The Yang

Talked with a Ugandan soldier during my four hour romance with complete boredom. I mentioned how our enemy is the good guy in their own eyes and WE'RE the bad guys and vice versa, and that America's Founding Fathers could have been considered terrorists by the British back then.

Then this guy backhanded my statement with one simple clarification.

The terrorists that we're up against target civilians, non-combatants. Oh yeah, forgot about that part. And they've had a personal impact on me numerous times, in different ways. This place gets you so fucked up that you lose sight of things like that.

After all, we can't seem to find them to fight them.

But yeah, turns out I DO still care. I'm just too worn out to realize it.

Well, I got nothin. Thought I'd clear that up real quick though.

Truth is, I'm pretty sure I'm coming home with a sense of failure, guilt, and other things that I can't put a finger on. I tried though, I really did. But I got no enemy to attack, so it's back to the regular game plan: survive, embrace the paranoia. Wonder why I made it through unscathed (it's called survivor's guilt). Feel like shit every time someone thanks me or acts like I personally did something when I was really just along for the ride.

Bummer it has to end this way, huh?

"Do you believe in karma?"

"Karma is justice without the satisfaction. ....I don't believe in justice."

Yeah dude. Epic fail.


  1. Sisu said...
    "Feel like shit every time someone thanks me or acts like I personally did something when I was really just along for the ride."

    You went. You enlisted because you felt it was the best way for you to support the troops. You actually acted as your conscience dictated, rather than paying mere lip service. I don't see failure in that.

    Much more to say, but not even I have enough hubris to inflict it on you. ;) Take care of yourself.
    Anonymous said...
    It's ending the way we all prayed it would. Your on your way home.
    2sbct, under 2scr Mom said...
    You're not a failure. The frustration is obvious, but I hope in time that will get better. Be proud of your service. You'll always have people thanking you for serving, get used to it :).

    At this point, I don't really know if we will make a difference over there. Sure, there are good things being done and then I hear about them being undone...and the cyle starts over.

    I read a few blogs regularly (including yours). It really helps me see how limited you are over there. IMO, screw the ROE. My son is in the middle of the crap in Sadr City right now. I don't want him limited on what he can do.

    I hope you keep blogging after you've gone home, so we'll know how you're doing.

    Take care and God bless...oh, and thank you :).
    Big D said...
    Hey Suspect,
    Of course you still care, it is just covered over by layers of dust, mud, and other bullsh**t from this ugly war. When you get home, you will slowly shed those layers and you will find an even better version of yourself! You have been through hell and that has to take a toll. Don't give up on yourself now, one day you will see. Right now, you have been in a situation for so long you have lost some perspective on it...being sleep deprived and love deprived for this long can wreak havoc with the best and stongest of men. You are only human, but, you still have something to say and you say it so well. Stay strong and come home safe. When you get home, I hope you have friends and family who will love you up and take care of you until all those layers of badness and sadness go away and you can find your way in the non-Army world with the rest of us. I think of you often (even though I don't know you) and I won't say thank you cause I know how you hate that! Unlike sisu, I do have the hubris to inflict me on you. You are one in a million, stay true to you, I have a feeling you have only just begun to make a difference in this crazy, catastrof*cked world.
    Anonymous said...

    It's pointless to tell you that you will not being coming back reeking of the failure you seem to think you will because 1) Your stubborn as fuck and 2) I don't know what all has happened.

    However, it would maybe be sufficient to promise that I will not ever thank you, but I WILL help you find juvenile ways in which to deal with the people who do :P

    Even though you'll opt to just cope on your own. Did I mention your stubborn as fuck?

    LT Nixon said...
    Survivor's guilt is pretty common. At least you were there, the collective guilt of an American nation completely absent from the war should be a disgrace, but I think they are the ones that don't care. Get home safe.
    Red said...
    Hey man, you did it. You win forever in my book.
    Anonymous said...
    If put things in historical perspective, right now you're just a little blip on a timeline. No one will know for sure if you guys were successful for at a least 10 or 15 years. One of those kids who got a soccer ball, or a candy bar, or who got in trouble because a weird GI acted like a monkey and he cheered will grow up and become a great leader. Or someone who remembers how bad it was before you and your buddies got there will be elected to the Parliament and give his life to see it doesn't ever happen again. You are a part of history, but it's not short-term. Ask the Vietnam vets who returned to Vietnam to find a capitalist society. Not every war ends like WWII. Some end like WWI, or go on forever. Funny how your Grandpa didn't think fighting in Korea was worth the effort, but now it's essential.

    Hate to bust your bubble like that. But now you can go to your college history class and call the instructor a complete dipshit 'cuz you were there.

