It's 4:30 in the morning and neither of us can sleep.

I opened the curtains to our massive window to check out the epic panoramic never ending city of lights and grandeur. There's definitely something about this place. Clean, urban, spread out, larger than life and wonderfully idiosyncratic. This is the home that I'll never belong to.

I've only thought about the other guys a little bit, and the guys we lost too. For the most part though, we're thoroughly distracted. It's almost like I was never TRULY in Iraq. Almost.

My friend agrees that the bidet is a little too much. He crawls back into bed, where he can't sleep either.

"Oh Jesus, we're gonna be sucking tomorrow," he moans. I'd heard from a friend earlier on that he could hardly ever sleep when he was on leave either. I don't mind. As long as I can function and enjoy myself. I don't want to miss anything.

We're phantoms here. No past, no background, just like I hoped. Almost. The girl who pointed out the tranny called me out on being military. So did an old man in the first bar. I guess there's no hiding it. All there's left to do is try to leave a good impression, I guess.

The realization that this is all temporary, it haunts me once in a while. I want to hold on to this as long as I can. We've got a clean slate, even if its a different color than everyone else's proverbial slate. We're finding something out, but we don't know what. This isn't just R&R from Iraq, its R&R from my entire life. Just picking up and leaving for somewhere where I don't know anyone, I've probably needed this for years.

Random thoughts occur to us while we lay in our beds in the dark.

"How bad do you think it will suck when we have to put our uniforms back on again for the first time?" he asks.

"Oh fuck dude...."

This has to last. I have to keep something from this with me, take something back, so to speak. I don't even want to think about going back to Iraq. Hell, I'd go job hunting tomorrow if I didn't think that Tokyo can't be this perfect forever.

Tokyo is like the girl that got away. Phenomenal but never meant to be yours.

The Adventure Continues

My homedude woke me up at some mid-morning hour to inform me that we had to leave, that we didn't have this hotel booked anymore. I thought we still had another day. I crawled out of bed in a still-half-drunk buzz and attempted to pull myself together.

We threw our shit in our backpacks and walked out, slightly bummed. It was a damn good hotel, and fucking CHEAP as it gets. If you're military and kicking it in Tokyo, check out The New Sanno Hotel. The ultimate hookup.

Walking down the clean streets of Tokyo, trash cans rarely ever seen, litter just as rare, concrete and asphalt and greener than green trees, crazy signs with English and chicken-scratch Kanji writing. We searched randomly for a new hotel as our hangovers crept up on us. Every convenience store we found, I stopped and bought sandwiches and fruit juice, greedily sucking them down, trying my best to mitigate the oncoming trainwreck.

As hard as I fought it, it crept up slowly and aggressively, like a very patient hunter. I finally flagged down a taxi driver and squeezed my temples as I asked, "Hotelu wa doku des ka?"


"Any hotel."

"Hotelu Enni?"

"No, I mean like.....the first place you can find, the nearest, you know...uh......fuck, dude, where's the translation book thing?"

My friend shrugs. "I threw it in one of the bags." He then rattles off random words until he recalls the word for "nearest". We end up at some uber-businessman type hotel. I was too fucking hung over to notice or care, I just wanted a room.

44,000 yen. Roughly 440 bucks a night. Normally I would have laughed and told them to fuck right off, but we were hurting, so we took it. We slept all afternoon and woke as the sun went down, booking a new hotel for the rest of our stay, doing a slight amount of planning, sending emails to friends we made the night before, recovering, taking it easy, and having a couple Jack And Cokes between the two of us. Tiny little buzz and internet browsing while we wait for Friday night to unfold.

The Japanese people are fucking fascinating. They take their jobs very seriously. At the airport, we asked an old taxi driver how to get to the New Sanno Hotel. He had no clue, so he promptly SPRINTED across the street and asked some girl. She didn't know, so he did another dash back into the airport.

The guy at the information desk gave me his lighter out of courtesy.

A Nigerian dude in Roppongi, after attempting (and failing) to get us to go to the titty bar where he works, showed us where all the normal clubs are.

