Thursday, September 11, 2008

365: A Guide To Coming Back

It was appropriate that my journey to Iraq ended like it began - on September 11. Six years earlier (September 2001) as a sophomore in high school, I had already made up my mind about joining the Army. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon simply sealed the deal. I didn't discuss what kind of job I wanted with my recruiter or the dude that signed my papers. I wanted to go infantry. I wanted to put a bullet in the heart of any Taliban that crossed my path. I wanted them to pay dearly with their lives.

As fate would have it, I wasn't bound for the mountains of Afghanistan but the septic waste strewn cities of Iraq. I don't regret for one second my experiences there, both of triumph and tragedy. My battalion led the way in perhaps the most daring offensive of the whole war to capture al-Qaeda in Iraq's self proclaimed capital of Baqubah. The men I had the utmost pleasure to serve with will be my closest friends until the day I die. It's all downhill from here; I'll never make new friends that are on the same level of the men I shared life, love and loss with during our fifteen month combat deployment.

This Friday marks one year since the bulk of my battalion landed outside of Tacoma, Washington. I wasn't fully prepared to have clean air infiltrate my lungs as as we departed the plane after nearly 24 hours of flying. Though nearly half of my fellow soldiers had one tour under their belts, it was difficult to anticipate how we would deal with coming home. With that said, I hope to be of assistance to those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan by dishing out a bit of advice based on my experience of redeploying, getting out of the Army, finding a job and starting school.


Sensory Overload

-You'll notice right way that your senses are in overdrive, from hearing and vision to motor functions. As a result of keeping alert and constantly scanning, everything will be felt in high contrast. To test this, go to a club with loud rap music where everything used to be one loud noise. This time, you will hear several individual conversations and every note in Low by Flo Rida, which in this case isn't exactly a good thing.

-Loud noises are going to happen, and at first, you're going to either A: jump or B: pretend not to react. I opt for option B, which is useful working in a warehouse with other dudes. Any unexpected loud noise still drains the blood from my face. This will never go away. It will only be less frequent. Learn to deal with this new aspect of your life.

-When you get into a car for the first time, try to be in the passenger seat. I rode in a windowless Stryker for over a year, losing my concept of speed and distance after never going faster than 45 miles an hour. The first time I got on a highway, it felt like I was going down a runway in a fucking space shuttle.

-You're likely well aware of that rifle or pistol that you've been toting around for a year or more. You'll be glad to get rid of it, but you might wake up in the middle of the night and feel around for a weapon that isn't there. Luckily, this will go away.

The Public

-Dealing with the uninformed and apathetic public will be a frustrating ordeal if you trend left, right or middle. When I joined the Army in 2004, people were still in 'support the troops' mode, however superficial that support was. Just a few months after I came home, only 28% of the public could correctly identify the number of American soldier deaths in Iraq by rounding to the nearest THOUSAND. If you spent the last year fighting for your life in a place other than Baghdad, don't expect anyone to know where you were. As a bonus dose of ignorance, some might ask if you were deployed to Iran, like my first boss out of the military asked. Worse, if you were in Afghanistan, you might get the question, "we're still there?" To this day, I've only met only one civilian outside the news and political world that knew where Baqubah was. He was in his twenties, high as a kite and lived in Bellingham, Washington, a city so liberal that it makes Castro Street look like a Huckabee family reunion by comparison.

-After spending your career stateside preparing for combat, going over for the big show and returning home again, you might find it peculiar to see little or no indication there are two wars happening this very second. People are talking about high gas prices, the presidential election and who got eliminated on Project Runway (last week it was that douchey old lady, thankfully). Whether you get out of the military after your deployment or decide to stay in, the men and women that served by your side will be the only people you can comfortably discuss your experiences with. In my communications class, I can't bring myself to mention my time in Iraq when it's pertinent to the discussion because I simply feel out of place among the other students. Talking to my Army buddies, I feel fine asking, "remember when that guy on the motorcycle caught on fire and mother-fuckin' exploded?"

-While dodging sniper fire outside Sadr City, you might have missed the hoopla over the new GI Bill, the most important pro-veteran bill passed since, well, the original one in 1944. Of the two presidential candidates, only one of them voted for it, and his name rhymes with 'diorama.' Keep that in your back pocket.

