Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Stream Of Conscious

The sum of my existence is not Iraq. It was simply one of the most influential experiences I have had. I must do better about being a good father and husband and I hope and pray that I’ll do well speaking this weekend at Randolph-Macon College in VA.

Life can not remain always in the past however when one becomes a soldier, a warrior, then perhaps that is all they know. Taking life and seeing death changes you; no longer do you fit in with civilian society. Police officers who shoot someone are placed on leave while soldiers on the other hand are commended and encouraged to become better at it. That change is why I think we feel so out of place when we get home. On some level we remain in that place of war trapped by our memories and their stubborn refusal to accept that we are once again in a safe place. That we are once again home.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New and Old Thoughts

Slowly I assessed the situation; my gun was near and I know that it can feel so nice having that cold lethal steel pressed against your body, reminiscent of war in desolate sorrowful places where things seem to only become broken. In THAT place my body was perfect, my mind was not however, it was bitter and un-amused with the daily carnage of ‘peace keeping operations’. Money is nice but the purity of thought can become even more addicting especially when you know you could die in the next instant.

That rare rain becomes so beautiful to you because of its simplicity as it brings life to such a dead place. The sun both harsh and incredible shines unrelenting on you and your bristling weapons as you ride under it with the thoughts rattling around your head of your own death or that of another.

There are times when I feel broken from my experiences, times when I can’t conveniently sweep them into that black hole inside me where I send memories to be buried for a while. For some reason they always resurface and with them my retrospection brings both immaculate recreations of war as well as regret and a sick longing for a place where people like me can be. A place where you could die and where it would be so far away that even the land you live and walk on feels like it want’s your blood.

Some times I remember only colors. Then there are things like a night with another soldier who I have long forgotten, we sit and drink a beer we bought on the black market during a trip to Baghdad from our home in Falloujah. I talk about my family and children as he talks of his. This soldier whom I have forgotten, I make him a promise that we will get our families together, he is from another unit, but in war we were brothers. As we get home I hug my children and he searches the crowd of family members for his wife and kids. His kids he sees, they are with his mother. His wife has left him and his kids as well. We never have that promised barbeque and we are no longer brothers because his loss reminds him of that hot Iraqi night drinking Egyptian beer with me.

Those empty promises add up and in my head I find myself remembering them and tallying them up as defeats of my soul. Maybe I could have been a better friend, maybe I could have remembered his name, and maybe we could have kept our promise. Everything revolves around that phrase, ‘when we get back we will…’ perhaps we will be better dads, or we won’t ever argue with our wives, or perhaps we will simply cherish every moment.

I haven’t kept those promises I made in my heart. I have had fights with my wife, I have been short with my kids, and I haven’t cherished every moment with my family. In fact I have at times become just like everyone else. Iraq is a land far away and home is here and now. Home is stressful, home is bills, home is work, and home is uneventful as we forget all we learned on the foreign soils of war and her spiteful malice which was such a harsh teacher. I am sorry, not only do I try to bury those thoughts; I failed to completely learn from them…