2.02.2008

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.

20 Comments:

  1. themorethingschange... said...
    Yup, I think its in the manual, written in stone...

    ...HURRY UP AND WAIT...

    Somewhere I read a great description of war and wish I could remember it precisely...

    ...it was something like: long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror...

    I'd be inclined to think I'm quoting you but images of trenches come to mind when I think of it...

    ~P~
    LT Nixon said...
    Yeah, people will notice you have changed. Don't worry about it, you've experienced something more profound than they could ever find on MTV.
    themorethingschange... said...
    LT is right...

    most everybody changes after high school, you're just light years ahead of most....

    high school friends are special, but from what I've seen military friends are friends for life...

    what say you wmearl, LT?

    ~P~
    Anonymous said...
    great writing bud
    Anonymous said...
    Suspect, I am so glad you can write about this stuff. I'm not there, and I hope like hell I never have to be anywhere like it. But we need to know what's happening to you guys. Yeah, sure you signed up, but we put you there. Green is acceptable for twenty-one, but there's no excuse for jackass decisions if you hold public office. War is the ultimate failure of politicians. It means they're too stupid to figure out the answers any other other way than to toss other people's lives at the problem. Because they can.
    Anonymous said...
    Hemingway has reared his head again. Amazing things happen when you're not talking about masterbation, condoms, or oozing pus. Amazing and gifted are two words that almost come close to describing you. Be safe,dude.

    Aunt Sandy
    Earl said...
    Aw, GREEN doesn't make it past the first time you make a choice in combat - if you are telling the story it was the right choice and you aren't green, you are a lovely shade of dripping blood red and will be spending the remainder of your life kind of hiding it from the 'civilized' world. And to think you think the world went on without you - ha! The world is stalled on writer's strikes, one last football game for the season and an extra day this year to make up for the foolish Presidential primaries and election lies told in straight face. I am reading about Troy again, like most things I continue to find what I found before, diggin g up the same memories whatever war I read, see or dream about - you have been washed in the waste and will have to hide that color that replaced the green - keep making the right choices, keep telling the story and hang on, because there is more than just the warrior in you, but it will be the core.
    Anonymous said...
    “Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”

    -Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Anonymous said...
    Thanks. Compelling.
    David M said...
    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/04/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.
    Vixen said...
    Bipolar is a good description for you. But, it's normal to go back and forth in our outlook on a situation that's stressful and frustrating. I hope you find a point of balance.
    Army Sergeant said...
    The apathy-to periods-of rage is normal.

    For soldiers, anyway.
    Anonymous said...
    Hey Vixen

    Are you a doctor or did you learn a new word watching Britney news?
    Strykeraunt said...
    "The apathy-to periods-of rage is normal.

    For soldiers, anyway."

    Or, anyone exposed to similar circumstances. ;~)
    Strykeraunt said...
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    Strykeraunt said...
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    Strykeraunt said...
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    membrain said...
    "we were green once."....and Young! To paraphrase Hal Moore.

    Change is inevitble for those who have experienced what you have and will until 15 months has run out.

    I'm with LT Nixon on this one. Take care.
    Jodi said...
    Thank you for your heart. Thank you for the toast I say to you before the glass reaches my lips to pour down the appreciation. Thank you for your pride.
    nevadagirl said...
    damn, I hope to read a book by you some day! You have a knack for writing and description

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