The Idealist

Some media types were out and about today, drawing in the big bucks, chasing that elusive story, wearing their EXTREME GEAR WITH ALL THE POUCHES AND POCKETS, catering to every cliche I'd ever seen or heard of. So you can bet I was sure to steer clear of them. 'Specially with all the brass around doing their interviews and whatnot. 'Specially considering I was in the middle of an experiment (seeing how long I could go without shaving before anyone said anything to me), not to mention having NOT bothered to put on a clean uniform. It was a miracle I even brushed my teeth in the morning.

I half expected someone to pull me aside and tell me specifically not to open my mouth, but wait a second, how arrogant am I? WHO THE HELL WANTS TO TALK TO A SPECIALIST?! Hahahaha....

So as I wandered about, doing my hiding thing, ToySoldier approached me. I went off on a tirade about the journalists, since it's trendy and whatnot for us soldier types to look at them in disdain (and why not?). He studies me for a few seconds.

"You're burned out, aren't you?" he asks.

"Depends on your definition of burned out."

"You haven't even been on leave yet."

I think for a second. "Ok yeah, it's probably a safe conjecture then. I just might be burned out. Why do you ask?"

He laughs and says, "I read your last few entries."

"Yyyyyep. 'At'll do it."

I figured people would get annoyed and tell me to quit my bitching, but surprisingly, a lot of people like to hear the Curmudgeon it seems. And that's good, cuz since I took the gloves off to write, I've slept like a baby.

Out in sector, kids are crowding and playing by a long stretch of concertina wire (somewhat like razor wire, less sharp but will snag you up in a hurry). They reach their hands out for soccer balls, and a realization hits me:

Gunfire and explosions, concertina wire, foreigners in huge machines with Sci-Fi pulp comic equipment, it's all NORMAL to these kids. They've never known anything else. Their world is a landfill, in EVERY sense of the word. All of it, just an enormous brown mess, slopped together, the dirt to match the buildings. You have to look at the sky just to be reminded that there is more color in the world.

This "Cradle of Civilization" is enough to break anyone's spirit if you let it bore into you long enough. And maybe we're just going through the motions. That idealist in me, the one that's taken such a beating the past three years, the one that landed me in these boots and this ridiculous pixelated GameBoy graphics uniform, it starts to wonder what the hell I was thinking.

You see, this idealist in me enlisted to come to Iraq, because that's the ultimate support for troops, right? This idealist thought that we great Freedom Spreading Americans would be able to help out here. Odds are, we probably do, and it's just too hard to see most of the time. All I know is that I personally don't feel like I helped shit. All the duck noises I make at little kids to get a giggle out of them, all the handshaking and the "Salaam alaykum" and "Shukran" I can muster, it really doesn't measure up to what a woman said to us, back in Baghdad during the first half of our deployment. She was in a rough place, and gave us a lot of information, but we couldn't do anything in return.

We get ready to leave and she hugs a friend of mine. We walk outside, The Idealist is shaking his head, and I ask my friend, "What did she say to you?"

He clears his throat, "She said, 'Atleast you make me smile one more time before I die.' "

Yeah, but you also don't know what, if ANYTHING happened after you left. Regardless, you do what YOU can, most of this isn't even up to you.

All I know is that this is probably the only life these little kids are going to know. And still they smile and wave and ask for soccer balls. They're like this bizarre contrast to what this country represents to me these days. Hearts and minds, it's all about the kids, right? The generation we CAN win? Is that it? Kids tend to be innocent. Haven't been corrupted yet. Haven't gotten ugly.

So I blast my trucker horn four or five times, startling this four-foot-tall-mob and they all run away, out of my sight. Better that way. This is all way more bitter and difficult to swallow than this Idealist ever thought it would be.

Just pull security.


  1. a different Styker mom said...
    Complaining only gets old when it is constantly coming from someone who has to reach long and hard to find something legitimate to bitch about. I have a hard time hearing people here in the States complain about things like how their sandwich at lunch wasn't cut straight enough. I would much rather tune in and listen to what is going on here than hearing empty complaints else where.

    I do have to admit that one day I hope you and Toy Soldier only have bad sandwiches to complain about. Here's to a future of empty complaints, but until then keep blogging, complaining and keep moving onward.
    Lyn said...
    Bitch all you want, Suspect! If it helps you sleep and get through this shit, then anybody who doesn't like it can "fuck right off with that."

    It's difficult, but try to maintain at least a little bit of that idealism. You might need it later.
    uncle mark said...
    hey nephew
    i am here to tell you if you guys can make someone smile in those circumstances there is no other reason for you guys to be where you are
    you make me smile and im an ass
    keep up the good work and thanx
    Shari said...
    Gee...If we minded the complaining, we would not keep coming back....Keep on telling it as it is. As they say, the truth will set you free (and help you sleep for that matter too)
    Anonymous said...
    If those kids were brought to America they would be awestruck by what they would see and experience. And soon enough they would miss their home, bad as it is, as we see it. Home is what we always yearn for, as there is stuff there that is in the heart. What they need is to get their normal daily life back. Glad you are sleeping better! Take care of yourself. I enjoy your attitude actually.
    4/2 mom
    Strykeraunt said...
    Keep it coming and we will keep reading. Good to know its working!!
    WmEarl said...
    You are the media I count on, but if you ever do get on tape from the MSM and they beam it back that would be cool to get before it gets edited. There were some people grabbing the stuff from the 1st Gulf War and it was given to our unit and people interested. I liked seeing myself telling the press I was ready to go back home like the President promised.
    Army Sergeant said...
    Man, how well do I know the pain of being an idealist in a world that doesn't seem designed for it.

    A buddy of mine told me he heard, "Is this the freedom we were promised?" while on a raid the other day. Crazy, crazy times.

    Keep your chin up.
    OIFIII said...
    Despite the ugliness of the urban landscape that country is beautiful in many areas. North Eastern Iraq's mountains were some of the most spectacular things I've ever seen. Snowcapped just like the rocky mtn's. The Corn fields of the Central Northern plains (breadbasket of Iraq) looked just like the midwest. And even the areas along the Tigris river delta with their lush palm groves looked serene. It's culture's hatred and civil indifference that makes that place ugly, not necessarily the landscape.
    mamaworecombatboots said...
    Your idealism seems to be like your music playlist--"The Ecstasy of Gold" is still there, just not so close to the surface.
    membrain said...
    Okay, I've been away from the internet for quite a while and I just caught up with all your stuff since December 19th. Sorry about Christmas but it's dead now.

    The way you put it about the CIB I can totally understand why you wouldn't want to wear it, especially when the EIB is so similar and you sweated your ass off for that. (And you're right about it being easier to get erlier OIF: hint it's the fucking Army dude. Nudge, nudge; wink, wink; say no more, say no more.)

    And it's the same old same old for a Specialist: treat you like a mushroom; cover you with shit and keep you in the dark.

    Your readers are of course luckier than you are with respect to the big picture 'cause we get lot's more internet time and we KNOW that what you and Toy Soldier and the rest are doing is making a difference.

    Yes you're burnt out but you still rock. And every kid you make smile with your duck noises is worth more than a fucking CIB any day.

    In fact you should make them smile plus introduce their little ears to some Kick Ass Mettalica. Rock their little worlds.

    Glad to hear you made into. The Sandbox book. I'm going to buy it.

    And you are soooooooo right about SSGT David Bellavia's "House to House", it is the most powerful description of man-to-man combat that I have ever read. It's the kind of shit that most guys lock up in little corner of their head and never let it out.

    Your faithful readers are all proud of you. Stay safe. And write often.

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