Going Back

No matter your thoughts on the war and the military, you will want to go back. You will crave the adrenaline rush of a firefight and the intertwining smell of gunpowder and rotting trash under the desert sun. Compared to the civilian world, deployed life is resoundingly simple. You're not concerned with car payments, traffic, American Idol or getting your hair to do that flippy thing. In combat, you're looking to avoid your ass getting shot. You aren't worried about how many carbs you're eating but that you're eating more than once a day. Fuck Miller Lite and Jagerbombs when you're dropping iodine tablets in Iraqi water to make it safe to drink. It's wake, eat, patrol, kill, sleep. Over and over. When you get the bill for textbooks in your first semester and add it to your other costs, you'll realize how simple life used to be. And you'll crave it again. Everyone does whether they admit it or not. We were there not only making history, but writing it. Back in the states, you're another face in the crowd, paying taxes like every other sucker. Take away our guns and we're nothing. Not a damn thing.

On the flipside, life is sweeter coming out the other side. I'm still amazed to drive down the road, pick up groceries and arrive back safely. The satisfaction of a completed deployment will not lift any time soon. We have earned through blood and sweat a fresh, shrewd perspective on the world that many in our country are not afforded. It might not be apparent yet, but a whole lifetime of experience is crammed into a deployment. You have a different way of looking at things when you realize it was you at the other end of the sniper's scope. Life will forever be different, for better and for worse. But you certainly will enjoy it a hell of a lot more.

AH

For those who have deployed in any war or know someone who has, please feel free to leave a comment with your own advice on coming back home. Below are some resources for those coming back from a deployment and/or getting out of the military.

PTSD Resources
IRR Information
Veteran's Administration
GI Bill Information
USA Cares - Financial Assistance for Servicemembers

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I used to wake up in the middle of the night from a mortar exploding really close to me. I'd wake up, realize where I was and go back to sleep. Still hated those dreams. they lasted until 2006. I was over there for the first iteration, OIF-1.

Patrick Britton said...

I am not military myself but my wife was. I've heard a lot about deployment but it's never been discussed like this. I can't imagine how it was for you over there. I'd be stupid to act like I did. I suppose it is one of those deals that only those that went through it can really understand.

What a trip though huh? It speaks to your character that you would go back even though it was so tough. That to me is what a soldier is.

Great article.

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/11/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Queen of the Universe said...

Thanks so much for putting this up. I sent it to friends that can use it. You do great work here, keep it up.

Jeff said...

Let me chime in with a parent's perspective on having a child deployed and then returning home from a combat tour in one of the worst places on earth.

When Alex left Kuwait City for Mosul, things were pretty quiet and his dispatches reflected that. I kind of looked at it as a bit of an adventure for him, as it looked like they weren't going to get into anything really hairy. But soon he was moved to Baghdad just before Christmas and that's when I started getting jumpy.

I was already buying and reading every book that came out about the Marines and soldiers' experiences on the ground, mostly in Iraq and a few on Afghanistan. I linked to numerous websites and had e-mail alerts set up with keywords "Mosul", "Baghdad," "Strykers,", "5/20", etc. I just couldn't get enough information about what was going on. Every morning when I hit my office I would bring up my e-mail, hoping that Alex would have had enough time during my nighttime to dash off some news. In kind of a perverse way, I felt quite excited and alive and engaged in the whole affair, watching events from afar but able to keep in pretty close contact with Alex through e-mails, Army of Dude postings and even the occasional phone call. When Alex would mention that he would be offline for a few days as they went out on one mission or another, I got a little nervous but I had a great deal of confidence in his training, skill level and the ability of his fellow soldiers to take care of each other. I just kept checking my e-mail until he came back and dropped a quick note of news. Then I would breathe a big sigh of relief.

When Alex moved on from Baghdad to Baqubah, it got bad in a hurry. First he lost his good friend Spec. Brian Chevalier, then his former team leader, Sgt. Jesse Williams. I had been praying pretty often before, but after that I really stepped it up. Morning, noon, and night I asked God to watch over Alex and his buddies, to keep all of them safe and to send them home whole and intact. Every night when I went to bed, I prayed that my doorbell wouldn't ring at 5:30 in the morning.

As spring wound into summer and the surge got going hot and heavy, I was pretty calm when I would have thought that I'd be frantic. I just had a feeling that it would all turn out well for Alex, that he'd soon be on his way home to his mother, his sweetheart Lauren, his sister and me. (Readers, go back into the AOD archives and find Alex's short story, "Somnium." You'll be glad you did).

