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.


August 09, 2013

Name: Matt Gallagher
Returned from: Iraq
Milblog: Kerplunk

What does America need to know about its new veterans? That we aren’t one voice, one experience, one memory, one preconceived notion fulfilled that can be stapled to our country’s heels like Peter Pan’s shadow? That we’re both varied and small? That 2.5 million of us have served in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, a number that’s roughly the population of tiny, frozen Latvia, a number that only begins to hint at the separation between the postmodern empire and its legions?

Does history, the teacher of life according to Cicero, yield answers? How did a nation two generations removed from pushing back the onslaught of fascism get here? How did a society one generation removed from the great scar of Vietnam arrive here?

What happened to the America we woke up to on September 12, unified, defiant and proud?

Is it because in an all-volunteer force, it’s someone else’s sons and daughters who fight?

Shouldn’t supporting the troops also mean hiring them? Does the skittish corporal who managed $500,000 worth of equipment in a forgotten outpost of hell get hired, or just the officer with the plastic smile and business degree?

What’s the biggest divide between those who have served and those who haven’t? Other than getting shot at in strange lands? Recognizing that we’re as responsible for the divide as much as civilians are? That we know insulating ourselves in vet squads and platoons bridges nothing, but do it nonetheless?

That our own veterans’ movement has already splintered because of money and egos and a VA far too interested in public relations’ doublespeak and shooting messengers?

What of war’s end?

What of the future? Will our voices and experiences and memories mean anything when these questions arise yet again?


This essay originally appeared in Stars and Stripes as part of a column called "What do we need to know about veterans?"

Matt Gallaher's numerous contributions to The Sandbox during his deployment include RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, iWAR, A SOUNDTRACK TO WAR, and CRANK DAT IN IRAQ.

He is the author of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, and co-editor of Fire and Forget: Short Stories From the Long War.


Sadly, only to those who have been there and done that.

This essay, as well composed as it is, is loaded with only hints of profound needs that are poorly served by the current social and political situation in USA. (I don't say America, because Canada is an American nation, and I don't know how Canada cares for their warriors and veterans, but it can’t be worse than the US.) Of course the plight of service personnel is only a portion of the general misdirection of the efforts of our government. Corporate profits for the large political donors is paramount in the United States. So veterans are chronically short-changed, as are the rest of the politically powerless among us. The alarming part of all this is that “we the people” don’t seem to give a damn about it or try to do anything about it, like address their elected officials, and VOTE. Even more outrageous and unbelievable is the fact that this apathy extends to the entire political machinery, and the destructive effects it is having across the board, from service people, the poor and elderly, the national infrastructure, and ultimately the stability of our economy and our future. So I wish the writer of the essay would flesh out the factual issues behind the ideas presented, because this kind of exposition is sorely needed, for service people, veterans and in truth all the rest of us as well.

As an Afghanistan Veteran, National Guard soldier, as well as small business owner, I sometimes don't understand the country I live in anymore. Compared to my Active Army counterparts I served with, I know very few people who have "been there and done that". I know I can't change the world, but maybe I should start at my local Vet Center. Thank you Matt Gallagher for your thought provoking piece.

This essay is full of the never-ending questions much of the American public is trying to avoid. They need to be asked, and by writing them down and publishing them it is forcing others to acknowledge their existence. I wish these questions weren't an issue, but they are very true to life. All these stories are incredible and terrifying. All I can say is "Support our Troops."

What’s the biggest divide between those who have served and those who haven’t?

This essay, as well composed as it is, is loaded with only hints of profound needs that are poorly served by the current social

reading this made me sad. recent report showing that more fatalities come from suicide of soldier who have PTSD rather than died on battlefield. vets need better attention from the govt.

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