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.


August 25, 2011

Name: GruntMP
Returned from: Afghanistan 06-07 and Iraq 09
Stationed in: Kuwait
Hometown: Enfield, CT

This deployment seems to be slower, as far as interesting things that occur during my regular day-to-day. And I notice I'm not getting as many responses to the email updates I send to my friends and family as I used to. I've been trying to figure out what might be the reason for the lack of responses, and when I was reading an excerpt from a recent NPR series a lightbulb went off.

I completely understand how busy people are in their daily lives, but I think there's more to it than that. I think that after almost a decade people have become less and less interested in the two battlefields on which our nation is still sending Americans to fight. And I've decided to challenge you to prove me wrong by reading about what's been going on.

Below you will find links to five stories. The first three are from the NPR series. See if you can guess which was the one that triggered this email/post.

The fourth is an interesting snapshot of Americans who are serving, and the fifth one is really well-written piece on the death of Bin Laden. So, there it is -- a challenge has been made. I sincerely hope some of you respond by commenting on one of the pieces. 

Marine: "We're Starting to Fall to the Wayside."

A Teacher Leaves the Classroom for Afghanistan

For Some, The Decision to Enlist Offers Direction

By the Numbers: Today's Military

My Decade of Bin Laden

I hope this email finds you and all of yours happy and in good health.  Be Well. 


The Nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its
warriors will have its thinking done by cowards and its fighting done by


Story number 2, pork fried rice... ;>)

All of the articles impact my feelings. I have read Sandbox daily since it started, and wish it were required reading for schoolkids. I have never served in the armed forces. I'm 53 and have always felt an odd kinship with the soldier. All my vehicles have POW/MIA stickers on them, and I get weepy around memorials, my favorite of which is in Reading, Pennsylvania.

The public has been anesthetized by culture if you can call it that. Most people don't read, don't know history, and can't develop much interest in anything past the struggle to survive of the pursuit of prestige. It is sad.

The cynic in me hates that the underlying reason for all this war is the extraction of dollars into the hands of the moneychangers. Someone always makes money from war, or religion, or the uproar over the justification of either one. Too many brave, loyal people have been run through the mill only to be left dead or living in a void of understanding.

The optimist in me sees only the silent prayers that come alongside the warrior and the afflicted, and the hope that those prayers will not go unanswered.

All are not forgotten.

Story#3 For Some, The Decision to Enlist Offers Direction

I like the above commentor, read the Sandbox at least 3-4 X week. Your sacrifice, duty, and honor to your country does not go unnoticed. A number of Americans have short memories, they are almost like dogs, they live in the moment. Many people have lost interest in the two wars now being fought, because they know that we entered each war under false pretense. We know there are people out there who want to destroy us as individuals and nation. However, there since there have been no major successful acts against our country since 11 September 2001, people have become complacent, they have forgotten how their guts felt that day.

The country's admiration for the armed forces remains high, you guys represent the best there is!! We have become disenchanted with the lack of leadership in Washington. As you have a clear chain-of-command, American has become a wayward sailboat, without someone to tack the ship. Hence people become easily swayed by national news media, which rarely mentions that our country is engaged in two prolonged wars. We only hear about the economic ramifications of these actions, we are spared the news about the dead, wounded, and the transitional hardships of returning from the theater of war. We get 15 maybe 30" snipets of coverage, while you guys grunt it out everyday.

Dick Cheney has written a book in which he commented, "it will blow the heads off of Washington". In reading a number of blogs related not only to his book but the above comment, people expressed only vile for this man. The innocent blood he, Bush, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz have on their hands.

I pray for the safety of our troops and God's speed for everyone's return home.

Dear GruntMP and others,
you are not forgotten. I don't know you individually, but I read about you and your buddies every day. I only started reading the blog in the past year, but I've followed Doonesbury since it started. I am a child of the Korean and Vietnam wars, my dad was career Army. I remember the national fear of the Bay of Pigs; I remember the national fear of Tonkin; I sat transfixed and praying for a sane response on 9/11.