A year ago tomorrow, September 12th, it was all over as Alex finally returned to Ft. Lewis. It was the second greatest feeling of my life to hug him tight, only behind the time I first held him minutes after he was born.

Then a strange thing happened to me. I suddenly lost almost all of my interest in the war. I shut off all of my e-mail alerts and stopped looking at all the war-related websites. It was if when my son, my personal stake in the war, came home safe, it was all wrapped up for me. I still read the news today, but with nothing like the intensity I had had up until the point at which Alex came home.

So to give parents some of my thoughts in the vein that Alex has just written, give your child some space and let them decompress. We left Seattle the day after his return, as we knew he needed some time to readjust to life in the world. We would see him soon enough for the holidays and after. I had eyeballed him pretty closely upon his return, looking for any overt signs of change and didn't really see any. At least on the outside, in a physical sense. But I knew from my extensive reading that the things he saw and did would forever mark him as different from the rest of us, in ways that not even I as his father could ever fully grasp. So, parents, accept the fact that even though your child is back, they are not the same person who you saw get on the plane to go to war. Hopefully they will not be greatly different afterwards. Be thankful above all that they have returned alive and in most cases, without physical injury. (I won't attempt to speak to those whose child has suffered a traumatic injury to mind or body or both. I'm totally unqualified for that).

Don't ask a lot of questions. When they want to talk, it will come tumbling out until they've had their say. But expect them to be mostly quiet about what happened over there. It's kind of a sad thing to have a very significant part of your child's life mostly walled off from you as a caring and loving parent. But that's part of what we as parents have to give up just as our children have given up something precious out of their own lives. They'll carry the secret with them for the rest of their days, a secret known only and to be shared only with their fellow soldiers.

Alex's Dad

Carla said...

Alex:

Excellent work, as ever, in this and the Sept.1 blog. Somehow you reach both the intellect and the emotion in your writing.


AZ-NM fan

Anonymous said...

Article was an excellent read.


I got out, back in 97, so i can't say anything i did was anything recent. But this much i remember

- coming back to the states, to me was surreal. My sense of what was reality was more or less screwed up. For the longest time, i felt like i was dreaming i was home. I always felt that and one day i'd wake up, and be back on a cot, in a GP medium tent, smelling that musty conconction that only diesal fumes, canvas, mixed with the local area can eminate. I guess i couldn't believe that for me, things were over. Thankfully, this fades in time.

- I resented everyone around me. Going back to school was hard. I resented everyone for being so ignorant, for being totally absorbed in their own little sphere, without any clue or thought about whats happening elsewhere. I felt distant, detached, and pretty much like a foreigner in my own country. This fades in time.

- Everyone is full of stupid fucking questions. It's odd, but even the simplist questions about where you were, and what you did, seemed stupid I didnt feel like talking about anything. I still haven't told my family all that much to this day. Every now and then someone might say something that pulls the proverbial finger out of the dam, but this doesnt happen very often.

- It's odd, but your uniform is like a 2nd skin to you. You don't really realize it until you come to terms that you'll never wear it again. After awhile, all the hats, wallpaper, and other misc crap you might end up putting on your wall.. seem like momento's from a totally different person. After a few years, everything will feel like some bad dream, and sometimes you might ask yourself, Was i really there? Did that really happen? You know you were and it did, but over time, things become distant.

- That said, if you catch up with an old buddy, what was years ago will flood back to you like it was yesterday. Its downright scary, but at the same time, its awesome to catch up with someone you deployed with. There's a bond there. Don't be surpised if you both end up saying, "I'll catch you later man", and never do. Theres a self defense mechaism you build up. You don't dwell, you dont say goodbye, you just move on.

- Theres a sad, and harsh realization to face, that i know was true for me. Nothing i did, matters to anyone but to those i served with. It's a really hard thing to deal with when you think of all the suffering and sacrifice you and your buddies endured. None of it *really* matters to anyone - except the people who were there with you.

- Flag wavers *may* make you sick to your stomach. I love my country, i have 8 years TIS that proves that, but those flag waving SOB's make me sick. As do folks who are a bit "hawkish". Mainly becaues i don't see them doing anything except wave the flag around like a cheerleaders Pom pom.
Walk the talk, or shut up.

