In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Serving for those who died

We lost another Soldier yesterday. Today, I was in the chow hall and ran into a few of my friends who were in this Soldier’s unit. Of course, they were sad and couple of them may have even been second guessing themselves, but they are all praying … even if they don’t believe in the Man. Five more are still very seriously hurt from the same skirmish that killed their comrade. The really sad thing is, they are only one month or so away from going home, and I think that’s the hardest thing for everyone to accept.

Like every life lost in Iraq, this Soldier’s death is absolutely tragic. I believe a piece of me is lost each time we lose somebody. It hurts as bad as being dumped (I’ve never been dumped, so I’m assuming. I normally do the dumping. I work out a lot too. And drink milk.) Back to my point, even though we lost a brother-at-arms, the mission must continue. We all know the risks of joining the army, but a lot of dishonorable people get out of deployments. Why wear the uniform if you're not willing to serve?

For those of us who are Soldiers, Marines, Airmen or Sailors who decided to fulfill the obligation of serving our country, we must continue to fight, to complete the mission of rebuilding this country and neutralizing the terrorists so those who died did not die in vain.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Coffee beans make the world better, no matter where you are

No matter where I am, I start the day off with a nice cup of Joe. You'd be surprised how good the coffee is in Iraq. It's not a national custom, but like all good soldiers do, we improvise. Our unit has two bean grinders, a state-of-the-art coffee pot and more coffee than Martha Stuart has citations. Our families and friends send us every kind of coffee imaginable: vanilla roast, Starbucks Christmas blend, basic Foldiers, etc. We are coffee drinkers and since we can't drink beer, we drink a lot of coffee. In fact, I think I'll pour a cup right now.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Combat on television vs. real life

Combat is nothing like television. What is seen with the eye may appear the same. An explosion in a movie is no different than an explosion seen by the naked eye, but it's the other four senses that truly define combat. The smells of gunfire. The loud ping of bullets bouncing off of metal. The vibrations of grenades exploding nearby. The taste of your own fear climbing up into your throat. This is combat. And no matter how many times you experience it, you learn one more thing about yourself and you're always happy to be walking away.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I'm like a dad when mortars land

Yesterday, several mortars landed inside our camp. I have a feeling the bad guys were a little upset this time. A couple days ago, we took out four mortarman as they were preparing to attack us. When something like this happens, my first instinct is to check on my people. I had one soldier who had the day off, which meant she had to report to me as soon as possible. She didn't show up, and I was worried. But as soon as I began to get a little nervous, an Iraqi friend came to me and said, "Your soldier. I forget the name, but they said they're ok." In fact, all my troopies and everyone on the camp was OK.

Over the past seven months, I've learned a lot about myself.

For instance, I've learned that I'm like a dad. At least that's what my soldiers call me. Once when a rocket was heading toward my general area, I jumped on top of my soldier walking with me. It didn't explode and no debris was scattered, unless you count the dust clouds caused by us falling to the ground. I make sure they exercise, get home on time and help them with their school work. The only thing I don't do is spank them, but I drop them for stuff like being a smart ass, messing up really badly or not showing up on time. And in those rare moments that somebody is in the front-leaning rest under my command, believe me, I suffer more than he or she pushing.
Boy, I digress. Mortars stink.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Waking up in the morning

Do you ever wake up and just feel like you can't move? Well, that was the case for me this morning. I had huge eye bugers affixed to my lids like cement in between bricks and a desire to move like a fat kitty cat wanting to exercise. Why was it so difficult waking up in my finely furnished trailer in Mosul, Iraq? Well, allow me to elaborate....

You see, I just returned from an incredible two or three week adventure in southern Iraq where I covered intense combat and captured great moments of soldiers with my Nikon. Today, I worked in a Palace, behind a desk and air conditioning. Now, to the sane person, this might sound like more of an appeasing venue to toil away at. But for me, my heart and soul is with the infantry chasing bad guys. My job is perhaps more important sitting in a chair behind a computer, as I'm a squad leader in charge of several very bright, young soldiers. At this wonderful desk, at which I currently sit, I help soldiers become better writers, teach them how to use their cameras and of course motivate them for the rest of their time in Iraq by acting goofy. Sometimes when I saunter to the Palace, all floored with shiny, yet unaligned, marble stone squares, I think of how much I'd rather be outside of the wire with people shooting at me. Crazy, I know, but I enjoy this. Then, I step into the office... where one of my soldiers has a huge smile on their face, wishes me a good morning and asks how I'm doing very sincerely. Ah.... the effect of youth and pleasantness is underrated.

My troops make waking up with crusts on my eyes not such a bad thing after all.