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.


July 18, 2012

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

I was sailing through the hot summer’s air and I could smell the chlorine in the water shortly before we became one. I had gone in with my clothes on. I pushed myself up for air and the smell had turned sour, full of diesel exhaust and cordite. The brown river water was warm. One of the sailors on a riverboat gave me a hand; he looked twelve years old with a twisted smile and crazy in his eyes, the way that youth do when they have been in combat for too long or have taken a street drug that has taken them. Thick black smoke reached for an electric blue sky that hung over the river and shone through the canopy.

“Welcome aboard my boat!” he exclaimed, shaking my hand wildly. “This motherfucker is going all the way. Gonna’ take it to Thailand and open a bar, you know what I mean, man?” I didn’t know what he meant. Another sailor manning the fifty caliber machine gun was pumping away but the gun made no sound. All I could hear was his breathing and the brass casings bouncing off the deck. I gaped at my wet clothes and was in awe that I found myself in desert digital camouflage, a familiar site seemed distant. The sailors were dressed in olive drab with black boots.

“Fuck this Perfume River shit! All they give us is dead Marines coming out of Hue! Fucked up, man, I don’t want to be hauling these poor dead bastards!” Tracer fire erupted from the tree line and the air lit up like Christmas, but none of the gunfire made any noise. I looked at the nametape of the wild-eyed sailor and it all made sense. It read "Czito."
“Well what the fuck are you doing here, Anderson, you wanna come on my boat and not be conversational?” He twisted himself with intensity.

“What can a young man learn without war?” I ask.

The Czito scratched at his chin. His smile faded. “Don’t you come on my boat and ask me a question like that! This is where I live, man, same with the dead boys on the deck! Don’t be shitting where we live!”

A dead Marine sat upright and looked me in the eye: “Listen to the old man.”

“Just shut the fuck up Anderson and I will show you.”

I pushed myself up for air and the chlorine smelled pleasant on a hot day in Los Angeles. Victor Czito, an ancient friend of my father and Navy Vietnam Veteran, had pushed me into a pool not realizing that these days pushing people in pools usually involves electronics. We drank fine tequila and he told me his story of the Perfume River. In the year 2012 nobody hates war more than The Czito because somewhere on a riverboat is a kid scared shitless as I was in Fallujah. The young man continues endlessly rocking away at his fifty caliber and the young intense sailor screams over the noise of the gunfire loud as an exploding sun: “Anything he fucking wants!”


Garrett, your writing really is extraordinary. I've told you this before but your writing reminds me of Ken Kesey if "Sometimes a Great Notion" were set in Iraq instead of Oregon.

I hope your film project is getting you some closure.

Nice Post :)

In my opinion this rescued Marine that was plucked by the Navy Sailors in their rescue boat, the rescued Marine definitely exhibits a behavior which confirms that he is suffering from PTSD.

My comment on sailor Vic is it seems that he is suffering from PTSD, and unfortunately there are just to many of these cases in the combat area.

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