[Mini-rant: In the Roppongi district, there are a lot of Nigerian dudes whose job is to stand on the streets and direct people to various tit clubs. With my ritual of getting New Guys drunk and allowing them to blow their entire paycheck at Fox's in Washington, I've had my fill of titclubs (See Also: Suspect's 21st Birthday/The Weirdest Family Gathering Ever). We'd been warned not to trust these guys with our credit cards, so I dealt only in cash while I was in that area. These cats live to hustle, and part of me respects that. Stupid faaaawking tourists. After a while, when they'd approach us and try to get us to go to their clubs, I'd respond with, "Fuck that dude, we're getting wasted at 911! What time do you get off work? No man, I'm serious, don't jerk my fuckin' chain and waste my time, when d'ya get off work? Y'wanna do some shots with us? Course ya do! Arright man, I'll be out here at three o'clock to get you. You better not fucking dip out on us!" Anything to put the ball back in my court. Let them feel assaulted for a change.]

While the Japanese people are amazing with customer service and professionalism, their also incredibly antisocial. It's like everyone walks around in their own little world, head in the clouds, stuck in a bubble. Half the time they don't notice when you greet them. The other half of the time, they just ignore you. Once in a while, someone will mumble a meek response, "Ohio Gozeimas" or "Konnichi wa" or "Konbon wa" depending on the hour, but that's it.

I still attempt to recall events from the previous night. I don't remember if I wrote about the German guy who posed as a retarded person to grope girls. He went to the bathroom the same time I did, so there I was, drunk as shit, dick hanging out of my pants, pissing out five different types of liquor, when I start talking to him. At first it's cordial with hidden undertones of distrust as I try to figure this dude out. He was a little weird, but he seemed more normal suddenly. So I screwed that shit on, brought out the hate and fury and amped up the accusations. He said that next time I come to Germany, he won't help me.

Roppongi is Sin City.

Now we sit in our hotel room, my friend racked out, resting up for our next busy day. I've already tried out the bidet (SIC) for the first time. I was pretty apprehensive about asking for a squirt to the ass, but dammit, it was just too weird to pass up. I hit the button, raised the water pressure, and then warm water is spraying my ass. It was a little disturbing, with horrible undertones that I didn't want to think of, and I began to wonder if this thing was designed by my tansexual tongue-fucking Tequila slurping friend from the night before.

This city is from the future or something. Everything is technologically advanced. Motion sensing faucets and soap dispensers, a remarkably efficient subway system, beer in vending machines, incredible shit. Speakers with sound feed from the TV that play in the bathroom, even though there's no screen there.

Each thought is broken and scattered and interrupted by a hundred more, even writing is an ADHD challenge. I'm charged and on fire and ALIVE here. I love this place, and I'm damn glad I didn't come alone. It wouldn't be the same. My friend and I ate pizza and discussed our old friend who got out of the army because his back was fucked up.

"Man, I'd be down to pay half for his plane ticket to get him here, he needs to come do this with us."

"No shit! But he'd be like, 'Man, ah WANNA go, believe me, but ah cain't, ah got my job now, ah wish ah could though, MOTHERFUCKIN' BITCH...'"

"Yeah, but what's ONE job versus coming here with US and kicking it in fucking TOKYO? This shit doesn't happen to everyone, this is something monumental. It's epic dude, epic lulz and shit."

"I'd be down to ask him, but I know his answer would be no."

Well dickhead, since I know you'll be reading this, I'll put you on the spot in front of everyone. Yosemite Slim and I will buy you a plane ticket here if you're down. You have to do this man, this shit is insane.

Fifteen stories above the world, I look out the window and see the orderly scramble of neon night life in the most incredible city in existence, and I fidget a little. It's early AM Friday, so tonight and tomorrow, it's going to be insane in the nightlife. I'll be there personally to cover the story. But first we have to check out of this ultra expensive hotel and go to our next. In this building, everyone wears suits and ties and makes a shit-ton of money, classical music plays in the lobbies, dinners are priced at Your Soul, quiet aristocratic elitism permeates the building.

And two hung over Outsiders stagger in wearing jeans and t-shirts and the scars of a brutal night of mid-deployment rampaging, demand a room, and pass out for half a day. We don't belong here. It's awesome.

Tonight, we're checking for Adam's Apples first.


