Letters from the Homefront

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Dear citizen,

I need you to do something for me.

Something to help you understand. Come out to Iraq and sit with me in the 110+ weather.

Stand guard duty in the tower protecting your fellow soldiers on the Forward Operating Base that doesn't protect you from rockets and mortar attacks because you can't fire back.

Do all this while wearing 35+ pounds of gear.

Sweat dripping in your eyes, stinging, turning everything hazy so you can't see.

Burning your hands even though you're wearing gloves.

Stand with me at a checkpoint, checking vehicles for illegal contraband. Knowing that every day there is someone that you've searched secretly wanting to kill you.

Go out on a combat patrol and watch as the truck in front of you is blasted with an IED. Soccer ball-size holes in the door that's supposed to protect you.

Then attend 'Roll Call' with me. Listen as Taps is played and the 1st Sergeant calls the dead soldier's name three times. Hear the silence in the room.

Sit with my family around the Christmas Tree and watch my children open their presents. Some marked from Dad, so that they remember that they still have one. Watch them walk for the first time, or graduate high school. Celebrate their birthday with them and then answer their questions when they ask you if I'm ever coming home. Hoping that they won't ask you if I'm dead.

Sleep in my room and watch me wake up. Not remembering any dreams, for the last three years. The only ones being nightmares that leave me shaken, that quickly fade with the morning.

Stand with me while I try to reintegrate into a marriage that's lasted six years, for which I've only physically been with my spouse for three of them. Get to know her all over again. Hoping that this time she's not going to say that it's over. That you haven't been there for her or the kids. She can't take it anymore. She needs someone more stable.

Fly with me home when my deployment is over only to find out that I'll be deployed within three to eighteen months back to the same country for my third time. Then explain to me why I can't get out because the new unit I'm going to is deploying and my enlistment is up one month into their deployment.

Explain to me about stop loss and how it's going to extend my military obligation involuntarily for another 14 months. Tell me why my recruiter never told me about that.

I need you to understand. I'm not complaining. I just want you to know what I've given up.

So YOU don't have too. I do this so YOU won't have too. So YOU can do all those things, freely, that I can't do day after day. But this war is going nowhere and it's decimating me and mine.

So I'm asking you. Please, citizen, talk to our government! Fight my battle there while I fight this one here. YOU can bring me home! YOU can tell our government that this war is not justified. That you want your fellow citizens back. We do after all have a government founded BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE.

Isn't it time the people started telling the government what to do?

Sincerely, A Soldier

I'm Guilty


Your alarm goes off, you hit the snooze and sleep for another 10 minutes.
He stays up for days on end

You complain of a "headache", and call in sick.
He gets shot at as others are hit, and keeps moving forward.

You put on your anti war/don't support the troops shirt, and go meet up with your friends.
He still fights for your right to wear that shirt

You make sure you're cell phone is in your pocket.
He clutches the cross hanging on his chain next to his dog tags.

You talk trash about your "buddies" that aren't with you.
He knows he may not see some of his buddies again

You walk down the beach, staring at all the pretty girls.
He walks the streets, searching for insurgents and terrorists.

You complain about how hot it is.
He wears his heavy gear, not daring to take off his helmet to wipe his brow in a 120-140 degree heat.

You're angry because your class ran 5 minutes over.
He's told he will be held over an extra 6 months.

You call your girlfriend and set a date for tonight.
He waits for the mail to see if there is a letter from home.

You roll your eyes as a baby cries.
He gets a letter with pictures of his new child, and wonders if they'll ever meet

You criticize your government, and say that war never solves anything.
He sees the innocent tortured and killed by their own people and remembers why he is fighting.

You hear the jokes about the war, and make fun of men like him.
He hears the gunfire, bombs and screams of the wounded.

You see only what the media wants you to see.
He sees the broken bodies lying around him.

You stay at home and watch TV.
He takes whatever time he is given to call, write home, sleep, and eat.

You crawl into your soft bed, with down pillows, and get comfortable.
He crawls under a tank for shade and a 5 minute nap, only to be woken by gunfire.

You sit there and judge him, saying the world is probably a worse place because of men like him.
If only there were more men like him!


Introduction/Reasoning - scroll below for the Top 10 List

I started this because I never gave credit to anyone in the military and when anyone would tell me his/her brother/cousin/father/boyfriend/etc was deployed, I would simply say, "That sucks." It didn't hit me how hard it could be. It didn't register that the last goodbye could be just that - the last.

