In Iraq for 365

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

Thursday, March 03, 2005

So nobody else has to

The man sat in the back row. When I asked: are there any veterans here? He and a few others raised their hands. After I spoke to the half-empty church, a crowd of people ran up to me to say thanks or to ask for my pictures. But the man just sat in the back staring at me. As I passed each pew, people caught me from behind to just say thanks.

The man just sat in the back, as if he were waiting for me to pass by when nobody else was around. From a distance, he looked old and a little dirty. He had a long, fluffy white beard that resembled Santa Claus. He wore an old leather jacket, jeans and a red-and-white checkered flannel shirt. There were smudges of dirt upon his wrinkled cheeks. But what caught my eye were the watermelon tear drops flowing from his bright blue eyes.

As I approached the back row to exit the building, the man stood up, walked toward me, put his arms around me and simply said, “I was in Berlin. It hurts doesn’t it?” I only said I’m sorry and thank you. He wiped the tears from his eyes and walked away bawling. My uncle said he’d never seen the man before and that he was a visitor from Texas. His daughter attended the church and heard a soldier would be giving a testimony.

Since a recent post, I’ve been talking to schools, universities, youth groups and churches about Iraq. My message is always the same… pray for the soldiers, good things are happening and never get reported, know that this war is just and that the people we fight do not represent Islam; they represent evil. Sometimes, I receive standing ovations. Other times, I have kids picking their noses, just waiting for the bell to ring. I get frustrated when people don’t pay attention. I have to hold back from saying… “excuse me. Am I boring you? Do you realize I am PR Man and I have a cape? Don’t make me suck you into a black hole.” But I don’t, I just give them the sniper stare. I run a slide show of 200 or so pictures, some of which show little kids smiling. Others depict the reality of combat. I entertain questions and this is where the fun begins. One kid asked me if I’d ever been shot at. I described the time an RPG landed near me but never exploded and the time bullets whizzed by my head, pinging off of metal. Another asked if I’d ever lost a friend. I replied more than I can count, but told them about T & Mitts and how both were expecting children. They asked about the Iraqi children and if they attend school. I answered, it’s not that easy. See, the terrorists have targeted schools we’ve built and many vagrants have kicked kids out of the classrooms to live in the buildings, but for the most part, kids are receiving more education now than under the Saddam regime simply because we have spent millions rebuilding and re-supplying dilapidated schools. I tell them about Samir and how he was the Arabic version of Chris Farley. When they learn of his baby and Samir’s unfortunate murder, tears fill the eyes of the girls while the boys just look dazed.

After one presentation, a person told me that it was great, but it was kind of depressing. I asked… well, what the hell do you think war is? It’s not something in a book or a movie; it’s real and real people live through it. They don’t pick the cause… they just fight it, so you can enjoy an education, the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion and enjoy that beautiful flag. For the most part, I’ve noticed that people don’t realize or care about what’s really going on in Iraq or the rest of the world. They just go about their daily lives not knowing how lucky they have it. They can’t fathom that right now there is a 22-year-old former all-state football player standing in a guard tower or on a patrol or behind a Howitzer not knowing if the next 30 seconds could be his last. Of course, not for one second do I throw all of America into this generality. The readers of this blog and the millions of military supporters and the fine folks at Oklahoma State are different… the kind emails and generous comments I’ve received in the last week about my nightmare and struggles to be normal again truly made me feel special. You people are so genuine and I can never thank you enough for the support you’ve given me and my fellow brethren.

Much like Berlin and World War II is still with the man who confronted me, I know Iraq will always be a part of me. I know his war was much different than mine, but we were both subjected to images that will forever follow us. It’s strange how just one year can define a lifetime.

Last night at my old church, somebody asked me why do soldiers do it. I said, “so nobody else has to.”

64 Comments:

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous kbug said...

I'm so glad to hear that you've been telling "The Soldiers' Story" to so many people lately. But, it's a shame that not everyone understands. Though, there will always be those that don't, there will always be more that do "get it" and will love and appreciate every Soldier, Marine, Airman, and Sailor for what they have done and are continuing to do........every day. Thanks, Casanova, for all that you've done and continue to do. It means more than you'll ever know.........

 
At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your blog. My son, a Marine, is coming home tomorrow. You have helped me know a little bit about what he may be going through. I have also sent him your blog address. Maybe that will help him, too.

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger Huntress said...