De-Loused In The Tokyotorium

You lucky, filthy vicaracious living leeching fucks, you get a 100 per cent Un CENSORED post from super DRUNKASS Suspect, ready to lay it all down with ruthless God Knows What.

The sun is apparently coming up, I've got a pocket full of cigarettes I've never heard of. What I'd LIKE to brag about all depends on the permission of my past-out friend. So that will wait.

Here's the fucking sticky gooey story bullshit for you voracious starving......people.

We traveled for fucking DAYS. Waiting, doing, but MORE waiting. You have NO purpose bitching about the DMV after going through this shit. I used the word Purgatory as a joke and a motif of sorts, but fuck me rotten and call me Anne Frank, this is RIDICULOUS.

FOB Anaconda, POG-ville, lasts for an eternity enough as it is. Yes, I'm an evil little bastard and I should be whipped and caned, but even I have never done enough evil to warrant a waiting period in this pitiful land of Fobbit-FucktardVille.

After the escape of such horrid bile and monkey spooge, one boards one of MANY MANY MANY fucking planes and somehow travels to their intended destination, and all is cool and everyone gets their rocks off. 'Cept me.

Kuwait airport. Subtle terror seizes me as I walk around in civilian clothes, realizing too late that my shirt broadcasts a gas mask resembling a skull, with crossed MISSILES behind them. Very diplomatic.

I hop another plane, eat another joke of a meal, attempt to sleep a wink, and I'm crossing time zones, and now we're in Dubai, and who knows if THESE Arabs dig us or not, and whatever, as long as they don't behead my dumb ass. Connect a flight to Seoul, pause to grab a quick shot of whatever SOJU is, and pow! On to Tokyo, where we arrive, and my intestines suffer travel-agony and I temporarily regret rubbing it in to my friends back in the 'Raq that I finally get some damn vacation.

All four ninja turtles perform a Battle Royale on my lower guts and I groan like a little girl as I make periodic bathroom stops with NO success, just increasing self pity. I become the poster-boy of Excretory Agony. Quite humorous, I'd have to admit.

My friend and I eventually just say FUCK IT, and I spring for cab fare, dropping shit....what...something like 200 bucks American in cab fare just to get to our hotel. From there, we walk to a convenience store, buy some weird booze, drink, watch "2girls1cup" (you are all whiney bitches because that video isn't SHIT), laughed [and pleaded for Jesus] and drank some more.

We woke up, hopped our dumb asses on a train for some district called ShinJewKu, and explored. Buildings has floors upon floors of women's clothing, and we explored it anyway, because fuck it, we're foreigners, and WHAT are they going to do, DEPLOY US?!

Most Japanese people seem to be in their own little world and do not socialize AT ALL. We great a stranger on the street, and unless we give ourselves enough time to stare them down after greeting them, we won't get a response.


Atleast I'd get a reaction in the states. Here? I might as well be Michael Keaton's WELL ACTED ghost. Like that metrosexual Patrick Swayze from "Ghost".

Anyway, like any true American, I decided that this was all unsatisfactory and that I'd shift the influence a little.

In all reality, I just proved that white guys + liquor = Sure, We'll Do An MC Hammer Impression.

Sweet Jesus, King of Jews and shit, I don't even know where to start. Let me just admit this, and you are completely welcome to laugh at MY expense:

We hit up some bar and it's great and all. We're buzzing from our pre-game (Yes, by the way, we found an IRANIAN restaurant and ate there, all the while I put on the most PITIFUL Australian accent you ever heard). Short (but not as short as we thought) Japanese types are getting their drink on to AnyType Music playing through the FuckItWe'reDrunkOrSoonWillBe speakers of anywhere, ShuHolyShit District, Tokyo.

Some filthy SKANK, ultimate dirty hooker face eyes me. I immediately think of hooking this filthy STD market up with my friend [I probably have deep rooted self-esteem issues, to explain why I love watching my friends destroy every last semblence of courage and self-confidence that they could ever own]. I buy this monstrosity a shot of Tequila (at her request) and promptly get a "Forgive Me Father, no, I MEAN IT, FORGIVE ME FATHER" Lick of the earlobe. I mean, this bitch went Beethoven's Bathouse on my ear. She got FILTHY with it.

