Questions from Mr. Stutter Pants
It amazes me what complete strangers ask. I was still in uniform traveling to Illinois when I stopped at a gas station. This trucker, who claimed he was once a Navy Seal, grabbed me just before I could find the chocolate milk section. The poor man stuttered and was incredibly annoying, which is why I’ll call him Mr. Stutter Pants…
“Diiiiddd, ah… did you fire your weapon?” asked Mr. Stutter Pants. Yes. “How do you feel about that?” I wanted to say, well how the fuck do you think I feel? It makes me feel like a damn cub scout. But my mom taught me not to cuss to strangers. OK, I guess. “D. d. d. do you feel messed up when you uhh…uhhh. Got back?” Geez is this guy a counselor? I just want to buy my chocolate milk and I feel awkward talking to you about this. “What did you doooo thhhhheere?” Army journalist. “Oh, so you really didn’t see any action then?” Nope, sure didn’t pal. In fact, me and the insurgents had pizza parties once a week where we played hide and go seek. It was such a great time.
Just when I didn’t think I could handle much more of this conversation, a lady yelled into the microphone demanding some truck be moved. Luckily, it was Mr. Stutter Pants’ truck. “Hey, I’ve got to move that truck. Stay here, I’ll be right back.” I got my quart of chocolate milk and left the store.
So far, I’ve had about 1,000 strangers want to talk to me about Iraq. Most people just want to say thank you, which is awesome. Nothing makes me smile more than a sweet old lady marching across the room with a cane in hand just to tell me thanks. Some people have offered to buy me lunch, beers or give up their first-born daughter for my “enjoyment.” I’m still adjusting, so I typically decline. To be honest, conversation – even with friends – actually frightens me. I don’t know what to say half the time and I still cuss a lot. But it makes me feel special when somebody says thank you; it really does.
However, it’s the folks like Mr. Stutter Pants who have driven me to grow stubble on my chin and not tell people I was in Iraq, which is really hurting my budget and means I can no longer splash Brut on my freshly shaven cheeks. Thanks a lot, Mr. Stutter Pants. My guess is that the people asking the intrusive questions are Soldier of Fortune readers who care more about the blood and guts of war rather than the men and women in uniform. They want details of combat; they want to see bloody pictures; they want to hear about the experiences I’d rather forget.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind answering… so, what’s it really like there or do you think the elections will happen or are we doing the right thing, but being asked “did you lose any close friends” is just too much for me right now. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to have these types of conversations. But not now. I’m still too close to the war.