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.

BECAUSE I SAID SO |

August 21, 2012

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

I dug a hole with a Marine whose last name was so long that I will refer to him as Alphabet. Alphabet and I were training to be infantry Marines in February 2004. I liked Alphabet because the instructors had instructed us not to sleep but Alphabet slept anyway. Alphabet descended from Persia and was quick to let you know. He was supposed to be awake and providing conscious security behind his weapon as I dug a hole to prepare a defensive position for simulated enemy invasion. We had spent the day climbing up a mountain and I couldn’t blame Alphabet because there were no real enemy coming to storm the mountain so as I listened to his heavy breathing and watched his shoulders rise and sag I reminded myself that I was tired too so maybe if I let him get away with it, he might return the favor. The last time I saw Alphabet was on the last day I spent in Camp Fallujah, Iraq. Just like a war movie; he told me he could not wait to get out of this place. I concurred, that night he boarded a helicopter and Alphabet has been dead ever since.
   
I remember a Marine who had been shot in the head. I looked down even though I told myself not to. His eyes were rolled back and the sun broke through the hole in his empty skull, the sunlight making the thinner parts around the open wound glow orange, the first time sunlight had ever shone in his head. I remember a Marine about my age, he was overweight and one time walked himself to death on a forced march in Okinawa during a black flag day. A black flag is flown on base to let other Marines know that it is too hot to conduct strenuous training on account that walking in the heat with a combat load on has been known to raise a Marine’s core temperature which might have nowhere to go other than total meltdown on a day so hot. One of the Marines in my unit replied after hearing the news, “Fuck ‘im he should have hydrated.” March or die!

One night the squad leader of 1st Squad asked if anyone wanted to go back to base to make a phone call for the first time in three weeks during a battle my unit had been told we would only spend four days in. Each Marine declined so the squad leader volunteered himself and a close friend. The next morning an order came down that we would not be allowed to throw hand grenades as we entered each house that was to be cleared during the day’s operation. This was a deviation of our standard operating procedure. Later that day the replacement for the squad leader who had returned to base was killed and six of our Marines were wounded. At the end of the night that city block was destroyed by a massive airstrike, which packs more punch than a hand grenade but was only used after all enemy contact had ceased.

The first time I came across an enemy dead body was after I shot him to be funny. We could smell his potent stench from houses away but earlier in the day had been given the order to shoot all dead bodies so when I did to lighten the mood, my Lieutenant looked at me in disbelief and said, “Good Anderson, you want to be a smart ass and shoot very dead bodies? You can check it for intelligence.”

I asked my old roommate for some gloves and he handed me a pair as I approached what used to be a very tall Arab man’s corpse lying in the doorway that led to a kitchen. At the time all I could see were his two legs sticking out from under a blanket that had been draped over him, covering above his knee caps. The blanket was soiled and stained black. It smelled like someone had left a refrigerator full of meat open in the hundred degree heat and I pulled the blanket back. It appeared that the intelligence the Lieutenant was searching for had flown out of the front of the large man’s face after he had been executed as I noticed that his hands were bound. There was not much of a face left; I remember sticky stinky black goop, scattered teeth and being amazed at the sight of a real life dead man, which would cease to amaze me later on as there were to be many more corpses to see. Down the street were thirty-one Syrian foreign fighters that would all be dead in a few hours. I think those Syrians killed the tall guy during a Fallujah house-jacking so we killed the Syrians and now they kill each other.
   
When I got out of the Marine Corps I would think about these things and how I wished I could see them again just to check on them and make sure they were real. Human misery was not something I had been exposed to growing up in suburban Southern California and part of it fascinated me and the other part horrified me the way a pre-adolescent poking a dead animal with a stick on a hot afternoon might feel after dinner with the folks.