- You may feel the need for closure. I know i felt this for awhile. Its hard to deal with as well. This takes time and some soul searching. I've always liked this poem, it helped me. (sorry if im getting soft on ya here):
http://www.warlinks.com/pages/teepoem.html

Theres alot more i could say.. most of it passes in time though. But your service, what you did, it stays with you every day. You may not always be concious of it, but its there. I gotta get back to work now (i dwell in a nice safe office cube these days). I hope some of this is of help to anyone.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant writing as usual Alex....and Dad, you too.

I've also learned not to share or inquire about any stories and press releases regarding the area or unit my son is in. I usually get frustrated responses like "I don't care, I'm living it. Don't believe everything you read".

When my son came home for mid-tour leave, I already noticed a change. I can't imagine what it will be like next year.

dickc said...

Nice post.

I went to a 82nd association meet last year and met some old friends and some WW2 guys that I befriended. We talked about friends, before and after. One guy, Jimmy, said even after many years went by he never made a good friend after the war. He had pals he would hang out with but never the same feelings he had for the guys in that room. I fear the same may be true for me and my little bro.

Anonymous said...

Freakin' get over yourselves. You volunteered for that shit. Yeah we respect you, but we didn't vote to send you. Some rich asshole(s) who never sweats or gets off his lazy ass did. We may be ignorant of your specific missions, but look what kind of coverage we get here -- nada, jack. We have to read between the lines to find the truth. That's why we like this blog, because we can count on it being real.

Hey, be proud, love your brothers in arms. That's your inheritance. But don't whine about how nobody cares when you get back. After 'Nam, people spit on soldiers. Now at least you get some respect.

You miss the adrenalin? Enough to go back? You're not stupid. Making it through the gauntlet was the shared misery that borne your brotherhood. If you want that special feeling again, take up flying. Now that's a life or death endeavor that'll wake you up. Or, if you're a total junkie, skydive. Or, maybe you just like to kill and blow shit up. But if that's your thing, you've already re-upped.

So welcome home. You're special, but millions of men have done what you've done, so don't get cocky.

Anonymous said...

Based on a few decades working with people, military and civilian, experiencing PTSD, my comment is that the 9.11 article touches on a dimension of reality huge numbers of people pass by, oblivious to what the world is about.

There are some experiences, including war, that shatter forever the myth that the world is a safe place, or that good, decent people are running it.

It's not, and we don't, yet.

Disneyland, TV sitcomes and honey-dripping movies, laughingly designated "reality" shows, politicians lies, and on and on, portray a world that doesn't exist.

The real world is dangerous, lethal, and for billions of people all over the world, a desperate horror that never ends.

Terrible things happen to good people and bad people alike, and there are as many miserable endings as happy ones.

When troops see war, that reality is both unforgettable, and immediately seperates the veteran from the clueless still living their fantasies .

Much of what gets called PTSD is simply labeling with a medical term the way someone looks at the world and sees it for what it really is about, and feels lonely, because friends, family, etc. have literally no idea.

And this creates a huge gap between people who see, and those that are still oblivious.

Some years ago a New York Magazine writer brought together some people who had been in the World Trade Center 9/11/01 and lived. They had never met before.

One told the reporter that as soon as they came into the room, "We knew each other, even through we never met before." They opened up and agreed with each other how each felt miles closer to the other survivors in the room they had just met than they felt with any of their friends or closet family members, including wives, husband, parents, whatever.

They knew what the world was. And felt alone without others close to them who also understood.

People who have been to war have open eyes, and that is normal, not a mental illness, as so often assumed. Wishing to find and be with others who also see things as they are is healthy, reasonable, and a useful survival skill.

AH writes: "It's all downhill from here; I'll never make new friends that are on the same level of the men I shared life, love and loss with during our fifteen month combat deployment."

Treasure the brothers and sisters who have that bond. They can be a lifeline in the rough times.

Respect,

Thomas F Barton
New York City

Anonymous said...

[Spelling fuck ups corrected.]


Based on a few decades working with people, military and civilian, experiencing PTSD, my comment is that the 9.11 article touches on a dimension of reality huge numbers of people pass by, oblivious to what the world is about.

There are some experiences, including war, that shatter forever the myth that the world is a safe place, or that good, decent people are running it.

It's not, and we don't, yet.

Disneyland, TV sitcomes and honey-dripping movies, laughingly designated "reality" shows, politicians’ lies, and on and on, portray a world that doesn't exist.