    Your job was to... do the mission, then sit on your ass. Then do another mission, and sit on your ass. No wait, that was all those soldiers in all those other military campaigns.

    Now, look at this: your job in life is to make a positive impact in SOMEBODY's life. Pretty sure you did that already. I think you're major accomplishment was not in a mission, but what you let the rest of the world see through your eyes. You have accomplished much, and we hope to see more when you write your book.

    You done good. Now come home!

    Aunt Sandy
    kbug said...
    Don't ever feel like you didn't do anything. Whether you see it or not...you were there and you made a difference. There are far too many back here at home who wouldn't even do that...always remember that!! Blessings..... :)
    Mattato Head said...
    I have read your blog for some time now. I have left maybe one or two comments, but for the most part been a silent voyeur. Usually you put things in such a way that I see no room for comment or correction, and I can really only agree with the praise given by everyone else. You deserve to be praised, over and over and over again. For your contribution, your sacrifice, and mostly for your consideration and insight.

    I understand the survivor's guilt, at least from what I have read about it, and from some events in my own life (though nothing as severe is this war). What you must realize though, is that you volunteered when others didn't, you cared about civilians when others wouldn't, you stood in the arena and fought when others were merely spectators.

    As fucked up as this war may be, whether you decimated thousands of the enemy or spent your entire time without a target, that is all beyond your control. You put yourself in the path of danger, and just because danger didn't run you down, doesn't mean you don't deserve a badge for courage, honor, and integrity. You did what you could to save the world, so now, when you come home, it your turn to do what you can to CHANGE the world. Write, talk, create, do whatever you goddamn want to, because there will be thousands waiting to hear what a conscientious soldier wants to tell them. A vast majority of America, myself included, are waiting for your input to help make this world a better place.

    You have paid your dues, now you get to be the one with the loudest voice.

    Though it makes you feel guilty now I thank you. Let me know when the day comes that you don't feel guilty about it, because I will thank you then as well.

    OIF3 said...
    The first few months are awkward coming home, having to sit through all the seemingly unjustified praise, answering awkward questions that the asking party doesn't really sincerely care to know the answer to. Sitting through opinions from people who think they know the answers even though they haven't put any skin in the game as you have. Eventually you will blend in again and the blessed anonymity will come and no one has to know you were ever there. My best advice would be to stay in consistent contact with your comrades. They are the only ones who will ever understand and even though you're not in physical danger, you can still watch each other's backs.
    Anonymous said...
    If I see soldiers in uniform out in public, I thank them. I certainly don't mean to offend. I hope that you come home soon, and that you'll go on to do great things after the Army. You may feel like you were just along for the ride, but at least you went.
    Anonymous said...
    Yeppo. I've seen that on 'Welcome Home' missions. Work with me here; Did you set foreign policy? Did you 'groom' intel about SH? Did you leave the weapons depots unguarded? Where am i going with this? Were you in any way in charge of this operation?

    You're done your duty. It may be a lot less grand that you had imagined it would be. It usually always is. You stood up. Others made noises, you made commitments. You got through all the training. Remember, not everybody could or did. Did they? You answered the call. Others just gave lip service.

    You stood your watches. I mean, you have an obviously rotten attitude. But you never went AWOL, or quit, of fragged anyone. Now that's a good indicator of a *ucked up war, when you deserve praise for not fragging anyone.

    So, welcome to the long line of innocents who entered war with a head full of shit and a heart full of dreams. Nothing is as it seems. The one constant is; You did it. And, you'll probably live through it.

    You'll come back to a small world of negative assholes who will try to tear you down because they couldn't do what you did. You'll gravitate towards these assholes because you know the primary operant description of your life, is 'fucked up'. They'll flock to you because you'll let them.

    Now that is seriously fucked-up. Get a minor revenge by fucking as many of the scruffy chicks as you feel like, usually in odd and humiliating ways. They'll dig it.

    Steep your consciousness in this fucked up mess just long enough to gasp for air, take a deep breath, dive back in and look around at all the fucked-up shit you opened yourself too.

    Then run like Hell.
    themorethingschange... said...
    Thank God for that Ugandan soldier. I'm glad his remarks brought you back to your center, more or less.

    Aunt Sandy has already said most of the things I would have, thanks Aunt Sandy :)...

    I can't speak to the survivor guilt. I've read about it but I don't "grok" it..

    But about the wish that people wouldn't thank you for your service, consider this: that's all some of us CAN do. We can't fight but we recognize the sacrifice you made in making that choice. So we fly flags and wear ribbons and send packages and when we see a vet we say "Thank You"....

