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Healthy Dose of Reality

It’s  common practice these days to dismiss what’s going on in Iraq.  With all of the attention on Afghanistan, the Middle East and the “Arab Spring”, and the nations economy, it kind of seems like the Iraq War has fallen off of the radar.  It certainly isn’t what it was when I was here during the Surge in 2007.  Here I am in Iraq doing my second tour out in the middle of nowhere in the Anbar Province nice and safe on a huge Air Base where there haven’t been any major incidents in quite some time.  It’s so easy for us to come here in this type of setting and become complacent to what’s going on around us in other parts of the country.

I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of it too.  We came here for this mission to help “shut ‘er down.”  It’s gonna be a simple mission with no serious dangers in our way.  It was going to be too easy. 

Just the other day I had a nice dose of harsh reality and it had a major impact on me for some reason.  Mainly because I thought we were in this fake “bubble” where nothing was going on.  As I was sitting at work the other day, I opened an attachment in my email that, among other things, contained a few significant activities (SIGACTS) in another part of Iraq that we will eventually be heading to.  It said that an IED hit a convoy and hit the gunners turret.  The gunner was KIA.

That right there stopped me in my tracks.

Now, before I go any further, all of you barracks lawyers and military spouses that think you know everything there is to know about how the military is supposed to work regarding operational security (OPSEC), you can all calm down.  This particular event happened more than a week ago and I’m sure that soldier’s family has already been notified and that route has been cleard by route clearance teams.  So shut the fuck up.

Here I am, all nice and cozy in my office digs in a supporting role to…..well….whoever it is that we support.  I read that a soldier has died from an IED strike and the sadness and remorse hit me like a train.  I felt guilty for thinking that we are here on a mission with no dangers.  All of that was in the past.  All of the insurgents were supposed to be in Afghanistan.  I guess it’s a reflection of what the focus is from the top down.  The President doesn’t care about what happens here.  He’s got priorities elsewhere.  The media is bored with Iraq so they don’t cover the things we do here now.  And our leaders didn’t prepare us and remind us for what we are dealing with over here.

As I read that SIGACT, images flashed through my head.  I wondered what his name was.  I pictured what he was doing before his mission.  Was he smokin’ and jokin’ with his buddies?  Did he just get off the phone with his wife or parents?  Is he even married?  Did he have kids?  Then I thought about his wife if he had one.  I saw the uniformed men walking up to her door and the disbelief in her eyes.  A family’s life is now forever changed.

I know it’s happened before and it will happen again.  It’s the price we have to pay for freedom.  But the mindset of the soldiers in my immediate vicinity (myself included) all think that this is just another training exercise far, far away from home.  I’ve been thinking about him ever since.  Wondering what his name was, feeling empathy for his unit and his buddies, and coming to terms with my own mortality; almost disgusted at how some of the people I live/work with are complaining about the stupidest things. 

So as we’re over here, some of us working 9-5 jobs with daily trips to the PX, and others facing the real dangers of war every day, don’t forget about us.  We’re still fighting a very dangerous enemy and we still have a lot of work to do.  Please keep that soldier who died and every other soldier that is here and in Afghanistan in your thoughts and prayers.

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