I think history is for older people; reflection and perspective take time to develop. Kids live in the present, and the wars are only present if you know someone involved. Our son entered the Navy and is now serving on a carrier. I was raised an Army brat, so now know the military from two points of view. I'm reading more, understanding more, but have always advocated for the big stick/gentle hand military approach. That the Rumsfeld/Cheney/Bush's of the world can hijack our good name and good work from the Powell/Kerry/old McCain's of the world is sick and makes me crazy. I am proud of my son serving to support a better, safer, saner world through being a compassionate military presence. Like good police, good military keeps the bad guys at bay.

Bless you for serving, bless your family for supporting you, and please, know for sure, there are many who hold you in prayers and work to bring you home safe.

Some of us think about you every single day, and feel so helpless in all this. It's so easy to be complacent and to take things for granted when your own line of fire consists of mundane things like finding a job so you can pay bills and trying to stay healthy when you have no medical benefits. This is the war so many of us deal with on a daily basis, and as stressful as that is, it does not compare to the life of a soldier on patrol. My godson served in Afghanistan and Iraq. My cousin retired as a career Air Force guy. He sent us photographs from Sadam's palaces as his group was there after the fall. To us here, it's a bit like Hollywood, more surreal than real most of the time. It's a form of denial that we use as a mental shield, I believe. So far away, and only brought home by death and injury to someone we love. My great-uncle died in WWII. I never knew him, he died 15 years before I was born, but every day he is on my mind like a guardian angel. He's telling me in his way that he does not want to be forgotten. I'm doing my best to see that this never happens, and trying to remain aware of what's happening to our young men and women overseas now. Please stay safe, and keep writing. Those of us who are aware of your sacrifices love reading your updates.

Have people become less interested in the 2 battlefields? Yes, they have. I think this is partly because the US citizen has a limited attention span, or curiosity time. Then, you know, of course, that the news media has a certain amount of control over what we pay attention to.

I remember coverage during the Vietnam war. Every single night, there was a body count update. So, it remained on our radar, so to speak.

Another example of media saturation was the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Again, we were told each night that it was Day #348 (or whatever) of the crisis, and any applicable updates. So, people paid attention to it.

By comparison, coverage on Hurricane Katrina practically ceased while there were still victims to be rescued. Coverage of the Japan earthquake ceased well before the reactors were stabilized.

The most striking and relevant example is the death of Bin Laden. That story lasted about 2 days. A release of a new Apple product gets better coverage. I am sorry to say that a hero's welcome home is probably not in the cards, at least on a National level. And, that is a shame.

So, there it is. You can ask yourself if interest drives media coverage or if media coverage drives interest. I don't know.

Ironically, the most visible reminders or our military efforts probably come from the show NCIS, and it is notable that the most popular show on television takes place in a military setting. They frequently remind us of our warriors honor and sacrafice.

Well sir, I do read these blogs almost daily, and took almost 2 hours to compose this response, so I do take interest in our troops abroad. Even when our soldiers come home from our two battlefields, other soldiers will continue their service guarding embassies, standing ready on ship, and in the air. I join others in thanking you for your service, wishing you a safe remainder of tour, and a smooth transition home. God Bless You.


If you run across some National Geographic photojournalist in your sector, thank them for coverage of the wars. It is the only network that regularly carries in theater coverage of the wars. NatGeo was the same network that produced 'Restrepo' and the shit hole the Kornegal valley was. God's speed, your efforts are not forgotten or unappreciated.

Greetings Warrior,
Plain and simple you and your compadres have not been forgotten. This Army brat dwells often on what you ladies and gentlemen go through. I will not get into the politics because once you are there it is all about survival. I read the Sandbox in order to be welcoming and understanding to those returning from deployment. I also feel this and other milblogs should be part of middle and high school daily reading. Anyway rest assured here in San Antonio,Texas, you military women and men are NEVER from our hearts and minds. Share this with all you work with.
Be Well

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