6.05.2007

Recall. Regurgitate.

Worry not, I'm still here. Let me just try to recall things in some kind of order. I guess you'll have to settle for the unfiltered dump though.

I was driving. Another mission, yet another mission. Just me, my seat, and my headseat. My crew's voices and the radio, and the same bleak pictures in my periscopes. Sweating in the seat, the AC not doing much against the engine heat, not to mention the outside temperature. Water oozing out of my pores, fighting to cool me down. The salt burning my eyes as I try to nap. Nothing else to do. I flick the radio on so I have something to listen to. Sucking down water and pissing in the empty bottles. Its no easy feat. With all of that gear on, your motor skills are essentially reduced to that of a heavily intoxicated toddler, only much less cute. The urine matches the empty bottle of orange gatorade. If it weren't for the piss-froth, you could almost fool someone. That, of course, is a sign that you need to drink more water. Water that seeps out of your skin. Water that you see in the form of a dark V on your seat when you get up. That's right, that's from your legs, cowboy. Hot enough for you?

Don't get me wrong, being a vehicle driver is a pretty good gig. The boys on the ground move to another house and you tear a muffin out of the wrapper and spill crumbs off your oily chin. Life's rough.

"Contact!"

You aren't even bothered by it. Why would you be? You're surrounded by armor, somewhat comfortable with a little bit of AC, and dammit, you're young and dumb. Nothing can ever go wrong, no way, not to you. Sparing the details, one thing leads to another, and next you're hearing all sorts of fireworks and rounds going off and explosions. The Seventh Seal has been opened while you blissfully spectate and chew down a chocolate chip cookie.

And you all end up being out there way longer than you planned. Complaints of fuel levels fill radio traffic. Low fuel means turning the engine off. Turning the engine of means no AC. No AC means sitting in a big green sauna.

Soon enough, as your guys are all working to get out of there and go get some hot chow, with nothing going quite right, go figure. And you're about to leave, just getting all ready and comfy again. Then there's that damn radio, that damn voice, that bearer of shitty news. No, its not an additional mission this time, not necessarily. Its just saying that you can't leave yet, waiting on some damn minor detail like the wellbeing of someone or some mission or something.

And everyone comes home from work, and the streets are full, and now there's way more random faces to keep an eye on. And then after a while, the streets are suddenly empty, and not slowly either, no, its that blink of an eye you miss. They didn't run off, so how did you miss this covert exodus.

"Where the hell did everyone go?" I ask no one in particular.

TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT!!!!

"Ohhhh. Ok."

Radio beeps. "Contact!" Random clock direction, random cardinal direction, random gibberish numbers and letters. Snapping and popping and cracking, rhythmic mayhem. And my ass in seat. Full on firefights. Powerlines in front of me catching stray rounds and sparking and snapping and falling to the ground. A brilliant fireworks show, electric blue and yellow, miniature explosions, bright and unpredictable. The lines begin to fall, and one lands on a fruit stand I knocked over earlier, starting a fire. Half the sidewalk is ablaze with tall, ravenous flames. Mayhem.

It was pretty surreal to be honest. I just sort of went with all of it, because I didn't have a whole lot of sense of danger. I never said I was the smartest one.

"Well that was lame. What else did we miss?"

There was another mission on which I was driving. It was boring as piss, just like they usually are, the way I typically like them. It started that way.

The bass drum rumble that means an explosion not too far away sounds. I spend a minute wondering if it was a controlled detonation. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't. Just one more facet of being out there. Sometimes they announce the controlled dets. Sometimes they don't. Sometimes they aren't controlled.

Just the occasional boom and the radio. I generally don't care to hear much from the radio, but I'll take the typical blather over what I heard not too long ago ANY DAY.

I thought I heard something, hard to tell inside the hatch, with the headset on. I debated on whether I felt like moving. Me, the lazy, nearly indifferent bum that I am. Finally, I reach up and click the radio on, just in time to hear:

"--ne KIA--"

Oh, we got one of them right?

"One litter urgent. Over."

....Right?

The radio traffic isn't as calm as it normally is after that. No, no stupid Hollywood horseshit where everyone is screaming and making asses of themselves. But not even two minutes later, the radio beeps again.

"Two KIA."

I'm not going to tell the story, not the details, not the who what where when and how, for several reasons.

Denial. Anger. Guilt. Bargaining. Acceptance.

I went straight to anger before I even got anywhere near denial. In the few minutes it took to get a mental hold on what was going on, all of my compassion, all of the optimism, and all of the well wishing I had for this country and these people was GONE. Blinked away. I became intimate with true hate. Didn't matter who it was, some Iraqi wanting to walk up the street we were on to go somewhere, either home to eat, or to plot killing someone, or to get a newspaper, who knows. Didn't matter. He or she was automatically a subject of extreme hatred. Fuck them, fuck all of them. Like they didn't know what was going on?! FUCK THEM! We try to help them in THEIR FUCKING COUNTRY and this is what happens?! FUCK THEM! Fuck them and fuck world sympathy and puppy dogs and rainbows.

I found out who the two killed were while we were still out there. Not that anyone should be substituted or anything like that, but it fucks with my head: Why them, of all people, those two? Neither had done ANYTHING wrong. Neither of them had so much as successfully pissed me off in the slightest, ever. Both were such amazingly cool guys, I can't even begin to describe it.

One would come up to my room back at Lewis when workdays were getting stupid and hide out and we'd download ridiculous amounts of videos and swap them. Always a positive demeanor, funny as hell. I remember him recalling the process and aftermath of his vasectomy when we were in a cattle truck, on our way to be issued new gear. I was delightfully mortified. Always full of funny stories. I can go on forever.