And I thought, "Strange, but kinda cool I guess."

Until this tiny little 30-or-so Japanese/American girl came to my rescue. It all invovled a lot of drunken "dancing" (me being wasted enough to accept the inevitable humor in me trying to get my "groove" on) and plenty of ME BEING DEAD SEXY.

Point is, this tiny little sweetheart was kind enough to fill me in on important information. Long story short, I found out that I bought a tequila shot for a TRANSEXUAL DUDE WHO SUBSEQUENTLY SUCKED MY EARLOBE LIKE IT WAS THE COCK OF JUDAS.

Is this wrong? I'd like to think so.

The nice little Japanese woman laughed at me, told me I was 'down to earth'. Did the European greeting fake-ass kiss on the cheek bullshit and that was that. We ended up wandering around Roppongi looking for more action, but it's all the same "I Got Wasted And Called The DJ Out, And DJ Starscream is STILL Better" story.

I don't even know where the fuck I was going with this bullshit to be honest. All I know is that the sun is coming up, and I'm wasted (but not blacked out), and it's been crazy so far.

I do miss you all from the back home parts, but I still feel that the only way to do something like this, is to go totally crazy. So sorry that we turned down Nigerian pimps tonight, random asian "Masseuses" etc etc etc.

Blah blah blah, more bullshit. Til next time.

ALSO: Fuck you, I'm drunk.


The Shire Of Fobbitton

In-transit limbo, the mind numbing foul tasting garbage that never finds it's way into the brochures, that's the current phase. Different flavor of purgatory.

I'm waiting for a flight from one nowhere to another, killing time on some giant FOB filled to the brim with POGs (Personnel Other than Grunt). We lay on the floor of the terminal with our gear, trying to sleep while a butchered version of The Butterfly Effect plays on AFN. Of course I can't sleep, and that delirious jet-lag state is soon to follow.

Earlier on, The Homeboy and I decided to catch a movie to pass the time. Enormous, almost civilian movie theater, complete with a balcony. Legitimate cinematic experience. The lights go down, they show a couple previews, and then The Army or The Fates or fuck-knows-what throws another hunk of shit at me.

The National Anthem begins, and in front of the flag onscreen, the words "Shock and Awe" explode. Cue footage of paratroopers, the Twin Towers getting hit, massive bombings, some dipshit in training gear burning off rounds of blanks like he's auditioning for Black Hawk Fucking Down, a horrible montage of hooah-hooah horseshit, and these motherfuckers eat it up.

"What the FUCK is THIS?!" I vomit to no one in particular as we all stand. Some dick who's probably never set foot outside of the wire hits me on the arm. Oh, my arms are crossed. I drop them to my sides, in the lamest attempt at half-assing the position of attention as the bullshit flashes by on the big screen.

This is fucking PORNOGRAPHY for these paper-pushing desk jockey motherfuckers, and I'm ready to puke blood. They eat it up, and I can't help but wonder if any of them have buried any friends out here, and if so, how in the great cosmic fuck they can be so impressed with this sick joke. The National Anthem is one thing, but when you pin propaganda to it to impress people with immaculately clean uniforms and Never Fired M16s, shamelessly pimping out images of false-motivation and utter destruction, well...I'm sorry if I can't baaa baaaa along with the herd.

One more thing I won't miss when I'm gone, that's all it is. Fuck the video, fuck the person who slapped it together, fuck the person that thought it would be a good idea to include it just before showing National Treasure 2. Fuck 'em all, I'm going on leave. This is vented now, so it's done and I'm over it.

The first shot is for you. Line 'em up.


Finally, They Throw This Dog A Bone

We fly down the roads of Nowhere, Iraq, on a no one, nothing mission. We have a mission? Hahaha, fuck right off, pal. It's all just tomfoolery and assclownery here.

I'm in one of the air guard hatches of the trail vehicle, gloriously uninformed and perfectly happy about it. Hell, maybe they DID say something about what was going on over coms and I just shrugged it off without realizing it. It's all the same anyway, right?

