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.


December 18, 2011

Name: Garrett Phillip Anderson
Returned from: Iraq and Afghanistan
Hometown: Portland, OR
Milblog: Iraq/Afghanistan and More

I returned home from a trip to Georgia just in time to watch the breaking news online as the last US troops left Iraq and closed the gate behind them. Closed that rust white symbol of the end of a war. It never made it to the top of the “news pulse” on CNN’s website, which seemed about right to me.

My girlfriend is gone back to Mississippi for the holidays and I found myself alone in my apartment and jet lagged. I had a party with all of my dead friends last night. We drank and danced and they told me about what could have been, that they wished they could live my life, simple. I told them that I wished we could be together, and they laughed and sang“Only the good die young, you stupid sonofabitch.” When we had had too much to drink they began to lay into me for bitching about their sacrifice on a blog as the highlight of my day; some things were not for me to say.

They closed that rusty gate and America keeps on trucking. My grandmother wrote on a link I had posted that we should have never been there in the first place. Usually such bland sentences make me want to choke a random person, but I remember that it is the grandmothers of the fallen who have to continue on and that the way she feels is a sort of genetic transference from mothers and grandmothers that must date back to the beginning of time. “Why do these men go off to die when we spent so much time raising and loving them?” I hear her heart.

Alone in a cold apartment with imaginations of people who were once as real as me, and they whisper at me to stay away. “Go to school!” they all yell. And they are young forever but this war is over and I will not be for long. I found myself thinking that at least there is still Afghanistan so that my service will have some sort of prolonged relevance to American society, but I remember that it never did in the first place.

I pick up the phone in 2003 and my dad is back from his reporting of the initial invasion of Iraq, and he will make my high school graduation. I think about all of the parents who went to their sons' high school graduations to send them off soon to die and their story was always the same as mine. Some shrink will be forever questioning what I mean when I say that I don’t want to feel better about it. This is how I keep them with me, in a haunting feeling I let ferment, the feeling of the death of a good friend. “It meant something to me, Grandma!” I want to yell, but who is listening?

I will clock into work tonight and clock out when I am done. The dead dancers have left my building again with a message: “It is always like this, it was always like this. Now go home, kid!” No words will fill in between the lines, no tears will resurrect anything other than a void, and no news coverage means any more to a stranger than it does to me. I will wake in the morning cold to light a smoke and I will remember when you will not. The only thing that has changed is someone’s son does not have to die in Iraq tomorrow.


Well said!

Nam Era Vet

I agree! Well said!!!

Korean era vet.

I agree with Cnote and bill jackson, WELL SAID.
One thing I still do is chat with the ones who have gone before me, especially when in Prayer and Meditation.
There is a difference from when it, the chatting started back in the 70's. The alcohol and other mood mind altering drugs are gone. (not the caffeine though)
Take care and remember, some will NEVER understand.

As a Viet Nam era vet and as a father of a son killed in Afghanistan, I am grateful not only for Anderson's service, but also for his ability to put in words such feelings. They also express the feelings of this Gold Star family as we cope with the death of our son and try to put into perspective our feelings. Our son did not die in vain. And we will keep his memory alive although we do have concerns that others will forget. However we know his battle buddies will not forget. So we remember him and those killed with him, those who gave their lives in other battles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those we lost in previous wars. We also remember those who served and lost friends and who are trying to cope and remember in a positive way in a world where life goes on.

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, David. This was insightful and left me just sitting and thinking for several minutes... you described it in such a way that I can feel for you.

Garrette, Your discriptions of your feelings of a vetran makes the war more real and the loss of so many lives of family and friends makes this country look insane. Thanks for sharing your "party with your buddies".
A sad one but never forgetting those we served with and loved.I am so happy you will soon be a member of my family. Mary Morrison

This was insightful and left me just sitting and thinking for several minutes... you described it in such a way that I can feel for you.

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