    I've said it before but I'll repeat myself for effect -- you are a man who never met a stranger. Its your nature to make friends wherever you go. You just can't help yourself! And you'll be remembered as Aunt Sandy said because of that.

    I've learned happiness is a choice -- maybe failure is too, or maybe its a matter of perspective
    ...but hey, you choose the perspective don't you....

    You have a lot to process, thats true. Suspect will always be in your back pocket, but in the end it'll be an older and wiser Ryan that takes the next step.

    David M said...
    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 04/07/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.
    Anonymous said...

    you came into iraq with the mentality of a hero. To protect those who can't protect themselves, to make a change in someone's life, to give "standing feet" to a country that has been crumbling for the past decades. The effects of your sole presence there has helped reduce the violence and the attacks towards civilians, so that one day families that abandoned their houses, those you go in and search repeatedly, can come back to a home safe and free of danger. Next time you go out, look into the children's eyes that you so much like to give high fives to, and you will find hope. You may not see any direct effects of your work over there. As an individual in this hell of a mess, you will not find much. But as whole and in the long run, you WILL see the results of your work and be proud to have participated in the rebuilding of a home, a community, a nation. We are all proud of you and your fellow soldiers.
    Don't lose faith and stick to hope. Come out with our head up high, you are NOT a failure!
    Office Lady said...
    Yah...what they all said!

    And you, for what it's worth, will take it all under consideration - filter it through Suspect and then through Ryan, and decide what to do with what's left.

    You'll do it. And then I bet you'll write about it.

    Those of us that have only "met" Suspect hope that we will have an opportunity to "meet" Ryan once he's back home.
    Aprillini said...
    I have loved reading every word you have written, living vicariously, feeling for you, or having you help me get at least the slimmest handle on how it is. One thing I know is that you aren't a failure. so hush. and just come on home in one messed up piece. Time will help you get over it. Or not. It's definitely up to you.
    Jean said...
    Young man...you did your job, you did your duty, you did your time.
    And, you did us proud.
    Come home and enjoy your life.

    I truly hope you keep writing.
    Anonymous said...
    There is one thing . . . I worked my way up to JO (Journalist) rate in the Navy. I was smart and had a gift with words. I struggled with MACV and all the "Good Morning Viet Nam" bullshit that ruled the day.

    I never went back to journalism. I was considered a good writer, but the whole untruth of the situation just turned me away from media on general principles.

    Now there is iNet Blogging -- where any asshole can say whatever he wants and, justly, be ignored completely. It's a great technological leap. The alternatives are FOX, MSNBC, and CNN. Same asshole concept. Same ignore concept. But big money just keeps putting those assholes on the air. Go figure.

    Point is, even if you didn't kill a single enemy, you reported a very factual event. You covered the who, what, when, where, why, and how, like a nuanced professional. Turns out, from all your readers here, that was a service we needed and appreciated.

    So, pull your head out, try to remember that at least you got shot at, blown up, and abused by the natives. It counts for something. No, really it does.
    membrain said...
    Well I can't say anything that hasn't been covered. Sure can't beat Aunt Sandy. I'm so glad you wrote all of this down for all of our sakes. It's been a hell of a ride.

    And besides, we'll always have Tokyo.
    membrain said...
    I apologise for the above flippant remarks. I was thinking about this all last night.

    From my own experience in the army back in the day, I know that it's an extremely stressful experience and that's without being in a war zone. Always being tested.

    I know that there are things that I can't talk about to my friends who haven't been in the military let alone a war zone. They wouldn't unerstand, let alone care.

    You are a strong person pushed to the limit. You've already told us about your problems with PTSD. I can only skim the surface of what it must be like to live the life that you are going through now.

    Sleep deprivation alone is a motherfucker. And the survivors guilt. And the people that you have lost must hurt you so bad.

    You are definitely NOT a failure. You are on the cutting edge of modern communications and there are so many positive and successful paths that this can lead you through.

    Remember the guy who said this?

    " Ladies and gentlemen, people have all sorts of different coping mechanisms, some more healthy than others, but here's one that I'd prefer to cling to. You see, in the event that I temporarily "lose my mind" (grown-ups call it 'being stressed out'), I will lock myself in my living quarters, whatever they may be, and watch episode after episode after episode of [Scrubs] until the waves subside.

    And on that note...Jenni...I kinda stole Season 2 from you before I got on the plane. That will be all."

    Maybe that's not you anymore. Time moves on. Everybody changes. Especially in a war zone.

    It's time for you to go home. I wish you all the best that the world has to offer. And for a guy with your smarts, your guts and your talent that's a lot.

    Still got those Scrubs episodes?

    Take care of yourself.

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