Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wonderful memories in an amazing land...

The last week that it has been since I last posted has been pretty eventful for me. I have been quite busy with friends and family and just truly having a great time while being back home. As expected the time has been going by quicker and quicker, but as the time draws near I feel I am more mentally prepared to leave again than when I first arrived on leave. In many ways I'm actually looking forward to it. My close friends with whom I have spent all day every day with in some of the most trying days of my life are where I will be heading and I do miss them. I am looking forward to being able to swap stories, to share with them all that I have done, and to hear the stories of life as it went on in Iraq. It will be difficult to say goodbye to many people that love and care for me here, but they understand that it will not be too much longer until all of this madness is over and I can return to this wonderful land for good.

One thing that I was able to to while on leave was to get a new tattoo that I have been looking at getting for several months now. The last tattoo I got was a couple days after I turned 18. I won't even bother putting up a picture of that one because, well, its pretty pathetic, especially now with this new tattoo. I had a design that I liked and a buddy of mine, Redd, took that design and redid it and I think he did an amazing job. This new tattoo, a sweet tribal design, stretches from my shoulder, down my arm, to just above my elbow. It took the better part of 5 hours, and YES, in some parts it did hurt, or well stung really bad. But once it was done I was stoked about it and I couldn't of asked for much better! I've uploaded a picture of it, so please forgive the farmers tan. ;)

Friday evening I ended up heading to a local elementry school with a friend of mine to help out with their Halloween Open House thing they had setup. Everyone was dressed up and so I went with the lazy man outfit and I dressed up as an "Overworked Underpaid Government Worker." Or as some would ask by my outfit, "Are you in the Army?" Hahaha, ok I thought I would just have some fun with it. Anyways I had finally just adjusted to wearning civilian clothers and so wearing the military uniform was a little different, but it felt good too. I had the chance to talk with many people and received a lot of support from complete strangers. It was also an amazing experience to be able to help out with these kids. I was having a blast joking around with them and just enjoying the evening. It was extremely crowded but it surely hit home with me the beauty and opportunity that we have available to us in our country. Quite a change from the last holiday I came from in Iraq, Ramadan.

This morning I had a chance to go to church with one of my friends and her family. I have attended this church service on many occassions and they have always made me feel at home. They have been a huge support during my entire military tour, especially during this deployment. I have received many letters from members of the congregation and to be able to see many of the people who have been offering thier support and prayers while I was home was a great feeling. I cannot wait to attend again once I am back for good. I know with the amount of prayers that they are sending that we definatly have Gods attention on us, and that gives me comfort.

So on the subject of Iraq, I had noticed that for pretty much the first week of being home I hadn't heard a single thing on the news or radio about Iraq. Now granted I wasn't sitting and watching the news all the time, but I figured I would of heard something in that time. I guess the fact that things have quieted down, there is no "news worthy" stories. How sad. Unfortunatly yesterday I finally heard some news on, well, Afghanistan actually. It pains me to think about it, but a soldier with his home in Phoenix, AZ was killed durring combat along with another soldier from Oregon. This news report came after a quick story on the return of 150 AZ National Guard soldiers. It hit home when they reported on and showed the reactions of the soldiers to the fact that one of their own would not be returning with them. I felt for them as myself and the guys in my unit know all too well what this is like. I'm just glad that so many of them DID make it through. I can only hope for the same with my unit as well as all the guys that are serving overseas right now.

I have read of others experiences of being back home and I wondered how frequent the common questions I hear people get asked truly come about. You know, the "What is Iraq like?" or "Have you killed anyone?" I've managed to answer the first one with just as vague of an answer that seems to satisfy people. I simply say, "Well, Iraq is.... Iraq!" But its the second of these questions that I have had a difficult time dealing with. I made the mistake of sharing from a story that pertains from this exact question, and well, as expected the reactions were not something that I was used to dealing with. I have decided that I will no longer tell many people, at least face to face, about this experience. The hardest thing though now is how to answer that question. I mean, do you REALLY want to know? I don't want people to look at me differntly for experiences that I've had in Iraq, but I have a feeling it is something that I am going to have to accept. No one that has been there will truly be able to completely understand many of the experiences from that place. I can totally see where others in the past have talked about only being able to truly share completely with those who have experienced the hell that is war.

Durring the past week and a half I have had several experiences that had me take a step back and think about how spending the last 10 months of my life in Iraq, a place unlike anywhere or anything I have ever done before, has affected my perceptions and my mentality while here at home. The first of these occured the other day while I was sitting in my hotel room. It was the middle of the afternoon and I was sitting in my bed watching TV when all of a sudden I heard two successive gun shots from somewhere out my window, a little ways off. I immediately jumped up and ran to the side of the window and pushed the curtain out of the way. I began immediately scanning the business district behind the hotel I am staying in. I was scanning the typical places, rooftops, windows, near vechicles, and people that I saw moving around. I realized that I was unarmed and in the moment that I was about to grab for my gun, it slapped me in the face that I was NOT in Iraq. I continued to scanning for a few more seconds before I pulled myself away from the window and took the time to reflect on what the hell was going on inside of my head. I knew by looking that I wasn't in Iraq, but for those brief moments that I was initially scanning out the window, I felt almost as if I was in that type of enviroment. I figure this is to be expected initially, but it was a surreal feeling. Its amazing how your brain can become conditioned to something so well that it immediately snaps into what it has been trained to deal with.

