Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Unnamed Blog

18 November 2007

Don’t know how much of this blog will be up for print. Maybe in a week or two I’ll post it, but I need to evaluate my feelings about it later.

Another volley of mortars yesterday afternoon at 1730. Normally, I set my alarm for about 1815, but I was off today, so I thought I’d sleep in after not getting to bed until after 12 noon.

I heard the “swoosh” overhead as the mortars passed over Dodge South. I remember hearing at least three pass overhead, but there were four impacts. They weren’t too near, but they were close enough to feel the impact and hear the explosion. As soon as I heard the swooshes overhead, I rolled out of bed to the floor and hit the deck. My roomy was still in his half-awake state and was up watching something on his computer. With his headphones on, he didn’t hear the mortars pass overhead, nor did he seem to have heard the impact.

I called his name as I hit the floor and he got out of bed and ran to the window to see if the damage was near! Like a firefly to light. To this day, I’ll never figure that out. I guess that by the time he arrived on site, Victory was taking more rockets than mortars. Rockets normally are sent over in onesies-twosies, so maybe he has always figured that once you hear the impact, it’s done and over with. Mortars however, have always been sent in groups of three to five. We old folks that have been here awhile are still in practice of “duck and cover.” Stay on the floor and count to sixty to make sure nothing more is falling out of the sky. The lower to the ground you are, the more likely any shrapnel spray will pass over you.

One of the mortars landed outside of the one chow hall. Put a small hole in the road and chipped up the blast barriers some, but otherwise, nothing noteworthy. It’s kind of funny though; they fix the hole and make a nice new square of concrete where the impact was, but no one walks over it or stands on it. Kind of like a gravesite of sorts. Not like you’re stepping on a crack and gonna’ break your mother’s back or anything.

One of my translator friends is leaving to go back home today. Met up with him and some of his other friends out by the coffee shop last night. He and I will stay in touch. He’s just one of those people who you enjoy being around. Although when I got back from my leave, he kind of spooked me. He was a bit unnerving as he was telling me that he was sure that we were going to be hit with mortars or rockets last week. The intensity of his words convinced me that he felt certain of what he spoke. But as it panned out, he was only partially correct. We didn’t get it; Liberty got it; not one, but about three volleys of mortar rounds.

It was after this that I realized that he actually needs to go back home…now. He needs decompression time and time to put his thoughts together. I think everyone here at some point reaches that boil-over point. I’ve been fortunate since I’ve had my time between contracts and then the medical leave to clear the mind and settle back into “real life” at home for an extended period of time before coming back for more abuse.

Speaking of which, PTSD seems to be on everyone’s lips around here lately. I think that is actually a good thing...the acknowledgement by the medical/military community, not PTSD itself! At least now like no other time in history, the military may be finally realizing the side-effects and end-effects of combat to include the emotional combat inside soldier and civilian heads that takes place in this type of situation. I’ll admit that I even had my bout with something or another after that trip in January coming home when the C130 was nearly shot down. Maybe it was the Vicodin afterwards! Things that make you go, “hmmmm.”

Another incident that made me think about PTSD was when I was on my way back two weeks ago. I’m sitting in one of the laundry trailers at Ali As Salem, Kuwait (waiting for my visa/passport to come back so that I could manifest for my return trip to Baghdad) and after me walked in a few soldiers who also had laundry to do. Two guys and two girls none of them above the age of 22 were on their way home. Their different Guard units had completed their time in Iraq north of here.

I was mostly a bystander in their conversations, but their stories were really captivating. All I can still think of is how sad it is that these youngsters (boy, am I dating myself now!! But I’m old enough to be their, um, Uncle. Yeah, that’s it, their Uncle!) should have had to experience all the death, blood and gore that they saw in that long long year they were in Fallujah, Samara, and other surrounding places. While all their friends back home tell of stories of parties and their love lives gone bad, these kids tell of the guys whose innards and brains they saw splattered in the streets after they tried to set up an IED for them…but failed. Or the death and bloodshed of their fellow soldiers. All this and more at the ripe old age of 21.

To hear all four of them openly discuss that they were afraid to turn their backs on nearly all of the IP’s and IA (Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army) with a few exceptions, because these boneheads would just as soon sell out their American soldier friends to the highest bidder as fight with them. One minute they are IP or IA, the next minute they are local sympathizers selling out the US Army. The one female openly admitted that she’d of just as soon slit this one guy’s throat as to turn her back on him. She didn’t fear him and she certainly didn’t trust him to watch her back.

Are these the kinds of stories that we want to hear from our sons, daughters, nephews and nieces? Stories that they lament about among themselves; stories of other soldiers whose benevolent acts and conscientious actions resulted in their deaths at the hands of sell-out IP’s. To have acted otherwise would have resulted in their court martial. It sucks ass that these kids are forced into such life-impacting situations and our government crucifies them when they do the right thing for the safety of the unit. But then when they play and follow the rules, the government rewards them posthumously for having passively let their guard down only to taken advantage of by the turncoat dirty bastards have sold them out for a few dinar.

Honestly starting now (screw the holidays…we don’t get them with our families), we need to stop imbedding journalists and start imbedding Congressmen/women and Senators. And not just for weekend jaunts or snapshot opportunities, but for two or three month stints. If they really want to serve their constituents and they want to keep this little party going, then by God, bring your happy asses over here and really find out why the soldiers need body armor, vehicle armor, supplies, decent meals, decent places to stay, etc. Find out why if you pulled all the civilians out right now, this occupation would be a disaster.

After speaking with a number of Iraqi/Americans here, the Iraqi’s biggest horror show brought to reality, is that the Americans are in fact, another occupying force as totalitarian as the British forces were in the early 1900’s. You at home say no-way, but take into consideration a couple of things. As I’m hearing it, one of the major reservations of the Iraq government is that the US government demands the new Iraq government basically sign over land ownership of drill locations along with high percentages of oil contracts and revenues to American companies.

After their memories of the former British conquerors/occupiers of the early 1900’s, they aren’t too eager to repeat history. They are considering American demands as a sort of capitulation and our extended stay as an American occupation. In their minds, this huge influx of our U.S. Civilian Corps is so similar to the Brit Occupation, how can they not be skeptical of our intentions? Ahhh, I hear you say as you finally understand. It IS all about the O-I-L. Bet your bottom Dinar it is! Oil and “What’s in it for me?” Then again, to the winner the spoils. Mr. Bush did declare the war won back in 2004, didn’t he?

You might ask how I can work over here. To that I ask you to remember back when you were in the military. If you’ve never been, it may be a stretch. But, you don’t always agree with your military authorities or their approach, but you honor their orders and put forth the best job that you can. Our soldiers here need us to do our jobs for them so we can both be successful in our missions. That and I like what I do. For me to give any less of myself would not be fair to them. As long as I feel I can make a difference for them, I’ll be here…or at least through next contract.

At some point and time, changes will happen to our military approach here. I may not like the way things are going here sometimes, but I still support the Army because I am patriotic. I know it sounds sappy, but that is just me. I am an American. Maybe this is my way of giving back to society. Yes, there is money involved, but I can certainly name any number of people back home that would not even take double what I make to work here. Fewer people than you think have ANY tolerance for the danger, separation from loved ones or lack of conveniences along with the wherewithal to follow through. So if you want to flip me shit for not being altruistic enough, bring your happy behinds here for a year or three and we’ll talk about it...and not over a beer either!
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