Sometime in the last few days, my hit counter surpassed 100,000 visit to this blog. Like your dad in the family station wagon counting the odometer, I'm very excited to be at this historic number. I created the blog in April 2006 but I only added a counter in September of last year, days before I came home from Iraq. Blue Man was the first person to link to me before my quote and URL appeared in the LA Times and Associated Press stories, making him fan #1. My parents have always been the most supportive readers from the start, along with my wonderful girlfriend Lauren.
I'm often asked why I started the blog in the first place. If you go back to the very beginning, you'll see writing that's rough around the edges with heavy doses of sarcasm. I had neither point nor purpose back then, only hoping to showcase the maddening Army lifestyle and the mundane day to day tasks that we were handed. It was frank as it was anonymous, and only my roommate knew of its existence. We had used the term 'Army of Dude' to describe a new military: free of the cover your ass ideals that our superiors used. We didn't want to screw each other for the next promotion and we didn't want to play politics. We wanted to do our time together. We didn't want to stay in for thirty years and continue the vicious cycle in place where seniority meant more than reason and teamwork. We wore our hair long and our sideburns flared. We called each other dude, and we used that word as a reaction to happiness, sadness, surprise and apprehension.
The purpose of my blog quickly changed once I got to Iraq and realized what could be done with it. In one of my first combat stories written, I described an attack that left a couple of houses destroyed. I couldn't believe my eyes, but I'd quickly see more of the same in the following months in Baghdad, and later in Baqubah. Writing became a way for me to describe what we were seeing and doing to not only my family and friends, but those following the lives of everyone I was in Iraq with. Not everyone wanted to write about what was going on and instead passed my blog on to spare themselves from doing it. Through writing, pictures and video, I connected people to our shared experiences and inner reflections not seen on CNN or in the halls of the Senate. The internet, it seemed, was the only way for it to get out.
I hadn't signed my name on here until after our combat operations ceased and the cat was out of the proverbial bag. My blog had gotten around the family group back home and soon everyone was either reading it or knew about it. I was stupid and didn't tread any more carefully after that, and I continued to write like I had never been found out.
Discipline never came. I continued my stories and my thoughts about the war and how it was being handled. When my blog was quoted in a story that appeared in the Sept. 11 edition of the Stars and Stripes, my first sergeant called me over while we were refueling in Ireland, hours from being home. With a red face he said, "I heard your fricken web site was quoted in page two of the paper. I replied, "No, first sergeant. It was page six."
Here are some choice entries from my nearly two years of writing:
Stupid Shit of The Deployment Awards - This helped put me on the map. The nominees were written out beforehand and voted on by my platoon by which event was the stupidest moment of the whole deployment.
Congress - My reaction to going back to Iraq after R&R and realizing, hey, we have five months left instead of two.
A Very Special Edition of AoD - A photo story spanning three years.
Somnium - A story written in an alternate reality where we came home on time and I met my current girlfriend, Lauren. She's a self described daydreamer and lover of poetry. "A dream within a dream," a line from an Edgar Allen Poe poem, spirals around her arm in a jet black tattoo. The word Somnium is etched onto her ankle, sprouting wings in flight, carrying the Latin phrase meaning 'to daydream' high and away.
I've met incredible people (and drawn considerable criticism) because of my blog, and I'm more than satisfied at the results. It has helped me craft and hone my writing, and I hope to turn that into a career in the future. I've started to write a book, making it the 10,000th war memoir to be written within the last few years.
Thanks for keeping up with me, dear readers. It's been a blast. I hope you'll be with me at the 200,000 mark.