Another of these incidents was after seeing the horror movie "30 Days of Night." I won't tell you about the movie, because I think if you enjoy horror movies you should definatly see this one. It was an intense movie. By far one of the bloodiest, gorey and thrilling movies I've seen. The thing was that this movie really had me on edge. Just as most horror movies do, they build things up, set the scene where you have the feeling and knowing that something is about to happen, and then just like that they hit you with the right music and extremly loud shocking sounds and instantly you are terrified for a brief period of time. Then it goes on you begin to calm down and the process begins again. This movie did this over and over and over again, and by the end it had really gotten inside of my head and I was partially terrified and totally on edge. I was talking with the girl I went with on the way back to the car and on the ride home and I was trying to explain to her about why I was so on edge because of it. I feel it has to do with how similar the horror movie experience is to combat. When things go bad, its just the same, you feel it and you know it, and then just like that, still totally taken by suprise you are in a totally fearful situation. And it goes in waves, just like the movie. I think being put in a similar type of experience as that just put my brain in a combat like mentality and there wasn't much I could do about it. It took me some time, but I finally came back from being so on edge. It was quite the experience, and I decided that as much as I love horror movies, I may stay away from them for a brief period of time once I return!

Well this is turning in to quite the long post so I will finish up with this last experience. Just a short time ago the Boston Red Soxs defeated the Colorado Rockies to sweep the World Series. At the begin they began as they always do by singing the Star Spangeled Banner. I don't know what it was about it, but it had me completely emotional. It wasn't that the singing was that fantastic (although it was very good) but I believe as I was listening to the words, I began really thinking about things. About my life for the past 10 months, about my life for the next 4 or so when I return to Iraq and also I was thinking about the beauty that is America. We have such an amazing country and it is something that I have had my eyes opened to even more than before. I love our country, what it stands for and what we do as a people. I am so greatful to be able to live in such a great nation. As I thought about all, heard the beautiful singing, the roar of the crowd and saw the HUGE American flag, it all hit me at once and thankfully I was alone, because I was on the verge of tearing up. So many emotions that I just hold back during the normal course of my life lately all came up to attack me at once. Emotions that let me know I am so proud to be an American!

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Anonymous said...

When someone has a CIB, I tend to draw my own conclusions about whether or not that man killed any enemy in a war. I feel bad when soldiers have to take lives, but at the same time I look at the lives they took as the same as rabid dogs; it doesn't bother me if a rabid dog is put down, what bothers me is that the dog went rabid in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I read the following in "Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters":

"As for myself, I had never considered myself a killer although I had killed several of the enemy. Killing did not make me happy, but in this particular circumstance, it left me momentarily satisfied -- satisfied because it led to confidence in getting a difficult job done with minimal casualties. Nor did I want to develop a hatred for the individual German soldier. I merely wanted to eliminate them. There is nothing personal about combat."

I read your post about Friday the 13th, and it made me think of the Major Winters book. I can't say that I understand how you feel because I have no similar experience, but I don't think less of a man who has done what he had to do. Better him than you, I say. I know someone who was in the Marine Corps, and I know that he killed people in Iraq in 2003, but I never look down on him, nor do I think he's some kind of god. I see him as an ordinary man who performed under extraordinary circumstances. I feel safer around him than any of my brother's other friends. I mean, the others are good guys, but I don't know if they can be counted on to protect me if someone were to attack me in their presence. With A.P., I know that he'd protect me without hesitation, or assist me if I was trying to fight back against an attacker.

Anonymous said...

Dude! SWEET TAT!!!

Sparkel said...

I think your friends and family at home, have already shown you how proud they are of you, as am I, an insignificant reader. Its young men and women like you who make me proud to be an American.

I cant wait till I read the post that you and Charlie are on American soil :-)

Till then thoughts and prayers are with you and all our men and women, and may the last 4 months go safely and rapidly.

Keep on...

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/26/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

Ed said...

Welcome home dude! Well Done!
Grace and peace,

Infantry Dad said...

In war a soldier doesn't kill people.
He eliminates threats.
Those who would ask if you killed someone have not been to war, and just don't understand.
I still get emotional when I here the anthem, and when the color guard passes during a parade.
It's what patriots do.
Those who have served this great nation understand better than any what true patriotism is.
I have to bite my lip when I see people at a ball game horseing around during the Star Spangled Banner, or leaving their lid on.
I want to tell them what that great song and our flag means.
Then I remember. It's not their fault.
They have no way of knowing.
God bless you and keep you safe on the remainder of your tour.
Write me anytime you want.
I'm here to listen and not judge.
Carry on soldier.

LiveTodayLoveForever said...

Hello, I am new to this blogger thing and just starting up i am interested in supporting people in many ways one of my blogs taht i have up now is on Military and family....i want people to post and comment on it and support each other if you would please spread the word about my site check it out for yourself as well as tell others. Thanks and i look forward for you thoughts on how it looks here is the link if anyone cares to take a peek

Thanks and take care and God bless those overseas right now!

Times Eye said...

Nice tatoo man, if they blast u off to pieces, now they can identify u :-)

Anonymous said...

Really like that tat. I'm sorry to hear that some folks don't have the sense not to ask some of the questions they do. As for the horror movies, yeah it's best to stay away from stuff like that and the news for awhile. Concentate on the positive. Through everything that's happened since 9/11/01, I think one of the most important things I've learned from what you milbloggers have to say, is to really appreciate what we have. Nothing can be taken for granted.

Anonymous said...

Very cool tat! Take excellent care, carry on with pride and know that so many of us here in the States hold you and all those who serve in our hearts and prayers.
Rock On!
Cathy B

Jonita said...

Congrats on your tattoo, it looks fantastic!

Wolf Lover Girl said...

Great tat! Hubby wants one... I haven't decided if I'll let him. ;-)

~ Wolf Lover Girl