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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.

BALANCE |

December 08, 2009

BALANCE
Name: K
Posting date: 12/8/09
Returned from: Afghanistan
Milblog: Embedded in Afghanistan

It's a common thing to see articles in the news media about the negative aspects of war on the micro level. The dead, the wounded, the mentally and emotionally damaged all appear to get a fair amount of coverage and exposure, so I'm going to focus on a few of the good things some of us get out of serving in combat -- because many of us are getting a lot out of it.

Framed K Balance Wearing a uniform that says 'US Marines' has always been a great honor for me, and more so when I've been able to wear the uniform overseas. Knowing you represent the ideals and power of the United States gives one quite a bit to live up to, and a lot of pride goes with that. Being out in the middle of nowhere, knowing you represent the end of the line of America's reach is quite a thing -- I can remember thinking how the power of all those billions of dollars and millions of people ended right there with us at a lonely outpost in an isolated valley. Maybe the thought of our 'power' ending there in isolated valley comes across as a bit imperialistic, but I make no apologies for what we're doing and love being a part of it.

People are good at different things. Some people happen to be good at conducting warfare. I spent months this past tour with a Marine who stated numerous times that he kept coming back over to war zones as an infantryman because it was what he was good at. He undoubtedly was very good at it, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. I believe everyone wants the chance to use his or her skills that he or she was born with or has developed and honed over time, even if those skills happen to belong to an unfortunate but necessary profession.

Undoubtedly, those that come back from combat have an increased appreciation for life generally. Anytime I'm away from friends and family for lengthy periods I miss them, but knowing that it can all be gone at any moment certainly helps heighten that sense of gratitude for the times together. Having survived some difficult moments, I know I personally have more confidence than I had before. Having taken some risks, lived through and overcome things that were legitimately difficult makes life's daily challenges at home that much easier to deal with: Hey, if I made it through those things how hard can this be?

The flip side of that coin is that sometimes daily life at home seems a bit trite. Before, I was on the ground directly doing things that were in the news regularly, which kind of makes me feel underutilized today, and the things I'm doing these days seem a little pointless. I'd argue that satisfaction is life's best feeling, and it can come to a person in many ways, but one of the best ways to find it is to overcome a period of difficulty.


Obviously, none of these positives are reasons to start a war, but given war's inevitability it's important to recognize the beneficial aspects of war on the personal level.

Comments

I know what you're saying. I've been happiest in my life while in the military doing things that made a difference, even if it was only a small difference. Meanwhile, people who haven't done that are more interested in who Tiger has been sleeping with. Are you kidding me? People, that stuff is not important.

The same thing happened to my wife - no direction and then the joins the Guard (she's too old for the Marines).

I found it humbling while in Korea for Team Spirit, to have old people come up to me and thank me for my service and being there in their country. Hopefully that will happen in Afghanistan someday.

I was civilian GS Army working reconstruction in Iraq in 2006-07, and this holds true for us civilians too. We were thanked by Iraqis often, and we really felt like what we did changed lives - giving people clean water, medclinics, schools. I think that we also value what we have here at home more because of our experiences, yet it's hard to find real satisfaction here at home now. So much seems trite or profoundly stupid. I try to realize that's a good sign: if all people have to worry about is Tiger Woods sex life, we're maybe doing ok.

I here people all the time talking about how its unfair that soldiers are here or there, I have many friends who have served in various branches of the military and none of then complains about what they have done. They all feel honored to have served there country and most don't want to do anything different. I wish I could have that kind of satisfaction in my career, I cant imagine how rewarding It would be to be apart of such an important thing. So to all the people that feel the need to say soldiers shouldn't be here or there, just remember they like their job and that deserves some respect.

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