The army suicide statistics doubled within a month recently. I hate when people ask me why we are there because to tell the truth, I don’t care. It is not the trigger pullers' job to care about why they are there, their job is to carry out the bidding of superiors who are trusted and act as the omnipotent sword of American policy. American civilians are the reason we are there.They are represented by elected representatives of their constituency. If the constituency puts enough pressure on their politician, policy sways with the majority demand. Why are we there? We are there because you don’t care, because our society is too lazy and detached to do anything about this problem which may be a dinner party conversation to many people I know but was and is a very real reality to me and those like me. Sometimes I wonder if the people of Afghanistan don't want the Taliban in charge, why we don't let their constituency throw the Taliban out, and if Al Qaeda comes out from their crab shells in Yemen then why can’t we do what we have been doing in Yemen and kill those nasties from the sky? In the end this is what is going to happen anyway.
     
Sun goes down and up go the statistics of some more suicides of honorable people offering sacrifice to a complacent society that can’t afford a warrior’s understanding much less a war. Up go the statistics of active duty service dead, gunned down by people we are supposed to be training, but fuck you troop, you signed the contract. March or Die! Why? Don’t ask a vet, ask your congressman and tell him or her why you think war in Afghanistan is or is not the bee's knees. Because I would not hesitate to invade any country for any reason as long as it was alongside people I cared for, which is what my primary motivation to succeed in battle was, not to think about lazy people whose concept of foreign diplomacy is the television until the next commercial. Unless you record your television, in which case you may fast forward through the content which does not interest you. In which case you stopped reading my writing paragraphs ago.

 

Comments

Thank you for what you said. God Bless and thank you for your service. Semper Fi, Marine.

Thank yo for this post. More people should read it.
Be Well.

Unfortunately, war is industry, and the politians are all (with a handful of exceptions) at the feed trough. It makes me so pissed off, it really is infuriating. Blood and money to feed the greed of the moneychangers. Sabbath had it right with War Pigs, Metallica had it right with Back to the Front, but the insanity prevails. God help us.

Chris I have to disagree with you. I think war is social apathy and less industry. If as many people I hear can compare a war to a fine Metallica album, took a break during one intense Slayer session and picked up the phone to voice their disdain to their representative, something would happen.It would be a favor you would be doing for a stranger who is the reason that you and your loved ones do not have to register for the draft. Everyone likes to blame these politicians when the politicians are only a mirror of who votes in a constituency, they are you and you are them. God help us, someone pick up a phone and encourage their friends to vote, and to give a shit even when it is not theirs on the line.

Can't say it better than Bud or Felix: thank you, Marine. Semper Fi. Hang in there. Be well...

Good stuff. Good writing. Solid all the way around.

Thank you for your letter.

Our apathy is stunning. We are unable to imagine the hell that you describe. That ignorance leads to more hell.

Please go fight the things we fear,
While we stay home and cheer.
We'll try to catch the highlights on tv.
Would you tell us how it ends,
That's too bad you lost your friend,
But since that thing in Vietnam,
We just can't seem to win.
Looks like we made the same mistakes again.

Again, thank you for your letter. Thank you for your sacrifice.

only one more year!

Yes, especially the last two paragraphs. Civilians blabber about being against the war but if you ask them if they've written to their Senators and Congressmen(women) it's all uh, er, well, I was gonna but er, uh ...

I have heard so many people say how they don't understand why we still have troops over there. Why are we sacrificing our men and women for a cause that we don't quite understand. So many lives are lost. I never really understood the impact that a death could have on a community because I had never experienced it before this year. I am grateful for soldiers like you who risk their lives and follow the orders of their superiors. I support the troops but I can't say that I support the war because at this point I do not understand the purpose we are serving in the Middle East. God Bless and good luck with you movie.

Your drawings are beautiful!
Please stay safe, and we here in the US are very proud of our service ment and women, who are trying to make the world a little better.
God Bless You,

Great post.Really appreciate your work. Our apathy is stunning. We are unable to imagine the hell that you describe. That ignorance leads to more hell.

Great post.Really appreciate your work.

I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. Unlike other blogs I have read which are really not that good.Thanks a lot!

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