Friday, October 12, 2007

Coming Home, Part Two

Lauren told me recently, "you're the most sentimental person I know." If you're one of the faithful few that have read my blog in its entirety, you're most likely to agree with her. I'm a sucker for milestones. I wrote about how it felt to be exactly one year away from getting out of the Army, and a fictitious account about coming home the day we were scheduled to, before being extended three months. A week after we returned on September 12, I described what it was like to be back. You can find it three entries below this one, under the Rush Limbaugh hootenanny.

Now it has been a month since I've returned to the states, but this week I've come back to my actual home. At some point in Baqubah I developed a hernia and waited until I made it back to Ft. Lewis to have it properly diagnosed and treated. I went into surgery last week and am recovering just fine. It still hurts to laugh (which is bad news for someone who giggles at their own jokes.) They gave me two weeks for recovery and I decided to take that in my hometown. Far away from a military base, the question arises with ferocious intensity: what does it feel like to be back? My usual short answer is, "it's nice to have a warm bed again." But that's not quite how it is. It almost feels like it gets harder, not easier.

Last week I was invited to a dinner hosted by Lauren's mother. Joining us would be Lauren's sister, her cousin who I had already met, another cousin I hadn't, and her fiancé. I retained my 'quiet with a few clever puns' persona and as such, didn't contribute much to the conversation. It felt like I had nothing of relevance to say about the topics that came up. My grasp of news and politics was more than a year old; only the biggest stories made their way across the ocean. By taking part in the biggest thing happening in our culture, I sacrificed being in the culture itself. I refused to be that guy who starts off every sentence with "this one time in Iraq..." But my options are slim. I could recall stories of my trip to Europe in April, but then it would be, "Dude, this one time in Amsterdam." There's only so many times you can regale people with stories about aggressive transvestite prostitutes.

With my Texan accent sticking out like a Dutch hooker's crotch, it was only a matter of time before Lauren's cousin asked where I was from. I told her I had lived in north Texas most of my life and went back to poking around the sausage in my spaghetti. Lauren's mother then gave an updated biography, saying I had just gotten back from Iraq and that I chronicled my deployment in a blog (wink!). After she asked what I wrote about, I launched into a tirade about applying personal experiences of the war to the larger aspect that isn't in the mainstream media. I must've looked silly, talking with urgency and saying more words in one minute than the whole evening prior. I realized the conundrum I was in. The subject I didn't want to come up was the only one I can apply myself to. An elephant in the room that only I could see.

After a month I'm still not quite comfortable with being in small, crowded and loud places like bars. My senses are more refined now. I'm a more attentive driver and I can see and hear things a lot differently. A club with a thousand different conversations used to be collective noise. Now I hear an endless amount of distinct voices and every note coming from the DJ. I'm agitated by people coming too close or brushing up against me like never before. I don't jump, twitch or moan when I hear an expected loud noise. You know the feeling you get when you narrowly avoid a car crash? That's what I get. I'm perfectly fine at first glance, but the blood drains from my face and my scalp tingles. I may or may not break into a sweat at this point. I don't recall many dreams while I was in Iraq, but now they flood my subconscious. In one I'm riding in a bus and hanging out the window. Another bus in the opposite lane passes by, and Jesse Williams is waving to me from inside. I wave back. Another has me on a routine patrol when I find half a body on the side of the road. It's Chevy. His face is twisted but recognizable. His lower half is gone, despite his body being intact when he died.

Despite the hardships we face alone, I feel incredibly lucky to have my family and friends here for me, who understand the best they can. It was fitting I started this entry with Lauren, wise and empathetic beyond her years. A month with these challenges seems minuscule when compared to the month of joy I shared with her.

For everyone else, the nature of this war prevents the public from a full grasp of understanding. In the wars of past generations, soldiers volunteered or were drafted by the millions. In the case of World War II, families endured rations and donated to the war effort. Almost every single American contributed to victory. In the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the war is squeezed into a half hour of prime time television. In WWII, in Korea, in Vietnam, we were a country at war. Now we're a military at war, with less than 1% of the population in uniform. Unless you have a friend or family member in the military, it's a separate reality. In airports and in living rooms, you can see for yourself the effect in the eyes of a soldier at war for fifteen months at a time, hidden behind a smile that conceals a secret: you'll never quite understand what we did there.

