And The Glow Wears Off

Most of us signed up for this. Trained for this. Planned on it fantasized about it wondered about it imagined it prepared for it. We were wearing this uniform so we could come to Iraq and kick some ass, make a difference, and be glorified by fucking bards and minstrels in taverns, get groupies AND their parents' approval. We were gonna do it all. We were going to be like gods or something. We were going to carve our place in history with bloody bayonets, raise a flag, pose for the camera, and be that amazing spectacle of American glory.

Now, we've been here for a while. We've been out quite a few times, and we've seen and done shit. The novelty, the wonder, the thrill of this place, its GONE. Doesn't even leave a faint trail as to where it went.

I come back to my tent and I just lay down and close my eyes. I don't change. I don't take off my boots. I don't even get under the blankets. I read a book some kind soul who never met me sent, responding to an online request at booksforsoldiers.com or some site like that that I had randomly come across. I read until my eyes can't focus anymore.

And now I'm ready. To get that sleep I need, that I've been waiting for, wanting and needing, furious every time I wake up, to be robbed of it, to have this place rubbed in my face before the sun even comes up.

I close my eyes and I doze, and the last thing I hear is that godawful crying. If you can even call it that. A baby, a year old maybe? We didn't know what was wrong with him.

We were walking along a street, with all the repetitive houses, doing the same repetitive things, and I turn around to face our rear. An old man is carrying this baby, and the baby isn't moving, laying completely limp in his arms.

Oh shit, I think. I'm looking for blood, looking for trauma, looking for that look of death that I'm afraid I'm going to see. Another man approaches, and he speaks a little English. I hear something about "cannot move his arm or his leg."

The kid doesn't seem to be able to hold his own head up. We go inside someone's house into the living room. The men light cigarettes as the old man looks with more than a little worry at the kid. I don't remember when the actual crying started. Had they even gotten into the house? No, maybe it was in the courtyard. I don't know.

It wasn't like normal crying, it was just....noise. A vocal volume swell, swiftly cut off, with chokes and gurgles and wails. We sit as there's nothing we can do. We call for our medic, and then we wait. We wait, and we listen. Its almost like one non-stop looping noise. Like when you say a word over and over in your head until it doesn't sound the same, til it feels weird. And it just keeps repeating. And where is the medic?

"...His airway is FUCKED, man," one of my friends says. I nod, trying to determine whether or not the child's head looks dented. No trauma that I can see, is it a birth defect? Is that just his hair? Am I fucking LOSING IT? And is this kid going to make it? He's in a bad, bad way.

I walk out of the living room and sit on the stairs that lead to the second floor. Two women are sitting on the bed in a bedroom and I don't even acknowledge them. I can feel them looking at me when I light a cigarette and try to tune the "crying" out. The noise of horrible sickness, the noise of something beging VERY wrong.

The medic arrives. The interpreter arrives. I can make out little pieces of the conversation that I'm not even listening to. They were saying the kid had this problem his whole life. Which problem? The breathing thing, the severity of it, that was a current thing. Its that same horrible noise, and what can doc do either?

"His oxidation level is way too low."

I don't understand a word.

"He needs to get to a hospital."

I understand perfectly.

The debate on how, if at all to go about this goes on forever. Radioing for permission, relaying details, a huge mess, and all I want to do is scream, "Fuck! Fuck getting permission from every fucking level, get a few vehicles and take the kid to the hospital!"

When I know full well how other things are going on, and all these factors play a part in this and that and blah blah blah, and all I can do is wonder why the hell we can't help anyone. I think in the end, someone took the kid to the hospital somewhere, I don't know where. We had to continue mission.

A man who spoke fluent English told us how safe the neighborhood was, and how some of the people don't have education and are ignorant about how a lot of these things work. How they think we intentionally cut down their power lines with our vehicles. He says that we are still vastly seen as good people here to help.

I nod, and I no longer believe this.

I can hear a million people tell me that we're helping them (oh, but we don't ever see any bad people out here, this neighborhood is safe, and no, those aren't bulletholes all over my rooftop). And I'll still shake my head, because what have I helped so far?

We may have signed someone's death warrant. I can't even explain. Maybe by some miracle this person is ok. But I don't think so. And this person didn't think so. And if only I could tell the story. Like something out of a movie. But I can't.

"Atleast you make me smile one last time."

And then I fall asleep.


  1. Anonymous said...
    You guys are awesome, thanks for what you are doing.
    GI Kate said...
    holy shit...that comment made me laugh.

    i understand how you are feeling and what you're thinking...its a long long road you're on right now...and its not paved in gold.

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