Monday, July 31, 2006

My Vietnam

Looking out of my Humvee window I realized that this was my Vietnam. We were finally made it to the Euphrates and it was like a jungle to me after being in the desert for weeks. Things were quiet as we stopped for the night before crossing a bridge where some of my unit had been ambushed the day before. Sleep came quickly after so many hours of vigilance.

We woke to the sun and baking heat and I decided that I had time to change my essentials (underwear, socks, and shirt). Sitting back inside my canvas Humvee we were waiting for the call to proceed north across the bridge and into Baghdad.

Baghdad, we were finally going to get there after so many days of fighting and driving. The lush vegetation had its own voice, much different than the harsh desert. Sitting there listening to the sounds around me I was hit by that thought, this was my Vietnam, and it was punctuated by an explosion overhead.

The sounds around me changed from those of life to the screech of war and death. For a split second I hesitated and then it struck me, the absurdity of it all. I was sitting under a canvas roof, and I realized that I had to get out of my truck and take cover. Running with my rifle as death rained down from above time seemed to slow.

I focused on a large heavy equipment truck (HET) that was to my right. Without regard to my body I slammed into the ground under the engine block of that vehicle and looked franticly around trying to see where it was coming from. All I could see were the grasses and palm trees which looked so lush and inviting minutes before staring back at me full of shadows and hiding places.

They could be anywhere I thought as explosions continued to hammer the ground around me. This is it, I am going to die, it kept running through my head like the ticker at the bottom of the news, but it was more of a buzzing annoyance than an actual thought. Then like that it was over. Only a few seconds had passed but those seconds were stretched into an eternity in my mind.

After a few minutes we started to get up and look around, in front of me one of the soldiers from my platoon was yelling, "Holy shit, they are going to kill me." Yet he held his ground and kept looking for an enemy to shoot at. I was glad that even thought he was afraid he was still functioning, not locked up in his fear letting it consume him like I had seen it do to some. And like that it was over, we were alive and that buzzing in my head, "you are going to die," turned off, looking back at the truck I hid under I saw that behind the cab was a giant fuel tank. The absurdity of it all hit me, I had been hiding under a fuel truck carrying over 500 gallons of diesel.

About an hour later we proceeded across the bridge, another day closer to Baghdad, another day closer to going home.

Friday, July 28, 2006

3,500 Happy Campers

Life is good isn't it? Just ask the 3,500 soldiers who have had the good news spread to them.

"As part of the Baghdad security plan, all flights out for soldiers currently at the end of their deployment were canceled as of Tuesday, as commanders wrestled how to supply troops for the effort, a third official said."

This is in addition to the fact that we are having to increase the number of troops we have there. I wonder if this is freedom? Do you think the Iraqis feel free?

There is other good news as well. Let us take a look at what that might be. So as violence spreads across Iraq we give the Saudis a great deal on our war equipment. I guess it is only fitting that we give such special friends special privileges. I wonder what President Bush might think of this? He may not have time because he may be sued by Congress.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Boredom and Chaos

Sitting on the border waiting was one of the hardest parts. The ammunition had been issued and all there was left to do was to wait. We had an embedded journalist with us so I had one last phone call, all of five minutes long, to say goodbye and tell my wife that if she heard no news about me then I was alive. I promised her that I would return. What else could I do? We sat there all that night with scuds from Iraq screaming overhead and our own patriot missiles answering those screams right back.

Early the next day we crossed into Iraq. It was a little anticlimactic because our plains did such a good job of the border forces that all we saw for the first couple days was burning bodies and vehicles. There I was standing with my rifle in hand not knowing how this would change me or even if I would be going home. No plans had been told to us other than, "The road home leads to Baghdad."

Some of the soldiers would try and take pictures of the burning bodies and mangled pieces of steel which imprisoned them as our convoy would grind on like a chain of ants following one behind the other. Chaos and boredom were the words that came to mind. There didn't seem to be any order to the way things were moving yet still we continued. Our job was to give constant updates about where our enemies were located and our targeting would bring red-hot steel rain down upon them. We created our own burning bodies as we trudged north.