A ridiculous traffic jam gums up the works, and we're having none of it. Can't let these crazy revolutionaries, extremists, and commuters get too close. Standard procedure, stay the fuck away. I'm on the 240 (that beautiful belt fed fully automatic bastard of all bastards), so my friend takes advantage of the situation and sticks his rifle out the back.


The car stops its advance in a damn hurry.

"What the hell was that?" someone inside the truck asks. We radio up for all to hear, "This is [Truck: Pestilence And Plague], warning shot, over."

The road is lined and constipated with angry motorists, all of them very familiar with this drill. The Americans plow and shoot their way through while everyone else is held up for god knows how long. Sometimes they get brave and shoot out into traffic and zoom away, shaking their heads in moderate rebellion, head full of "Fuck off, Americans, seriously..."

Not today.

"My turn, motherfucker!" I snatch my M4 up and point it out the back. CRACK!

"God, there's another one." My ol' pal shakes his head and blasts away at a random point in the soft dirt.

It's demonic, not-all-there fun. If you go too long without firing a weapon in public places, you forget just how fun it is. I've damn near got bloodlust, I'm enjoying myself so fucking much. Any piss-poor excuse to shoot, we take it. Banging away at nothing, our own version of celebratory gunfire, like we'd just remembered that our rifles actually fire. Each trigger squeeze is a public service announcement. It's an orgy of blatant disregard for Hunter's Safety. The lead truck fires a warning now and then. We reciprocate two-fold. Someone gets too close, no problem, find an open spot of dirt and plug it. WHOOO!!!

I motion with my hand for the car to back off us, "Back the FUCK up, chump!"

As if the guy can hear me, but hey, that's escalation of force, Rules of Engagement and all that. I take aim at dirt, flip the safety off, and start to squeeze. There's NO play left in the trigger when a pedestrian's head appears in my sight.

My finger leaves the trigger so fast, you'd have thought someone shot it off, and my thumb rips the selector back to Safe. International incident averted.

That could have been REALLY bad.


"Pestilence and Plague, warning shot, over."

Later on, we stop to test-fire our weapons systems. The .50 cal is up. The other 240 then sounds off with a couple small bursts. In the spirit of boisterous male assholes since the beginning of time, I charge my 240 and squeeze the trigger like I'm trying to strangle the damn thing. 7.62mm automatic fury, the loudest chattering you could imagine, chewing links and spitting lead downrange. Passionate five second bursts until everyone including the LT is yelling, "Ok! It fucking WORKS!!!"

For some, love is a powerful emotion felt between two people, or a feeling of family that can't be described, or the deepest devotion to their God. For me, love is a fully automatic weapon unleashing chaos in my hands. I'll miss it.

This marks the end of combat operations for my friend and I, until we return. Soon, we're off across oceans, to uncharted territory, "where the beer flows like wine and the women flock like the seagulls of Capastrano." We'll sail seas of liquor, see sights, throw caution to the wind, no planning whatsoever, every action on a whim, no bounds, no ties.

We'll be no one. A couple of strangers with no history. No background. It isn't a clean slate, we won't HAVE a slate. Famished and ravenous, we'll wring every last drop of life that we can out of this place, suck it dry, get our money's worth. This trip is on Uncle Sam's dime. He's got his money's worth and then some out of us, so it's only fair, right?

Nothing is too strange or taboo. It will never be weird enough for me. Stop at nothing, sleep only when absolutely necessary, chew vitamins and keep moving. We're making our escape from Shawshank.

Just two strangers sticking out like sore thumbs in a sea of normal people.

Sounds great to me.


Shorter, Shorter Still

I'm out and walking about, back to the same grind, the same routine, the skipping record patrol patrol pa-pa-patrol trol trol trolllllllllll. It's a nice day, perfect weather for suicide vests, they warn. Don't let 'em too close.

And there I am, climbing across the ramp while it's still lowering, the big green monster shitting another soldier out onto the streets. We walk along the road, and I start to wonder just what the fuck we're supposed to do if someone IS wearing an S-vest. You can't get the people far enough away.

What, the whole point is to not let them kill you with a point blank explosion? To just take a little less and still come out chewed up? Give me a fucking break.