Perhaps someone will read this or browse it or find it via the web and gain a better perspective. I sure (and admittedly was) a victim of ignorance. And, in some warped way, I feel like I was placed into this situation in order to make up for three years of ignorance and lack of appreciation.

I can't even put into words what it is like to have the one that completes you walk off into the unknown. Or the sleepless nights and the constant worrying and feeling helpless.

There is so much more than just a goodbye. It's months of mental preparation, crying, stupid fights, emotionally unstability.

It's not just saying goodbye, it's thinking about every future milestone and the effects this might have on it.

Here are a few very unknown facts/very honest feelings, some things that set the structure for deployments and what goes through your mind, including dog tags, and loser guys:

1.) To Save or Not to Save?
Contemplating saving sperm because he already has had 9 shots of Anthrax and worrying if one more shot might make him sterile. Sure, no babies are coming any time soon for me, but what about the future? Research shows that military men have the hardest trouble, and most sperm banks offer a discount. This is hard to deal with because while it does not affect anything now, it potentially could. It's just another thing to worry about.

2.) Conversations of Death
"If I die, don't say you hate our government."
"If I die, don't be like that crazy mother of that dead soldier and stand outside the White House asking why."
"If I get caught by insurgents, I'm not coming home. I won't sit there with a sheet over my head and a sword pointed at my throat. I won't be pleading for the government to intervene. I will kill myself first and the last words out of my mouth will be ...."

It's weird to go from getting flowers and chocolates and apartment hunting to talking so regularly about the issue of death. But death is a possibility, and it must be accounted for.

3.) OPSEC Annoyances.
OPSEC stands for Operation Security. It is very important, but very annoying and prevents any details being told via the internet or the phone. It's very frustrating trying to find out what got bombed today and where the exact location is...and it's even worse because you have no idea what time or day or flight he's on. So, when you're trying to get information about the "where and when", obviously this is kept secret, as terrorists ARE listening/watching/searching the net for any clue or detail to sabotage any and all American Operations.

4.) Feeling lonely.
As much as your friends try to be there for you, it's hard for most people to understand. They can imagine, but they can't relate. You get tired of hearing "It will go fast." Yes, it will go fast, for them. And you appreciate the advice of, "Keep yourself busy." But, it's hard to do that.

5.) Realization.
There is a war taking place, killing thousands of US Troops. And there is nothing anyone can do about it, because good ol' George W. Bush is the boss of all American Troops. And he promises to keep us there until he is out of office in January 2009.

6.) Counting Down to....When?
I do not know when he will return. Nor does he. It all lies in the fate of world politics, US politics, and peace, or lackthereof.

7.) Dog Tags.
I get mad. Very mad. Very, very mad and annoyed when I see "thugs" wearing gold-plated dog tags with their street name on them. I hate this. I wear one because it's Government Issued (GI). I don't think they should be sold or bought to or by civilians who have not fought a war, served their country, unless they were given to them by a friend in the service. TuPac, no matter how great a rapper, should not be adorned on a dog tag.

8.) Loser Guys.
This does not go for all, but it really, really shows the difference between a military man and a loser guy. It's funny to see said loser guy from high school, (named "X"), buying cigars to roll weed in, who does not have a job, unless you count dealing drugs from his living room and listening to obsure underground rappers from Brooklyn. Why couldn't "X" be sent over to fight? Give him a break from spreading herpes, drug dealing, court dates due to assault, etc. "X" has no significant value to society. But, no. Let's keep him here in America. Great idea! Instead, let's send the boy next door to possibly die, the boy who never touched a drug in his life. But, that just goes to show you: the loser guy is not good enough.

9.) I Don't Support The War
...I never have, and never will. I won't say if he does or doesn't, but if you know him, you know the answer. But I definately support my Seargant. What about you?

10.) Peers Lack of Interest in News Media
Fine, I'm a journalism major, so maybe I'm a little more in tune. But it is frustrating to see such a lack of interest and education in world affairs. It's hard to deal with this and ask someone how they feel and there answer is, "Well, I don't really even know what's going on." More people can name 5 Grey's Anatomy characters than they can 5 major players in the Iraq war. This is a personal responsibility for our generation's future years and can be easily changed by stopping by CNN.com or even think.mtv.com.

These 10 things were major adjustments this past month.

Today marks the day of a month since I have seen him. I'm sure my list will grow.