The real world is dangerous, lethal, and for billions of people all over the world, a desperate horror that never ends.

Terrible things happen to good people and bad people alike, and there are as many miserable endings as happy ones.

When troops see war, that reality is both unforgettable, and immediately seperates the veteran from the clueless still living their fantasies.

Much of what gets called PTSD is simply labeling with a medical term the way someone looks at the world and sees it for what it really is about, and feels lonely, because friends, family, etc. have literally no idea.

And this creates a huge gap between people who see, and those that are still oblivious.

Some years ago a New York Magazine writer brought together some people who had been in the World Trade Center 9/11/01 and lived. They had never met before.

One told the reporter that as soon as they came into the room, "We knew each other, even through we never met before." They opened up and agreed with each other how each felt miles closer to the other survivors in the room they had just met than they felt with any of their friends or closest family members, including wives, husband, parents, whatever.

They knew what the world was. And felt alone without others close to them who also understood.

People who have been to war have open eyes, and that is normal, not a mental illness, as so often assumed. Wishing to find and be with others who also see things as they are is healthy, reasonable, and a useful survival skill.

AH writes: "It's all downhill from here; I'll never make new friends that are on the same level of the men I shared life, love and loss with during our fifteen month combat deployment."

Treasure the brothers and sisters who have that bond. They can be a lifeline in the rough times.

Respect,

Thomas F Barton
New York City

Rick98C said...

Very much enjoy your blog and recommend it. I served for 23 years and never wound up anywhere as dangerous as Iraq, and yes, part of my dumb ass feels left out and guilty, but I mention that to my woman and she beats some sense into me.

When I was 10 my cousin Eddie came back from Vietnam and he was a totally different person than before he left, and not in a good way. I never found out what exactly he went through over there, but after he got back he drifted around the country, staying with us for a week or two now and then, until one day he blew his brains out. I'm glad you are handling your experiences so well but I don't think you should paint it in such rosy hues. Sure isn't that way for everyone, and the military suicide rate is going ever higher. Hits real close to home.

Dickc said...

"Freakin' get over yourselves. You volunteered for that shit. Yeah we respect you, but we didn't vote to send you. Some rich asshole(s) who never sweats or gets off his lazy ass did. We may be ignorant of your specific missions, but look what kind of coverage we get here -- nada, jack. We have to read between the lines to find the truth. That's why we like this blog, because we can count on it being real."


Spoken like a cherry. Keep reading your blogs and acting like you know what you are talking about. Don't antagonize me with by saying you respect me then turn right around and tell me to get over my self.

Kevin Hayden said...

Thank you, Alex. For your soldiering. And your storytelling. Your gift for the latter should not be underestimated.

I hope, for the sake of readers everywhere, you make the latter your career.

Anonymous said...

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
I agree Army of Dude has a definte gift for writing, I read this blog for learning more about the war, but it also as I am reading a well written screen play.

Sr. AnonyMouse

bedir than average said...

Don't know how I found your blog, but thank you for your service.

I had the good fortune to serve Active Duty from 94 to 98. I had the good fortune to go to Kuwait for four months in 97. My team and I were in civilian clothes walking down a street and a car backfired, we had to pick ourselves up off the street. That was just due to our training, I can only imagine the reality and then quite in adequetely.

Again, thank you for your time, your service and your blog.

John Barbour said...

Thank you, Dude. And thanks to all our folks who "put it out there" for the rest of us. I often tell folks that our military is like a hammer. If something is done poorly, you take it up with the carpenter. You don't yell at the hammer.

God bless you all, welcome home and Godspeed.

John Barbour

Anonymous said...

Thank you...really enjoy the blog

Anonymous said...

Screw you

Really hate your blog

Anonymous said...

With your comment moderation on, how many people really comment on your blog each month? Only 20 or so? I'll have to agree with anonymous if that's the case; your blog sucks.

www.byroncrawford.com

Alex said...

Byron: Comment moderation is on because of spambots and silly attacks on my girlfriend. 99.9% of submitted comments are accepted, even the "ur blog sux!!!!" kind (see above). You're not the first person to suggest a cover-up, so I don't hold it against you.

Anonymous said...

Doc Brietz here,
I love your blog. I have read almost the whole thing. thanks for opening up my eyes to the issues about vets and which future pres. best supports us.

check this link out and see if it makes any sence:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080919/sc_nm/iraq_lights_dc

this is the news's version of why things happened. what are your thoughts?