I'm watching everyone. Hey dude, unzip your jacket, pat yourself down. You're already close enough to vaporize me anyway. I know there is no point in doing what I'm doing, but I do it anyway. Because I'm short now. They say this is when you get complacent? No way, not me.

A car turns onto the road towards us. I stand in the road with my rifle at the low ready, cigarette smoke burning my eyes, and I shake my head no at him. Then I gesture that he can either turn or turn the car around, but he can't keep coming this way. Some other guy shouts something to our interpreter. It's ok, I'm told. Let him come.

He pulls up to the house in front of me, his house. Where his little girl has been waving from the gate for the past few minutes. I look like the uptight asshole, but I don't care much. I'm short.

I get tired of the crowd of young boys hanging around me, chittering at me in Arabic, asking me for things. "Yalla, emshee." Go away.

I'm scanning roads and windows and rooftops and intersections and people and everything I can, even though I know that if something were to happen, the odds of me seeing it coming are very slim. The growing sense of desperation and survivalism is directly proportionate to how much time I have left. As my time elapses, my paranoia amps up exponentially, until I'll hop on that bird a shaken, sweaty, blood-shot eyed, frayed out mess, slumping my ass into the seat. Exhaling like a hurricane and then gut-laughing like a fucking madman.

I'm short but I'm not stupid.


Flight Of The Valkyries

Oh-Dark-Fuck-Me-Rotten and we throw our gear on. I'd spent the previous night preparing.

"Suspect, here ya go, we're supposed to carry these," says our resident New Guy. He hands me a frag grenade, a flashbang grenade, a smoke grenade, and a star cluster thing. They've never given me grenades before.

Ah SHIT, what's this all about? Fuck, this is going to be some kind of crazy-ass hardcore mission or something isn't it? The Last Bastion Of Anti-American Bastards in a crazy Alamo fight, with every type of ordnance and dirty tactic in the book, ten foot tall desert warriors, complete devastation and total annihilation. Why the hell are they putting me back on the ground NOW? I'm SHORT! I go on leave real fuckin' soon! What kind of fucked up God would let me get hit right before leave?!

They'll set up all kinds of crazy traps and ambushes, then they'll run us down like dogs! I'm not trying to take a Hamburger Hill, I'm trying to suck down liquor and chase women with negotiable morals. What the fuck, over?

I double-check everything, and I clean my rifle and oil it. It's almost silent when I pull the charging handle back. Nice. I stick fresh batteries in my NODs. Fresh batteries in the optic sight on my rifle. Fresh batteries in the SureFire tac-light on the same rifle. Getting all ready to rock and whatnot, motivated, pseudo-high-speed type shit, Brand New Private kinda thing.

So there I am, Oh-Dark-Fuckin'-A, at the helipad. We're getting our brief and I take my NODs out and attach them to my helmet, then I flick them on to check them again.


I yank the helmet off and look at the NODs. Just like I figured, the battery cover had come off and was still inside the pouch on my body armor. One guy is holding my rifle for the light on it while I'm dicking with my NODs, trying to snap the cover closed (I don't have the normal one-battery slot most NODs do). I try them again.


At this point, I'm getting pretty damned nervous. Here we are, about to go on some big ol' super secret Army Strong mission, and my fucking nightvision doesn't work. I try different battery configurations, then I put another fresh set in, still nothing. Until I finally realize that the piece of metal on the lid that completes the circuit or facilitates the black magic or whatever, it's missing. It was in the bottom of my pouch, and we had to ghetto rig it just to get the bastard to work, but it finally did. Just in time to get on the bird and wait. And wait.

We're sitting on the benches that line both sides of the bird and I snap a picture. This sets off a chain reaction and now everyone's going through the Pre-Mission Ritual that we went through back when Iraq was still new and interesting to us. And then we waited some more.

The engine started, a damn near deafening whine, and still nothing. Then the bird started to shake, vibrate, gyrate, whatever. But nothing. The back ramp raised up, but nothing.

I kept looking at my watch, wondering when the hell we were going to actually lift off, when the rotors sped up and the ground shifted. I flipped my NODs on and looked out the open back.

A friend of mine will gladly tell you what a fag I am for thinking the following:

Through monochromatic shades of green, the helipad dropped out from underneath us, and the whole FOB followed. We leaned to the bird's left and the world tilted, bright green sky, lights glowing from here and there, and we were up and away.