When we reached one of our objectives I was surprised to find it in the middle of nowhere deep in the Iraqi sands. There we weathered the worst sandstorm I have ever seen. Day changed to night at around 2 in the afternoon and we were told that specially trained Iraqi forces were going to be attacking us during the sand storm. Dig your fighting positions (also know as Ranger graves) they said, so we did. Some of my fellow soldiers made half hearted attempts but I was taking no chances. I dug mine deep enough that I would be able to survive if I were to be shot at. That night I was sure that we would wake up to a gun battle and I remember also, that I was scared.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Thoughts

You may be surprised that my thoughts often turn towards violence when you hear me speak so clearly of leaving Iraq and of peace. Who I ask you, wants peace more than the warrior who has seen battle? Yet I still turn toward murderous ideas and bloodletting. Reflection on what I have seen is most of what occupies those darker areas of my psyche, for instance the time I lived for 10 days with a dead body next to me, some of the soldiers called the dead Iraqi Fred and would talk to him while on guard duty (“hey Fred, how are you today.” Etc). Or at times I will focus on some person and imagine how I would stop him from hurting my family (often with an ending involving up close and personal fisticuffs of the most violent nature). I have never acted on any of these thoughts but I wonder how many others find themselves thinking them.

There is no question of responsibility, for I most times carry a knife and have never even brandished it to anyone, but there it is safe and snug against my upper thigh in my pocket, just in case… Now I am not a stupid man (on the contrary I feel that I am a very intelligent man) nor am I a foolish man, so why do I think this way? Well, to quote a favorite movie of mine (Empire Records), “who knows where thoughts come from?” These thoughts, however, I feel have a very distinct birthing in my brain which is a short word but it conjures so many images. That word is war. Perhaps you consider me “damaged goods” now because of what I have seen and done, yet I don’t feel this way. I believe that I have grown in so many ways which are impossible to others. Please don’t mistake me now when I say this for I am no combat junkie needing a gun in hand and death in the eye. By taking a look into my own thoughts I feel that I can make something good from what was at times a nightmare. What would life be if we learned nothing from our experiences?

Experience, it is on almost every kind of job description. It is required for almost everything having to do with money, and money, that is the real key isn’t it? What would the world be without it? I find myself linking those two almost interchangeably when looking at the world go by on it’s busy schedule. Now the real question is who would pay me for MY experience? What is life but a series of exchanges, and what do I have to offer other than the things I was trained for? A lot it turns out. So begins today an attempt at reentering our society. Don’t ask me how for the plan is still forming but death can teach you so much about life, and I feel that I know this better than most.

So from the violence that churns around our world comes ideas and from ideas we may grow. Allow me these musings and we shall see where our journey takes us. I welcome you all along for the ride, but I must warn you that there will be (like any good story true or otherwise) darkness and sorrow, but perhaps we shall find something greater than ourselves in the end.

Oh… and take care,


Zachary Scott-Singley

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

This is OUR world?

The way I see it we need to be getting out of Iraq, and fast. Just look at May and June 2006 and you will see what I mean. We can not control that country with our backward politicking and poor planning. Unfortunately it is not the soldiers and paramilitary organizations taking the brunt of the attacks, instead it is the civilians (aka non-combatants). Yeah, we aren't the ones doing the targeting of civilians but what can we do if we can not stop the violence against them, should we stay there and let it get so much worse because of our occupation?

Let us not forget that the entire region is becoming more unstable each day as factions of the Lebanese government (Hezbollah) kidnap soldiers and perhaps forcing the hand of Israel (or so thinks Israel). Now we have Iran getting involved. It seems to me that we are constantly on the verge of war these days and already our hands are full. What is a country to do? I believe that to be a true patriot you must not allow wrongful decisions to continue to be made...

As we look at our future in Iraq we realize that we are there for the long haul because someone doesn't want to even think about a possible timeline of withdrawal.

