recovers from this morass of misery she has been forced to endure. She kept the faith, and I am eternally grateful for her efforts, though I was not deserving of them. She is a hero, and I lift her up as such.

At the same time, another face entered the picture, and I will tell you of her later, when time has passed, and wounds have healed a bit more, for she was also instrumental in my getting my head and tail re-wired, but more on that later.

So now, I am home, living in my mother’s basement until KM6 closes on her new home, and I can move back into my previous residence. I’m looking for work, have a few irons in the fire, and seemed to have weathered this deployment well. Last night I took my harmonicas down to the Harvest Moon (one of our two watering holes) and spent four hours jamming with four other musicians. We sounded a little rough at first, but there is potential. We won’t ever go further than being a local club band, and I really don’t think we want to, because it’s about the music, and giving our local friends and neighbors a chance to tap their feet and get away from the outside world for a while, and that’s the best reason to make music in the first place.

So, right now, I am content, as I reconnect with old friends, rebuild the bridges that can be rebuilt, and fire up The Gun Line for the next Great Adventure:

The rest of my life...


Welcome Home! Thank you for your service to the country! I highly encourage you to work with the Veteran's Representative and Disabled Veteran Outreach Workers at your State Employment service. Every state has one. Also, there are Vet Centers, which help combat vets make the adjustment back to the 'civilian' world. Go to:
You are appreciated!

You didn't go the extra mile to save your marriage and your children's home? Your wife sounds like the only hero in this.

I zigged and lost a previously written comment. Welcome home, sorry for the loss of wife and home. At least when the kids come there they will feel the familiar surroundings.

Good luck with the ear ringing, doubly troublesome for playing with a band. Sounds like you put your deployment time to good use and are ready for the next phase of your life wherever it leads.

thank you for everything you've done for our country, and best of luck with everything.

Bill, ditto on getting home safe and sound.

I can totally understand the marriage issues, despite I was the pack-horse in mine. I commend you on your stance with your (soon to be) ex. Getting her where you need her "in your head" as I say, might take a bit. There's nothing like reconnecting with your roots, to remember who you really are. Via con Dios.

I was haveing a tough day without having my sister anywhere around. I found a phone service that was mailable to Afgan. I am really happy with it. I bought 2, sent one over seas and now have an American number to keep in tough and sight with her! Its kind of sweet comeing home and being able to see my sister is ok. Shes older than me so it was real hard seeing the one I look up to just be in another Country. She and all our troops are so BRAVE. Thank you all and God Bless!

I was haveing a tough day without having my sister anywhere around. I found a phone service that was mailable to Afgan. I am really happy with it. I bought 2, sent one over seas and now have an American number to keep in tough and sight with her! Its kind of sweet comeing home and being able to see my sister is ok. Shes older than me so it was real hard seeing the one I look up to just be in another Country. She and all our troops are so BRAVE. Thank you all and God Bless!

I wish you and your ex-wife find contentment and joy and that you can maintain a good friendship and a happy relationship. You sound like such a nice person. Your wife must also be very good. Keep the faith. Cheers, Isabel

Frank S... Maybe you're right, maybe KM6 is the only hero in this. She surely deserves the accolade, because she put up with so much, back here at home... Me? I'm not a hero, I'm just a guy trying to do what's right in my own head.
I'm not going to throw the whole "I went over there - honor me." at you, or at anyone who wants to condemn me for letting a marriage fail... That's part of the whole "getting my head on straight", and not letting the bullsh*t and denial alter the facts. It's time to move on, take care of what's important: The kids. I am fortunate that my relationship with KM6 can be summed up by saying "I'm a better friend than a husband"...

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