Like Atlas, we carry the immense burden of the country on our shoulders, waiting for the day seemingly long into the future when the American people say, that will do.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rushing Deeper Into The Hole

Well this Rush Limbaugh controversy certainly stayed around longer than I thought, even getting bigger as time goes on. Vote Vets, the group of anti-Iraq War veterans that help get former soldiers elected into office, put up a new ad that will be airing on CNN and Fox News tomorrow and Thursday:

After watching that, check out the details about the video from Brandon Friedman, vice chairman of

We learn that the man in the ad was wounded in a suicide bomber attack while convoying in Mosul in 2003 and suffered traumatic brain injury as well as shrapnel to the head. As you can imagine, he has since become a vocal critic of the Iraq war.

Of course Rush got wind of this ad (a radio version will run during his show in some areas!) and had this to say about it:

"This is such a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said and then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media and a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into. This man will always be a hero to this country with everyone. Whoever pumped him full of these lies about what I said and embarrassed him with this ad has betrayed him, they aren't hurting me they are betraying this soldier."

People have been writing in en masse to tell me how I got the story wrong, and Rush supports the troops and so on. But this is what he has been accused of the whole time: holding veterans in superhero regard if they support the war to appeal to the patriotic senses of his listeners while simultaneously putting down dissenting soldiers, to appeal to the angry, resentful senses of his listeners. In 2005 when anti war veteran Paul Hackett ran for the Ohio Senate, Rush called him a military "staff puke," saying he volunteered for Iraq simply to pad his resumé so he could run as a war veteran. A liberal hiding behind a military uniform! I'm sure if he was a pro-war, pro-Bush candidate, the praises would never stop. This strengthens the latest debate on his phony soldier remark last week. Rush's reactionaries and defenders have been telling me the liberal media (namely Media Matters) has taken his 'phony soldier' quote out of context in a smear campaign designed to make Limbaugh appear to be against any soldier against war policy. The article goes on:

The problem with the exchange, say critics, is that Limbaugh refers to multiple "soldiers." He gets to a conversation about Macbeth about two minutes after referring to "phony soldiers." In subsequent radio shows, Limbaugh attempted to clarify his position, but muddied the waters by editing out a portion of it, prompting outrage from the liberal media watchdog Media Matters, which has been driving this latest controversy.

Now where did this reporting come from? Daily Kos? The New Republic? Why, none other than Fox News, the last refuge of information for the Rush elitists. How's that for bias?

Apparently Rush has no shame left, comparing Brian McGough to a suicide bomber on behalf of liberal jihadists. I am surprised, however, that he acknowledged someone who was phony in the first place. Thanks for your service, but you obviously have no independent thought Brian. You parrot leftist views while Petraeus, representing the political arm of the military, gives no BS assessments without ulterior motives to pad his resumé.

Now you know how Rush stands, here are some letters from his fans:

How does the old saying go:
Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.
Do your homework or pass on the subject. Simple, eh?
Now go kill an Iranian for me.

If Rush and people like you put their money where their mouths are, you could kill plenty yourself and we would have no problem with troop levels in Iraq.

You are such a phony. Oh, the things you can do with Photoshop these days. You can even make a sniveling, liberal hippy peaceniks look like soldiers on the front lines. Good try, but your mom accidentally stepped out from behind the garage in one of the shots.
--Anonymous Douche

It's almost like this guy is accusing me of being....false? Bogus? Quick, what's another five letter word for a fake?

Unfortunately you should have listen or read the transcripts instead of believing second hand accounts and rushing to conclusion soldier. He is the biggest supporter of the military and family members and just a little bit of research would have revealed that. Semper Fi

Unless you're an Iraq war vet running for the Senate! Then Rush calls you names. Again, thanks for your service Paul Hackett! Shitheel!

Read the comments yourself. Some can disagree politely while others are not as good as Rush Limbaugh at hiding contempt for someone who opposes the war.