March 07, 2008

Name: The Usual Suspect
Posting date: 3/7/08   
Stationed in: Iraq

One year ago, we were nervous and excited and apprehensive. Ready to do this. Green as snot.

We jumped through training hoops at Fort Lewis, counting down months. This epic thing looming in front of us, like some tidal wave we were waiting to catch.

Before we knew it, they stuffed us on buses and into airplanes and flew us to the other side of the planet, jet-lagged and confused as shit, dog-tired and sick of travel, sick of fucking waiting and stopping and going, sitting on duffel bags. Not knowing what to expect.

We spent a few weeks in Kuwait, adjusting to the heat, preparing for our next push into theater, just more waiting, all of it, more headgames. Already we were reduced to phone calls and emails, otherwise effectively cut off from the World.

And then they stuffed us all onto C-130s. Wedged in there, full kit, miserable, everyone scowling and swearing at each other for so much as adjusting in their seat. Two miserable hours of loud droning engines. You're off to war, son.

We had landed, anticlimactically, and still, we were herded like fucking animals, still not knowing a damn thing, and the cycle would never end. And there I was, finding myself in Baghdad, chomping at the bit to get outside the wire, to experience This Fucking War.

Barely 21 and dumber than shit, I was all sorts of optimistic, thinking we were going to do great things and kick lots of ass, GI Joe hero type shit. That we could be cool with the people, and bring the hammer down on the baddies.

Then a low rumble shakes my Stryker, and two of our guys are killed by an IED while they are dismounted. People emerge from their houses and cheer.

Every day we pile out of the trucks and into any random building, clearing house after house after god-forsaken motherfucking house, sweltering heat, sweat stinging our bloodshot eyes. Sucking down hot water and tromping up and down stairs all day. First floor clear. Second floor clear. Roof clear. Repeat and repeat and repeat, and where the fuck are the bad guys?

There's gunfire out of nowhere, and soon it's a squad on one rooftop against the enemy on another rooftop. "Chaz" returns fire with his SAW and watches as his rounds smack into some guy's ribs. He shakes for the rest of the day.

We continue to clear every day, we fire warning shots. And a sniper kills another of our guys. My squad returns to the truck to escort the medic's Stryker back to the Green Zone. The air horn blares repeatedly, over and over again, for what must have been fifteen solid minutes as we race to the hospital.

And then we're back out in it all over again, and where's this apparent enemy? Fucking ghosts. This fucking war.

Through the boredom and the monotony and misery, we occasionally have one of our own get wounded. Sometimes minor, sometimes enough to go back to the states. Shot in the leg. Shrapnel in the ass. Shrapnel in the head or the arm. Sometimes we get one of them.

We bust our asses in Baghdad in support of other units, tackling one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Iraq. Every Iraqi I've ever mentioned this neighborhood to nods in understanding, then mentions that it is "no good". Moo zyen.

And then we move. To a more calm area, where we have our own sector. And the monotony picks up exponentially. Days and weeks bleed together in an agonizing blur.

Then a suicide bomber kills three of us.

Still no visible enemy that we can directly engage.

You go on bipolar cycles of motivation and indifference. Of caring about the people to total apathy. Wanting to wreak havoc or wanting to get back to the tent and kick back. All the while the World moves on without you. You wonder if those people back home will think you've changed.

We were green once.


We live 20 minutes out the back gate of Lewis...when I go there to shop (family of vets here) I can tell when a unit has recently left, a pall of grief and dread is in the very air. Some of us know why you will all be changed...and all of us want you all home as safe as you can be.
Blessings go with you!

So sad, when you can't see any improvement on the ground.

Well-written, beautifully phrased, this really struck me hard. I feel so much sympathy for you on losing your friends. Safe passage to you and all our soldiers there. I will recommend this post to my friends who may want to know what it's like for the boots on the ground.

to "TheUnlikelySoldier",
You are very promising writer- the rhythmic layout of your words, the way you create vivid image of both surroundings and emotion. I say, start a book, a short story, perhaps a poem-- and not necessarily about war experience (you may need a break from that world). Look at characters you see, or take a little thread from anywhere, & weave into words spun from your tale spinners mind.

Sounds like my tour in Viet Nam. Mostly waiting and mind numbing. Anger is the first sign to watch. I was just 19, a sergeant, when I returned and told to get rid of my military clothes. I'm told by a new young vet that the only people he's met that acknowledge him positively are veterans.
Do what Rachel says; write! Don't numb out; talk to a Vet Center counselor when you get out. Find out what the VA can offer. They're better than they were when I got out and was told there was nothing wrong with me.
Look up "moral dilemma". You are a very bright, conscious young man (I didn't write consciencious). Increase your awareness. Be good to yourself.

Oh yeah, you could be conscientious, (spelling error before), but I think it more poignant to point the former out to you.
Read anything by Thich Nhat Hahn especially "Anger, wisdom for cooling the flames."

I want you to know that there are so many people here in "the world" who have not forgotten you, even though it must feel that way to you. I hope you take Patrick's advice to heart and also know that there are many places you can turn to make connections with those of us who are left in the dark as to what is actually going on in Iraq and what the boots on the ground are actually experiencing. THANK YOU for keeping it real and telling it like it is...I have had two soldiers that I wrote to and I guess they just couldn't or wouldn't express what things were like for them there in Iraq. Those of us who are not military really won't "get it" unless people like you put it out there. Do you have family and/or friends who write to you regularly? Would that help to keep you from feeling so detached from the rest of us? I want you to know that I am trying to understand the myriad of feelings you go through in just one day in that hell hole! I want to express my deepest sympathies for the loss of your battle buddies. Reading your post today, lets me know it is time for me to "adopt" another soldier. I would be honored to write to you if it would help you in any small way to get through this deployment. Thank you for your dedicated service.

While I can't feel your grief and frustration and fury so closely as you, your writing captures all the things that so frustrate me about this war. Whether or not it was valid from the start, whether or not you should stay or go, every casualty report makes me grieve. Holding you and our "leaders" in the light. I hope you do continue writing, because you've brought the war home to me, right in the gut, again. Please keep doing it-- for your sake and ours.

bipolorlawyercook Right on man. We need those of you who are out there serving our country. Thanks for all you soldiers do!

my 17 year old only son is hellbent on joining the marines as infantry,i just made a copy of your story to give to him.some recriuter has got him pumped up about enlisting.he has know idea what hes about to get himsaelf into.please keep posting your real life war stories.these kids today think war is just like a video game,all glory and no suffering.i cant get through to there anyone out there who is has this same problem. how do i talk him out of it,he will be 18 in may.god bless and keep safe

We civilians can't comprehend the hell you folks go through every day. And still you find the courage to get up and do it over and over again. Thank you for giving us a brief, honest glimpse of your life in Iraq.

Hopefully America is moving towards being a country that gives its Vets the honors and treatment they deserve. (And may our country's disgraceful treatment of its Vietnam heroes never be repeated.)

Know that you are in many thoughts and prayers every day. Please take care of yourself, and keep writing!

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