The other, a really young kid. I liked him from the first day he came to our unit. Loved his MySpace. We'd give him shit about it. This cat, it didn't matter what kind of mood I was in or how shitty a day everyone was having, he'd always make it a point to atleast say hey. And no matter how pissed you were, it was never annoying when it was him bullshitting with you. No matter how bad you wanted to be left alone, he was immune from that radiating anger.

And then I was supposed to somehow fathom that they're both gone? I still can't quite wrap my head around it. Every time I go to the chow hall, it reminds me of the last time I ate with one of them. And yes, we were bullshitting and laughing it up. So yeah, if that horseshit about stages is true, I'm fairly certain this is still denial. Denial is the only stage that you can still operate effectively in out here.

Later on during that mission, I was driving down the street, coming to an intersection. This woman comes out of her house and flags down one of the guys on the ground and tells him that we must not go across that road, there's a bomb there. We later found out that there were three fucking anti-tank rounds somewhere in that intersection. Was the trigger-man home? Was that my number? Was I almost ten minutes past fucked?

In this GODFORSAKEN HORRIBLE NEIGHBORHOOD, with no sign of hope, did a woman just risk her neck to come out and warn us? You gotta be shitting me. Were our lives saved by a total stranger? Would we have just skated on by without getting hit, never knowing we drove over some big-ass bombs?

Funny thing is, this is probably the most time I've spent thinking about it. It fucks you up. Wouldn't it be easier just to put the hate on full-auto and distribute it without discretion? But some of these people, normal people, trying to live their lives.





They got me out of the driver's hole for a while. I get to run with the line platoons. Boots on the ground, rifle in hand, sweat in eyes, dopey grin on face.

Riding in the back of an infantry Stryker, on the uncomfortable bench with the piss-poor padding that numbs your ass, jammed in with a bunch of other guys, all wearing full battle rattle, it was something new. That ramp drops and you dismount with the rest of them, getting the hell out as fast as you can, not because you feel endangered, but just so you can stretch your legs, and maybe, just maybe, fuck some Ali Baba son of a bitch up.

The ground is covered in trash. The sides of the road. Abandoned houses, not so abandoned houses. People living in abandoned houses. Blown out, shot up cars, smashed windows, bars over EVERY window of EVERY house.

The very first house I ever cleared was what I was told to be, "The nicest house I ever seen out here," by a friend as we stared at their chandelier. Where the hell was THIS money coming from? COUGH-informant-COUGH. Who knows for sure though.

The abandoned houses are the funner ones. Much less furniture, way more shit to toss around without worrying about offending good and honest people. Also more chance of finding a cache or some radical dickwad who picked the wrong day to get out of bed and screw with the boys.

Sometimes when we're outside, we'll hear shots fired, and not be sure where the hell they're coming from, or whether its friendly or assholes. You want to just start shooting, just for the hell of it. To mess something up. To put a little violence in the air. Put the violence to a locked door with your boot. Some of them don't kick in so easily, so given my thin stature, I graciously step aside for someone else to bust it down.

The people are very hospitable, and treat their guests extremely well. I had chai tea today, it was pretty good. They're all about their sugar, which I can dig. The kids are usually really awesome too. There's more, so much more, but with this brain-shot mind-numb maelstrom of shit whirling in my tired little head, its only going to continue to come out as gibberish.

I opted to pay for the shitty wireless internet out here, so posting will be easier for me. Even if I AM waiting five minutes for a webpage to load.

I'll post more later. Iraqi Police, little kids, dogs. Smells, sounds, sights. Coming back from a mission and realizing, just before entering the chow hall, that the entire crotch of my pants has torn along the seams thanks to these fucking mandatory knee pads. Saying fuck it and going in and eating anyway. And also: my second love, after Natalie Portman:

The KA-BAR.

See you soon.

6 Comments:

  1. Anonymous said...
    Doing what we can here to end this sooner rather than later. Thanks for writing truth. Take care, keep safe whatever it takes.
    4/2 mom
    Anonymous said...
    Good to hear you guys are still hiking to feast on the KBR epicurian delights!
    That hole in your pants may come in handy when back in the driver seat....
    Glad you posted, things are coming out very slowly here this week.
    Keep on keepin' on,
    Cathy B
    julie anna said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Anonymous said...
    Wow, sounds uhm...eventful, to say the very least. I'm really sorry about those two guys, I know we never met them, but if they were friends with you they sorta count as friends of ours too by default, and either way it still sucks. A big part of me is VERY thankful that you spend most of your time in the vehicle...though it doesn't necessarily make us worry less, it does do something to ease the stress a bit.

    *sigh* we miss you. A LOT.

    I'll write you soon,
    -Sam... and Chad, of course...he sends some guy-love your way ;)
    julie anna said...
    I won't even pretend to act like I know what you are going through, or what you will continue to go through.

    My husband has been there though, and has lost alot of brothers. One was his squad leader. He was like an older brother who cared not only for his squad, but for the few wives he welcomed into the circle too. He taught my husband all the shit he knows and I respected him for that. I had him up on a pedestal pretty damn near close to my husband.

    Eventually he left the brigade and joined the one there with you guys now. He was killed last fall. I never felt I had the right to mourn the way his soldiers did but the truth is, it's messed with me more than I'd ever let on. Reality hits to hard.

    Stay safe, Suspect. Just do your damn job and come home. You are all in our prayers.
    Strykeraunt said...
    I am so sorry for your loss. last month has given the term tough a new meaning.

    Its good to know the angels are with you.

    My prayers are with you all.

    Take care and stay safe

Post a Comment