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"Love and War", an Essay
I'm going to Iraq soon. Yes, I want to go. Yes, I feel like I'm ready to go. No, I didn't agree with the original, official reasons for invading Iraq. Yes, I joined the Army after 9/11 and knew the global war on terrorism was coming. Yes, three years of being stuck in training have upset me while other people have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. No, I'm not really worried about getting hurt. Yes, I think our mission in Iraq now makes sense. No, I do not like the politics of the whole situation.
I've waited three years to go to Iraq. I didn't have any idea things would work out that I'd be an Arabic linguist in a special forces unit -- I wasn't nearly that ambitious when I first joined -- but I'm pretty excited because the stuff I'm going to be doing is going to be pretty interesting and I have a chance to make a real difference. I like my team and I'm grateful for all the training they've given us here since I've arrived.
I was on the web reading other soldiers' blogs the other day. I didn't like them very much. Experiences differ wildly depending on what you're doing and how close you get to the physical clash between occupational forces and insurgents. Some people have pretty cushy jobs over there, some have to deal with imminent danger daily. The more popular blogs tend to be uglified by rabid conservative soldier politics, which is to say that they should have "AMERICA, FUCK YEAH" soundtracks, and "THESE COLORS NEVER RUN" banners on the side to go along with their urges to defend the onslaught against Christianity and GW Bush by the leftie communist elite MSM. That's pretty much what it's like on base, too, if you try to talk to people about Iraq. I just think that there should be more insightful, constructive, and interesting stuff coming out of the many experiences American soldiers are having during our presence over there.
It's Memorial Day and I feel a bit embarrassed and a little alienated when people say "god bless you". I mean, on a personal level, I haven't done much yet, but on a larger level, the civilian world is so cut off from the military world that the words don't seem to ring true. If a veteran were to tell me "god bless you", I'd feel like I was the one who needed to say it to him. But to me the situation in Iraq and to a smaller degree Afghanistan seems so foreign to the American public. You hear about deaths and attacks here and there, but you sort of have to dig around for information about the massive offensives they're running over there. Doonesbury is publishing a list of this last month's dead for Memorial Day -- but doesn't Iraq seem so distant? Like there aren't over a hundred thousand troops over there working long ops and kitting up and going outside the wire to troll for bad guys? Like these updates from Iraq are just cutting into the latest news elsewhere?
I feel that when I go to Iraq, it's just part of a normal process now. The flow of troops in and out of Baghdad. Like I'll just disappear (or perhaps not, depending on the accomodations) for a little while, falling off the grid, and then showing up again a year later. Like when someone at your office goes on vacation for a couple weeks. Oh, they're gone.
But it's not like that at all. My mom is worried. Trish is worried. My girlfriend is worried. Lots of people are worried that I'm going over there, put in a situation where I could get hurt. To close family, it's a serious thing. It's something they don't comprehend or understand. Fear of the unknown, fear of bad luck, fear of losing security.
That's the worst part I think. I mean, we soldiers are pretty used to the idea of deploying. It's just normal now. Part of being a soldier is joking about death, making light of our misery doing dumb Army tasks, that sort of thing. But our families aren't used to it. Certainly not MY family's, which is a complete stranger to the military.
It would bother me if I wasn't the one leaving because there wouldn't be much I could do about it. It's just harder when you're the one who's staying, the one who isn't gearing up for it, the one who isn't going through it. I'm sorry my friends and family may feel that way, but it's really the thing I wanted to do. I have to do this.
And you know, I'll be back soon enough. Time will pass, sometimes slowly, but it will pass. I wish you wouldn't worry about it, or let it stress you out subconsciously.
The funny thing about this year in which I go to Iraq is that it's also a year in which I fell in love again. The timing is inexplicable. The juxtaposition of love and war in my life has been a healthy influence on me. I can feel again, I can appreciate again, I can be spoiled again. Dealing with the two certainly adjusts your priorities. It heightens the emotions, gives me energy, fills me with motivation. I will certainly miss my girlfriend while I'm gone, but my love for her will not waver. I'm pretty sure it will be intensified, in fact.
We met for the first time in person in NYC for half a week. We of course hit it off instantly and had an emotional holiday together, concluding in exchanges of words of love which felt really good. I can tell that I've matured a lot since my last serious relationship, mainly because I can handle it a lot better and derive from it all the good things and none of the dependent things.
My girlfriend is impressive. For me to be impressed is a feat -- but I love her creativity and body and intelligence and her intangibles and her character and her je ne sais quoi. I love that we talk on the same level, and I love the attraction we share. I love that the more I talk to her, the more I love and respect her. I love that she understands. I know she loves that I understand her.
It cracks me up that I meet her just before I deploy, but it doesn't really surprise me. Life works out that way. Timing is never right how you want it to be (like my saving up my checking account for this deployment and thusly not having money to invest in GOOG, which as a no-brainer investment has gone up $90/share in about a month) so you sort of have to store up conservatively when times are tough so that when you get on a roll, you've got a lot of chips out on the table.
I appreciate my relationship with this French-Canadian woman I've fallen in love with, and I appreciate the opportunity that this deployment to Iraq will offer me. Needless to say I'm a happy man and I'm looking forward to what the future will bring from all this.
Most of all I feel more complete than I've ever felt. I'm finally growing up and filling into the person I should be. I'm more adaptable, more aware, more educated about a wider variety of things. I'm stronger mentally from all this army shit and stronger physically also. With this relationship I'm in, and everything that I've been through in the last few years, I've realized I'm stronger emotionally also. It's a good feeling. I'm excited.
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