Fucking breathtaking.

I stared in awe out the back, like a complete tool, as we passed clusters of houses and road and open nothingness and palm groves. Then a village panned behind us, every light like a glowing emerald. I closed the eye that looks through my NODs. Lame. I opened my nightvision eye again. Groovy.

It was almost like it wasn't even real, like no way could this be happening. This is too NOT mundane. Like there was a movie screen on the back of the bird with all sorts of crazy wind blowing in.

Then the darklights blinked a few times. Two minutes.

We continued to pass villages and desert wilderness until the bird sank down, leaning this way, then leveling, and then the ramp dropped and we poured out, the rotors whipping the shit out of the air. I took a knee once I was far enough away, but when the bird lifted off again, it still blew me over and I had to catch myself with my free hand.

And so began the mission. And it was productive.


The Downward Spiral

One year ago, we were nervous and excited and apprehensive. Ready to do this. Green as snot.

We jumped through training hoops at Fort Lewis, counting down months. This epic THING looming in front of us, like it was some kind of tidal wave we were waiting to catch.

Before we knew it, they stuffed us on buses and into airplanes and flew us to the other side of the planet, jet-lagged and confused as shit, dog-tired and sick of travel, SICK of fucking waiting and stopping and going, sitting on duffel bags. Not knowing what to expect.

We spent a few weeks in Kuwait, adjusting to the heat, preparing for our next push into theater, just more waiting, all of it, more headgames. Already we were reduced to phone calls and emails, otherwise effectively cut off from the World.

And then they stuffed us all onto C-130s. Wedged in there, full kit, miserable, everyone scowling and swearing at each other for so much as adjusting in their seat. Two miserable hours of loud droning engines. You're off to war, son.

We had landed, anticlimactically, and still, we were herded like fucking animals, STILL not knowing a damn thing, and the cycle would never end. And there I was, finding myself in Baghdad, chomping at the bit to get outside the wire, to experience This Fucking War.

Barely 21 and dumber than shit, I was all sorts of optimistic, thinking we were going to do great things and kick lots of ass, GI Joe hero type shit. That we could be cool with the people, and bring the hammer down on the baddies.

Then a low rumble shakes my Stryker, and two of our guys are killed by an IED while they were dismounted. People emerged from their houses and cheered.

Every day we piled out of the trucks and into any random building, clearing house after house after god-forsaken motherfucking house, sweltering heat, sweat stinging our bloodshot eyes. Sucking down hot water and tromping up and down stairs all day. First floor clear. Second floor clear. Roof clear. Repeat and repeat and repeat, and where the FUCK are the bad guys?

There's gunfire out of nowhere, and soon it's a squad on one rooftop against the enemy on another rooftop. "Chaz" returns fire with his SAW and watches as his rounds smack into some guy's ribs. He shakes for the rest of the day.

We continue to clear every day, we fire warning shots. And a sniper kills another of our guys. My squad returned to the truck to escort the medic's Stryker back to the Green Zone. The air horn blares repeatedly, over and over again, for what must have been fifteen solid minutes as we race to the hospital.

And then we're back out in it all over again, and where's this apparent enemy? Fucking ghosts. This fucking war.

Through the boredom and the monotony and misery, we occasionally have one of our own get wounded. Sometimes minor, sometimes enough to go back to the states. Shot in the leg. Shrapnel in the ass. Shrapnel in the head or the arm. Sometimes WE get one of them.

We bust our asses in Baghdad in support of other units, tackling one of the most notorious neighborhoods in Iraq. Every Iraqi I've ever mentioned this neighborhood nods in understanding, then mentions that it is "no good". Moo zyen.

And then we move. To a more calm area, where we have our own sector. And the monotony picks up exponentially. Days and weeks bleed together in an agonizing blur.

Then a suicide bomber kills three of us.

Still no visible enemy that we can directly engage.

You go on bipolar cycles of motivation and indifference. Of caring about the people to total apathy. Wanting to wreak havoc or wanting to get back to the tent and kick back. All the while the World moves on without you. You wonder if those people back home will think you've changed.

We were green once.