For the most part, I’ve noticed that people don’t realize or care about what’s really going on in Iraq or the rest of the world. They just go about their daily lives not knowing how lucky they have it. They can’t fathom that right now there is a 22-year-old former all-state football player standing in a guard tower or on a patrol or behind a Howitzer not knowing if the next 30 seconds could be his lastSad but true Smink...there are alot of people out there for whom this war is nothing more than a series of images from a modern day version of Private Ryan. They only know what the MSM media spits out. And they don''t really care..because it doesnt affect them directly. They do not have to make any sacrifices...unlike those americans that stayed on the homefront and had to sacrifice so much while WW2 raged on in Europe.

Its a shame that most people are far more interested in the life and trial of Michael Jackson..or Kobe Bryants sexploits...or Jen and Brad's marriage breakup..or Paris Hilton's cellphone problems.

People do not know how lucky they have it...Most Americans and Canadian are so complacent that they will only vote under threat..while Iraqi's voted inspite of being threatened.

Try not to let their lack of attention and their complacency frustrate you...its not you, its them.

You know where to find those that do care..

Iraq will always be a part of you..and you will always be a part of us....a part of those you have touched with your words, your service, your selflessness.

Never forget that Sminky.

In time..you will find the new normal you seek.

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.

People need to hear the truth..even if they chose not to listen!

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger Toni said...

Don't give up. Keep talking. The ones that do listen will make a difference down the road. These are the important ones. You are such a special person to be speaking to people to keep them engaged and not lose track of what is happening in the Middle East. The one regret to me is that you as one person are giving and giving when many people just take and take.

 
At 10:02 PM, Blogger Amber Lynn said...

It's weird that a year can define a lifetime and yet you can still come home and run with your dog and go to your church. Your freedom is still here. Your family is still here. Your life is still here. A bit of your heart is probably gone in Iraq. Thanks again, really, for all you did and all you are dealing with now. I wish there was no evil and people my age and younger didn't have to go halfway across the world to kill it only to have most people say it shouldn't be killed and that we are doing a crappy job of it.

I don't believe in giving in to violence, apathy, hate or evil. There is Truth and it has to be told, lived and upheld. I have always been against this country's services being used as a police squad, but I know this is different. And I pray that catch Osama soon. Very, very soon. And I hope they hang Saddam soon. Very, very soon.

 
At 1:07 AM, Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

Sminkie, you are making a lot of women want to bear your children with these posts.

 
At 4:48 AM, Anonymous liz said...

my husband says pretty much the same thing only his version is "so my children dont have to"

 
At 7:21 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Keep telling your story. And don't stop posting either...

 
At 7:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smink- I cannot articulate any better the sentiments in the previous postings.
I'm an avid reader of your blog... and you're writing has touched me in many ways... but most importantly I've fwd'd your blog to friends and recommend they read it. Keep fighting the good fight. There are so many of us behind you.
-Kellie (NYC)

 
At 9:25 AM, Blogger membrain said...

Smink, I'm so glad that you are doing these very positive presentations. You are so right that this will be a part of you for the rest of your life. It's how you deal with it now that's important. By speaking to groups and to counsellors as well, I believe will help you put it in a context that will allow you to grow personally.

You mention being in Iraq for ONLY one year. One can never forget the sacrifices of those who landed on the beaches in Normandy. They were horrendous. But those who survived and made it to Berlin were only in it for 9 months. many less than that. And the events you have lived through are no less important historically than the events of WWII.

I'm just trying to put your sacrifices in perspective.

May your dreams be peacefull.

 
At 10:24 AM, Blogger remoteman said...

Smink, good on you for speaking to people. Not everyone is going to get it. Hell, there are a lot of people out there who don't know who their congressman is, let alone what is going on in Iraq. My wife reads fashion and decorating mags. Her heart is in the right place and she supports you guys wholeheartedly, but her grasp of any detail is, shall we say, tenuous. You continue to impress all of us with your writing. I can't tell you the pride I feel for you and all your brothers in arms every time I read one of your postings.

 
At 10:40 AM, Blogger Bloomntn said...

I wish you could speak in my hometown. I would slap anyone in the audience that didn't give you the respect you deserve! Thank you for educating us on Iraq and the military.

 
At 12:39 PM, Anonymous Christi said...

Thank you Sir. It's people like you that make me proud to be an American.

 
At 1:53 PM, Anonymous SonnyBoyo said...

Smink, I've been reading your blog since last summer, when a mutual acquaintance of ours led me to it while I was home for a visit. You see, kbug and I are siblings.

I have been living in a country just north of yours for about 15 years now, although I am and always will be an American first and a Texan second (not necessarily in that order). The press up here has done a shameful job of delivering "news" about Iraq. I have often read your articles to gain back some reality and perspective after taking on a load of drivel from the liberal news-idiots in Ottawa. It's really sad, but most of the people up here just don't 'get it', and probably never will.