Life in Oregon

So I must write I tell myself, everyday again like I did before. Who knows what may come of it. One thing that alarms me is my lack of a job, and the fact that I have a hell of a time living with my mother (like I am back in high school or something). Having gone form completely self sufficient with money, home, and family to this is rather depressing. What may come of it? I do not know but we shall hopefully begin (yeah, I said it would begin when I left the army but I am in some kind of hellish limbo) the next chapter of our lives.

Why must it always be like this? Where are the easy breaks and the fame and fortune we always know we will have when we are young? Remember when you could be anything you wanted to be? Yeah… it doesn’t really work that way does it? So here I am sitting alone right now musing upon what could have been and what will become. If I were to list all that I have done I believe it would be more than most yet that same “most” has jobs and I do not. You know what they say though, that going to war gives you great people skills (they don’t really say that, I just made that up).

Failure is something relative I believe, others may see the world crumbling around you and yet you don’t admit defeat. Other times you may be on top of your game and things are falling into place and you find yourself thinking you are at rock bottom. It’s funny how life works. Out of all the things my parents ever told me the truest of them all is that “life isn’t fair.” That goes double some days. So I am glad you have come to join me in my writings and we shall see if perhaps they are some sort of ship to be cast off and on them I will be able to sail to far away lands (or perhaps just to sail to a job).

Fair thee well,

Zachary Scott-Singley

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sand in My Head

They say every man can be bought, that given the right leverage you can get anything from anyone. To live in the cheap desert where the words “paid in full” come with the currency of blood. That is a life I have left behind but still it rages on, both in the news and in my head. Take a country and begin to pull… Pull until you hear something give, and you realize that you are ripping it apart.

It gets easier to pull after the tear begins, and from the torn middle you will find something extraordinary. Pouring out of that hole you will have a multitude of colors, red for blood, yellow for decay, black for death, and white as well, white for life. You see life does continue.

Two groups who have lived together before are now enemies as we sit here like children with our magnifying glasses trying to see if the scorpion we placed on the anthill will win or if the ants will kill it first. As we do this the rest of the world watches us. What do their eyes see when they read the news? I can not say for I am American, however I can guess.

In my head the sand still stings my face at times, and I still see the red all around. Part of me has these thoughts where I still must be alert at all times. The constant vigilance of my days has changed me from the innocent naïve boy of my youth.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Published!

So… I am to be published. You can look for me in October of this year. I am very excited about it. BANR is going to publish 5 of my blog stories in one of their annual books titled The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006. I am told that it is a big deal to get published in this book. You can look for my in the "Best American" front section of the book. I wonder if this will change anything about my job prospects… I guess I will count those chickens when they have hatched.

Take care,

Zachary

Monday, July 03, 2006

Independence Day

Tomorrow is our day of independence and a day of national pride. I haven’t thought much about it until just now, as I lay awake in my house with all my family still asleep. The day will be a celebration of WAR where we see explosions and starbursts which are so beautiful. It is not a lie that war can be beautiful; such explosions can be beautiful even when they are real and deadly as the ones I have seen in Iraq.

Such national pride I see around me, especially as July 4 nears. We are a prideful nation aren’t we? Yet the world sees our pride as such a different thing. In the world of OZ to see the emerald city you must wear emerald green glasses, and here we are just coming to the realization that our star spangled eyes don’t cover up everything, do they? We are left with questions.

Are we still a righteous nation? Does America still deserve my pride towards it? I say no, we are not righteous for righteousness is what a fool uses to justify their lack of wisdom and common sense. However, America still does deserve our pride. Pride for what we were and what we can be again. Let us not forget why we were once the greatest nation.

Embrace the love you have for America tomorrow, and enjoy the fireworks. Remember what they represent and from where we were born. Never forget the face of your father and from where we came. Tell a veteran how much you appreciate their service and you will have made their celebration complete. Our military and our veterans are a powerful force which the world fears. I know that the Iraqi’s fear us, yet might doesn’t make right and we would be wise to remember that when we are told the war is over and the flight suit comes off.