Alex said...

Thanks for writing in Doc. While I think that this sheds new light in the ethnic cleansing theory, I don't believe it to be the biggest reason for reducing violence. It certainly is a factor that less Sunnis in Baghdad would cool the tensions there, seeing as they fuel much of the insurgency. But for now, I this exodus of Sunnis pales in comparison to the effect of insurgents switching sides, Sadr's ceasefire and a new strategy of neighborhood containment.

Alex said...

Reposted comment from an anonymous veteran - AH

My son is currently at Fort Knox, KY going through 19D OSUT. I can't believe this is going to be a "war" that had to be passed from one generation to another, though there are many examples already of the same thing with Father/Mother/Brother/Sister/Cousinserving together already.

I feel like I let my son down in some ways, like "Sorry son, your Father wasn't good enough to finish it for you". I also feel like saying "You're NOT sending MY son", but he did what he wanted to do, even though he was offered a huge scholarship at UCLA.

I'd like to rest on my laurels and say I raised a great child (which he is) but I cannot imagine him going through the shit I went through in Iraq, Afghanistan, or wherever it goes next. It took me a bit to readjust when I came back from Iraq and retired, but I had the wherewithall to deal with my own brain; until now when I think about HIM deploying at the age of 18.

It's NOT a "World War" that needs everyone, and that's obvious by the way money is being spent, yet we have no draft.

I hope he does well if deployed, and when dealing with the aftermath of wherever he goes.

Good luck to you and yours Alex. I hope you have a happy and fruitful life!!

I just wanted to vent.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for serving. This is so rarely said to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States.

Thank you for this blog, and your opinions, and your concise and well written thoughts.

Matty said...

When I came back I swore I'd never take McDonald's for granted again. I'd cherish it for the sweet disaster that it is. Of course I also said that after boot-camp. LOL.

And when I went into McDonald's I didn't know how to act or what to think. I felt like a foreigner in my own country. Even though we had to listen to 'reorientation briefings' I was baffled by the people around me. I didn't know if they were asleep or if I wasn't awake, cause nothing seemed normal. What was 'normal' was the simplicity of being deployed - where every answer and action was 5 minutes away.

You get used to it, the ambivalence and lack of awareness that most people have for the world outside of their own.

I still catch myself wigged out by clubs or large groups of people because I try to listen to everything happening around me at once. I can still track six conversations at once, and I still can't enjoy a public arena cause I spend way too much time mapping out the emergency exits and the best way to position myself to leave.

Thanks for another great post Alex.

Nick said...

I'm sorry that you're another face in the crowd.
I, for one, would like you to stand up and fucking scream your stories until we've heard so much that it stupefies us into an uncontrollable speechless gaze.
Thank you for your blood, your sweat, and love. I can only hope that you finally get the recognition you deserve.
One day we'll realize Tyra & Idol & Survivor don't mean a damn thing. And people you don't even know, thousands of miles away, are fighting for us to sit on our couch, eat cheetos, and play call of duty 3 until the sun rises.

I thank you.
And I'm sorry.
You are a true life saver.

Anonymous said...

Hi

I'm not a regular reader, just stumbled on this site.

thank ou. I don't hafe much connection with the military so i don't have much understanding of how people feel after having been through a war. My dad was a WW2 vet but that was different--he had lots and lots of people who also went to that war and lots and lots of people who understaood the experience when he came home.

my cousin came back from Viet nam, went into isolation and didn't speak to his own father for decades.

Anyway thanks.

thersites said...

My combat experience was limited to hiding under my bunk at Danang when the rockets came in, but still I know exactly what you're talking about. Very nice post.

Brandon Friedman said...

The process of coming home after a war is like a space shuttle's re-entry into the atmosphere. And some dudes burn up.

Great piece.

andrew said...

I think we are misinformed and uneducated with what is going on in the Middle East?
Our governments don't want us to know that they are the major news publishers and that they control mainstream media.

The public reads the paper,
Drives to work listening to the radio,
Chats at the water cooler.
Goes home and watches the news.
Talks to their family at dinner,
All about whatever the news stations,
Want to tell us.

Each story has two sides but North America is only told one and it's manipulated.

We pay to work, pension, taxes, union dues, professional development
You are right people are "suckers" paying taxes..but it builds society.