It doesn't help when their spineless leaders continue to spit in the faces of their friends and protectors to the south even while they bask in the peace and comfort afforded them by courageous men and women like you. I'm not sure why, but I feel embarrassed for them.

I've never been in the military, but being the son of a WW2 combat marine I learned from him the realities of war and the price of freedom. I know that those years he spent in the jungles of the South Pacific were absolutely the defining moments in his life. I can't describe the pride I feel when I think about him, but I can tell you I felt some of that same pride the day the elections were held in Iraq. Even through the distortions of television, I could see it in the faces of the citizens of Iraq as they cast the first meaningful ballots of their lives. They definitely 'get it'.

Thanks for all you've done, and continue to do. God bless you and all our soldiers and veterans.

 
At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, come speak in Nebraska. Please.

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Always enjoy reading your posts and am glad you've found a great outlet in speaking publicly. If you do that even 1/4 as well as you write, you would make an amazing presentation. That's the way this stuff is going to get out - by talking about the positives and not letting the MSM be the only word. People, by and large, don't take the time to check the larger picture but by you taking the time to tell them, it gets people talking. Thanks for continuing to blog as you get back into life back in the US. I always look forward to where you're going next...your insightful posts often make me think of things in broader senses than I thought possible.

 
At 11:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Found" you on Blackfive. Just wanted to say thank you for your service. All our troops are doing an amazing job. You all make me proud to be an American. Take care, God Bless.

Theresa

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger Alli said...

Thank you. Found you through Blackfive. I am proud that my country still produces men and women like you for they are the reason I'm proud to be an American. You should come to Purdue. There are many hungry ears eager to hear the good our soldiers do every second. Again, thank you.

 
At 3:52 PM, Anonymous "pool" Q said...

Yo! Sminkie! like I always say... we love ya here in Texas. Being a sibling of other siblings I'm inclined to "ditto" their comments. specifically Kbug and Sonny Boyo. Yup the infamous WWII Marine procreated abundantly. There's more of us than you know. The invitation is open here, but then you know that.... God bless and sleep well...someone is watching over you

 
At 4:56 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

Thanks for your blog. Thanks for your service

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger strykeraunt said...

Some people just prefer to live in a "culture of oblivian." This does not only pertain to the war in Iraq but also in their own everyday life. Unless they are not directly impacted then there is nothing you can do to change their thought process. Unfortunately, the Oblivian culture is increasing in population. The good news is that there are still people who can be reached and those are the one's you need to focus your attention on.

 
At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Sammy said...

"American soldiers in battle don't fight for what some presidents say on T.V., they don't fight for mom, apple pie, the American flag. They fight for one another."
- Col Hal Moore (7th Calvary, Vietnam)

I think that is what sums up the whole thing. This quote kept going through my mind as I shot the video of the memorial service for SSG T and SGT Mitts in Mosul on FOB Freedom.



SSG J

 
At 6:59 AM, Blogger AFSister said...

Smink-
I wish I knew you in real life...
I love your spirit and attitude just as much as I love reading your words.

It will never be enough, but my thanks is all I have to offer you (and a listening ear).

Oh- and anyone who finds your talks "boring" must lead a life so full of danger I'm suprised they're still alive. You could NEVER be boring to us, so please do not stop giving the talks. You will, and have, touched so many lives- don't stop.

 
At 7:25 AM, Blogger Solomon2 said...

For all our troops:

America the Beautiful [3rd stanza]

 
At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know how you feel, I sometimes want to shout my Iraq experiences from the roooftops, grab people by the shirt and tell them of what I know and saw, othertimes I don't want to talk about it at all. People do want to know, and sometimes they need to be told anywway.

 
At 11:46 PM, Blogger Kat said...

You know what's good about telling the story besides getting the news out about the real war?

It's a great way to get personal perspective on your memories.

It is some of the best "self help" you can give yourself.

 
At 9:29 AM, Blogger Rich Casebolt said...

Smink -- found you via Mudville.

Thank you for your willingness to relate your hard-won wisdom (which will stand in stark contrast to the arrogance of the "enlightened ones" within the MSM) to the rest of us.

Keep on telling your story to even those who appear bored -- you might be surprised what they end up remembering later.

I wish you could tell your story to the kids I work with in my church -- particularly two JROTC students who I have the pleasure of interacting with regularly.

BTW, you're being blogrolled today ... not the first, nor the last, time that happens!

