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.

SHORT |

September 19, 2011

Name: Garrett Phillip Anderson
Returned from: Iraq and Afghanistan
Hometown: Portland, OR
Email: GarrettAnderson0311@gmail.com
Milblog: Iraq/Afghanistan and More

I was nineteen years old on my fifth night in the battle of Fallujah. We would camp in one of the houses that we had broken into. The machine gunners would sleep on the rooftop and take post when it was their turn; the riflemen would sleep inside and rotate to the rooftop and take post next to the machine gunners. Third platoon’s navy medic had ripped some bedroom doors off of their hinges and offered me one to sleep on. I accepted and wrapped myself in the thin blotchy camouflaged liner I used as a blanket. The riflemen slept on the concrete floor around us talking in their sleep. I tucked myself in and placed the radio handset to my ear, a plastic phone that made a noise like television static. I fell asleep.

The cigarette cherry burned like hundreds before it. Sometimes I would put them out on my hand grenades. I would talk about the girls back home I wanted to sleep with. Women in their late teens danced like strippers in my day dreams. We would swap stories and ammunition when it was time. When it was cold we would cuddle, grown men dreaming of young women. She sent me pictures once. She posed in front of an apartment wall, and I would pull them out of my radio pack and wish. I fell asleep.

Before the war, when I was young I would listen to music and write short fiction late at night. The computer screen would glow when the lights were off and I was alone, tapping away at a keyboard listening to the music of plastic on skin. Movie posters littered my walls and I would write to them. Girls would call so I would talk to them, and I wanted to be a man. In high school I was the lead singer in a punk band. A friend in our crew killed himself my junior year and I stayed up one night and wrote him down. I fell asleep.

A few days before I left for boot camp I went on a camping trip with my father and friends. From out of the grey Sierra Nevada flew two Marine helicopters. My father shouted at them, or at me, “Marines! Marines!” I felt an anxiety wash over me and I could hear the nearby rushing stream washing down from the mountains. The day before I left we went to breakfast and I could not eat. He dropped me at the recruiter’s office and we said goodbye.

The corporal gave me his old radio pack and I took his old job. He spent months training me how to use that radio. Knobs stuck out of the olive drab brick and I learned the trade. One day in Iraq I slapped him on the back and we laughed about the radio. He told me he was glad he didn’t have to hump it around anymore. Down the road I heard the gunfire. They pulled him out of the house after tossing their hand grenades. He had fallen asleep.

A black man handed me blue pajamas. I put them on and he noticed my tattoos. He asked if I was a Marine. I replied that I was and he noticed that I had noticed where I was, so he told me I would be one of two coherent men in the mental hospital that night. I slept in a room with two beds, two government issued pillows and two blankets like boot camp. The schizophrenic in my room talked to himself and paced in the moonlight. I stayed awake, afraid that he might hurt me.

Comments

Garrett,
I feel your pain.
I know Oregon is a beautiful state.
I also know our wars are different yet have / had the same results.
There's a peaceful river near here that has healing powers. It's helped me. It's the only National River in America. It's the Buffalo River. She's spring and rain fed with a specialness all Her own.
It awaits you and any Warrior wanting it's Healing Powers.
It works if we let it.

In Peace,Love & Happiness
Michael
GySgt USMC

Thank you Gunny and I would love to visit the Buffalo River.

Garrett

1/3 A-co

USMC 2003-2007

Garrett,
I have never had to go through what you did, nor can I imagine what it would be like. But I would like to Thank you for what you have done and I hope that someday you will go to the Buffalo River, I have not been there but have heard it is beautiful and maybe what little beauty it holds will help you.

cass

Garrett

Thank you for writing this down. Thank you for all you went through. May you find peace where you are or wherever you go. You are loved by all of us who came before you and by all of those who will come after you. We have never met you, but we know you like we know our little brother or our big brother.

There are secret places inside you that you don't want to visit -- I understand that. I'm pretty sure from this post that you spent some time there already.

There is one thing that has helped me greatly. Head on down to the local VA Hospital. Not to see the MHC folks (although that has been helpful for me, too) but to hang out in the morning with the vets from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and everything in between. There are guys, and women also, who speak the same language you do, who know without asking what you've been through and who will listen for hours.

Thank you again for all that you did.

God Bless You,

MSG Jim G
USArmy (Ret)

Second what MDG Jim G said. My heart is with you, hoping you will find peace again.

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