I hope you get the right reimbursement for putting your life on the line for your countrymen.

With all these dwindling resources, regional distinctions, egotistical power struggles and depleting world health, how do we cope...

WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE THERE TO WAR?

raven said...

Late to this dance. As usual you are right on. The only thing I would say it that whether or not it is "all down hill from here" is up to you in many ways. The was WWII Marine named EB Sledge who wrote "With the Old Breed at Pelielu and Tarawa" http://diglib.auburn.edu/collections/ebsledge/

After the war he went to Auburn, majored in Botany and became a professor. The lessons he learned and the friendships he formed under the most horrible of circumstances did not keep him from building a life of meaning. You have a gift, use it.

raven said...

Sorry is was "With The Old Breed At Pelielu and Okinawa.

Catherine said...

My father was in Vietnam for a year when I was a very young child, a radio voice intercept operator and translator.

He's adjusted very well, I think (now is 62 years old and retired, teaching part time, working with wood and stained glass), but I remember odd things when I was a kid.

My brothers and sisters and I didn't want to wake him up from a nap, because he would always wake up so suddenly that it startled us. My mom had to wake him up, and she would talk to him before she shook his shoulder, so he was okay because he heard her voice.

And damp weather made him jumpy, because after a rain it smelled so wet and green that it reminded him of the jungle. (At least that isn't an issue for younger guys.)

And he always jumped at loud noises. In the 1980's he was in a meeting at work in a conference room, and there was a loud bang at another building in the plant. Even before he registered the sound, he was under the conference table while almost everyone else looked around wondering what the noise was. He was joined under the conference table by a Korean war vet, who still had the same reflexes himself.

I asked him once, when I was in junior high and old enough to have some idea of what Vietnam was, what it was like to be in combat.

He said being under fire was absolutely terrifying, with fire coming into the base from the jungle, and noise and confusion and fire from all directions - but an incredible adrenaline rush like nothing else when it was over and you made it through.

I love your writing.

Anonymous said...

WOW - everything you wrote touches a chord. My husband recently came home form his second tour to Iraq with his Second Stryker Unit and this time as a PLT SGT.
He still talks in his sleep, he still flips out if our boys (we have 4) come up suddenly behind him. They can't understand why?? But he can't stand to even go to the mall unless we can sit in the middle of the Food COurt where he can clearly see all "marked" exits. This tour was much worse then the first. We lost soldiers the first go round, but not like this time. Not with him in charge and shouldering the responsabilty. Even to this day he will stop everything and take a call from one of our widows. Even if it means he has to relive every moment of how his friend, his soldier died.
I appluad you for trying to help put this into perspective for civilans.But until the news reporters start to realize that evry day, every hour,every minute, every second of every day their are soldiers risking their lives for us. I really don't feel the public will get the information they need- to understand- that yes My husband did volunteer for this job- yes he said "I will stand up and fight for our nation"- But seriously does it give you the right to walk around and take it all forgranted everyday- like you deserve this protection?? I don't think they will ever understand.

Thank you to all our soldier's serving now and in the past. You will never know how much respect I have for you all. I am proud to raise all 4 of my boys up knowing that because of their dad and other like him- they enjoy all the freedom that one could ever want.


Amanda

Fort Lewis, WA

Anonymous said...

I wasn't sure anyone else felt the way I do, especially about the "going back" thing. I appreciate the posts, please keep it up. It helps.

Kimberly said...

I stumbled onto your blog, and I just needed to say thank you. As a wife of a currently deployed solider [he's stationed out of Ft. Lewis and is currently in Iraq], it just warms my heart [not to sound too cliche] to see blogs like this. Thank you for everything you've done, and while I have no idea where the city is that my husband is located, I still know the sacrifice that he is making for all of us, and I, as many of the soldiers don't know, what happens at home. Sometimes its bad, and what keeps us wives going is knowing that we're what our soliders need and are coming home to. So thank you. For everything.

-Kimberly

(Also, your posts, as well as your dad's comment to this one made me cry. Not in the bad way, so its okay)

MyMilitaryYears said...

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Anonymous said...

The paragraph after "going back" is probably the most poignant, real and effective fucking description I've ever read.

The first thing I thought was that everyone needs to read and know this.

Having felt that desire myself and never spoken to others about it, I'm still trying to understand it on almost a daily basis.

Thank you for putting it into words.