 
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Computer news

analysis: Microsoft, Yahoo Take Aim At IM Competition

Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. on Wednesday said they would let instant-messaging subscribers communicate across their networks for the first time, a move seen as a response to competitive pressures building from market leader America Online Inc., EBay Inc. and Google Inc.

Microsoft and Yahoo said they would provide customers in the second quarter of next year with the basic communication services of text communication, computer-to-computer voice calls and presence, which is the ability to see who is available on the network. The deal does not apply to higher-level services, such as tying IM to search, online music or photo sharing; nor do the companies plan to enter an advertising agreement.

Instead the deal focuses on providing consumers with the ability to communicate across two of the top three instant-messaging networks. Instant-messaging subscribers have long complained about the inability to chat across networks, unless someone is willing to join multiple services.

"It's about providing a service that users really want," Dan Rosensweig, chief operating office for Yahoo, said in joint news conference with Microsoft.


As to why the companies didn't provide interoperability sooner, the complexity of linking two networks with 10s of millions of subscribers was one hampering factor, as well as the business implications of opening up a network of customers to a competitor, the companies said.

Keeping customers on a closed network creates a captured audience for online advertising and makes it easier to lure subscribers to other services.

Nevertheless, company officials insisted that more open instant messaging has been a longtime desire by Microsoft and Yahoo, which expect the combined network to make their IM services more valuable to each other and customers.

"This is a situation were one and one will equal three," Blake Irving, corporate vice president for Microsoft MSN communication services, said.

Nevertheless, the deal is seen more as a result of a changing market in Internet communications. For one, AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc., is firmly established as the market leader in instant messaging in the United States, which is the world's largest consumer market, with 49.2 million subscribers in August, according to web metrics firm ComScore Networks. MSN was second with 24.4 million and Yahoo third with 22 million.

In addition, online auctioneer EBay has agreed to acquire Internet telephony vendor Skype Technologies SA for $2.6 billion. Skype's voice over Internet protocol software has been downloaded 163 million times worldwide. EBay competes with Yahoo and Microsoft in online retail.

Google, on the other hand, launched in August its own instant-messaging service Google Talk, which includes PC-to-PC voice calls. As the new kid on the block, Google has a tiny portion of the IM market. Nevertheless, Microsoft has identified Google as a top competitor on the Internet.

"The most important objective for an Internet portal is to make itself attractive to advertisers: the bigger your base of registered users, the bigger is the audience that you can offer to advertisers," John Delaney, analyst for market researcher Ovum, said in a research note. "By combining their IM user bases, MSN and Yahoo ‘raise the bar’ that Google would need to clear to establish dominance as an IM provider, to a very high level."

With all the major web portals offering web mail, Internet telephony and instant messaging, experts also believe they are gradually building a communications platform that could one day seamlessly integrate email, voicemail and IM, making it all accessible through multiple devices.

The heart of such a communications hub would be the contacts directory, experts say. Besides grouping people by their relationship with the IM subscriber, such as a family member, friend or colleague, the directory also establishes whether they are reachable. That could one day be expanded to add how the person wants to be reached, by PC, cellular phone or some other device.

Knowing whether people are available, how to reach them and where they are could one day open up a lucrative advertising market.

Microsoft and Yahoo, however, appear to be taking a cautious approach, since the deal does not go beyond basic services. Also, the deal essentially creates a larger proprietary network, and will not, on its own, lead to an open system, such as email.

"I would not say this is a sign of great openness," Joe Wilcox, analyst for JupiterResearch, said. "It's more like establishing diplomatic relations between two countries, rather than opening borders."

As the market leader, AOL's next move is important. The company has refused to open its IM network in the past, but is also in talks with Microsoft to combine their Internet operations, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Assuming there may have been, or may be, talks between AOL and Microsoft, the timing of the (Yahoo-Microsoft) announcement may have been intentional to influence those presumed discussions," Wilcox said. "AOL has to decide does it want to work with the Microsoft camp, go its own way or form a strategic alliance with someone else."

AOL did not return calls for comment.

Customers of Yahoo and Microsoft are expected to be able to sign in with one user ID and password for either network, and automatically have access to subscribers of both companies. The combined service is expected to use session initiation protocol, or SIP, a protocol for real-time communications.

Security on the larger network, however, is expected to be more problematic, since the two companies would not have the same level of control as with their own networks, Jon Sakoda, chief technology officer for IM security firm IMlogic, said. With the combined networks, virus writers will have an easier path in reaching more people.

"These are real-time communication networks that are on disparate technology standards," Sakoda said. "There are some significant challenges."

About the Author: By Antone Gonsalves, TechWeb News
Copyright © - 2005 Entireweb

=============================================
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