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.

THE SAME COUNTRY |

December 14, 2011

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

A reader named CEB wrote a response to my previous post, THRILL KILL. His comments can be found at the bottom of that post. What follows is for him -- and for most of the protected people of the United States:

Combat and war is a harsh reality and I wish it were different. But I don’t wish everyone to go, as most modern Americans would prove worthless in combat. I do not subscribe to utopia as I don’t believe every human and every leader of humans can remain tame for a lifetime. I can’t say that my wars were just or sensible from the political perspective, but as a field Marine it was not my job or my wish to consider these things. I was sent where the voters sent me.

When I was young I did not want war, but I did want to serve my country and with a gun. Regardless of political affiliation, service is a tradition in my family, which has been involved in it since at least the Civil War that I can trace but with an oral and probably accurate history dating back to the Revolution from my grandmother’s maiden side of the family, the Doans. The Doans were of English Puritan stock and were rumored to date back to Plymouth Rock, which made my grandmother eligible for some creepy club of people who were not quite Native Americans but had been here since colonization.

I do not feel more “American” than anyone else, and I would not consider myself a conservative or a liberal, as the extremists in both of those parties equally make me want to puke. If CEB is concerned, I vote for Ralph Nader every election, not particularly because I want to see him as the president, but as a protest to a two-party system that represents minorities of logic in this country.

I joined the Marines a few weeks after graduating high school, and did not come from the poor or tragic background that most liberals would like to subscribe to. I was not a red-blooded flag-waving mindless patriot angered by racism against the “towel heads” that brought those towers down, as some conservatives would subscribe to. I came from Southern California middle-class suburbia; I read books in my free time, liked punk rock music from the eighties, and at one time sported a Mohawk.

My parents divorced when I was young, which was common where I grew up, but remained proactive in my up-bringing until I left for service. My father was a reporter and my mother worked in sales for most of my childhood. I frequented museums of art and science during odd weekends as a kid, and went to the movies with my family on others. I wanted to be a writer and a film director for as long as I can remember -- the same amount of time that I wanted to serve my country. I am a life-long atheist but respect the religious views of all cultures and always have.

I write this not because I am special but because CEB wants to counsel veterans and is currently a student. I fell in love with a girl when I was a kid and would write her when I was in Fallujah Iraq, waiting to die and fight but finding the romance in every sunrise of every day that I had survived -- marveling at that ball of light and wondering if it would be the last time I would see it or if I would feel the warmth of anything ever again.

I would write her about my observations of a strange place where people were trying to kill me, and with the expectation that we would be together when I got home. After that battle many of my friends had been killed. The girl had found another man -- the ancient story of the warrior. I was not bitter, I had a nice vacation back home where there was another woman and some rest with my family. Then it was time to leave again and start the process all over, but this time in Afghanistan and with new Marines who would see battle; and now I was very concerned about them, the same way a friend of mine (who was killed) had been concerned about me the year before.

I served four years and came back home to watch many of my friends struggle with their journey, and I would think to myself how strange they were and wonder why they were having such a hard time. I would drink all day and stay up all night waiting for someone I did not know to kill me in southern California suburbia. Months after returning I began to smell dead bodies before I reached an REM sleep state, and would find myself immediately very awake and very alert. I still can’t sit for too long in a crowded room without breaking for a cigarette.

As for humanity, I never killed anyone and never wanted to. I spent my recovery from myself writing about my experiences in an attempt to explain what the world looked like to me as a Marine Infantryman teenager who did his job.

There are many CEBs in this world who will question our humanity through ignorance and I laugh for joy at what a pleasure it must be to go to school instead, and have such an easy life without ever having a legitimate question of mortality. Today the military is an all-volunteer force -- no draftees -- because people like me keep it that way. I have no shame for the city we leveled to the ground or for the people we killed. I am very aware that when I talk to a civilian psychiatrist who has never been shot at that I will be talking to CEB, and I hope that this post clears the air a bit. In my world CEB is a waste of space, same as the warmongers and the liberals who campaign for tolerance for everything except those things they do not agree with. The country I left to defend was the same country I returned home to.

Comments

Thank you so much for sharing, for your service and sacrifice. While many of us will never go through the experience of war as you have, we need the wake up calls such as this to remind us that life as we know it ain't always pretty sunrises and rainbows. The tough reality is people die as we sleep comfortably in our beds, and men and women return home from far off places altered and sometimes damaged, and we have to respect them, love them and be there for them, even if we can't begin to know how to help them. Blessings to you.

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