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…


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and painful all in one breath. You, young warrior, are too hard on yourself. One MUST love oneself before we can love another. I pray that you will be kind and loving to yourself and let the softness of life in.

Halla said...

I agree with anonymous Zach, you are too hard on yourself. Everyone has fights with there spouses and short with there kids, life is not a bowl of cherries! Considering what you went thru, everyone can give you a "gimme".

Erma Bombeck once wrote a book with the perfect title that I like to use alot.... "If life is a bowl of cherries, what am I doing in the pits?"

That sums up pretty much allot of peoples lives!

Anonymous said...

Zach, I just found your Blog by searching for 'Oldest Christian Church' - awesome picture btw. I know it was 2 year old post but still awesome.

My father went through something similar when he came back from vietnam. He use to have nightmares and run outside butt naked or run around the house. Thunderstorms were the worst when he use to jump out of bed and on the floor. I was just a kid and didn't know what was going on. But as I got older I understood what had happened. I felt bad that couldn't be there for him then and help him. He has since controlled it and sleeps well at night. He never talks about it though. Never talks about the war and what went on there. He was on the front line so I know there would be alot to tell.

I can't pretend to understand what you went through in Iraq. I wish I did, I was about to enlist but a heart condition kept me away. I really appreciate what you have done for me and everyone in this country. Even if we shouldn't be there.

If I could be so bold as to offer a little advice: Remember when you get short with your kids or start arguing with your wife that they too struggled when you were gone. They too had to deal with you being away and never knowing if you were going to come home alive.

It's ok to argue with your wife, it's normal. As long as it's something that's worth arguing over. In the what you are fighting worth it? When it's all said and done does it matter? Same with your kids: Realize that there is alot of time to make up in their lives. I imagine you being in Iraq took a much harder toll on them than with your wife. Remember that they love you unconditionally and there's nothing they want more than their Daddy.

Patience is a virtue and can only be accomplished with prayer and practice. I pray that you seek God if you haven't already and place all your stress and grief on the shoulder of Christ. Only then will you be able to be patient with your kids, hardly ever argue with wife and cherish every single moment.

May Christ touch your heart and give you the Graces that you need to try to keep that promise you made to be a better Dad, get along with your wife, and ultimately enjoy every second of your family life.

Peace be with you Zach.


Anonymous said...

This is why only defensive wars should be fought, and only in the very last resort. Unfortunately, people who order others to fight never fight those wars themselves. If it was made compulsory for every politician who votes for war to ship out in the very first troop deployment and to remain in the front line for the duration, there would be a lot less wars and/or a lot less politicians alive. We would all win either way...

Anonymous said...

It's natural that you are hard on yourself. It's part of closing that chapter. You saw how final death was, and how little glory it held.

None of us learned enough. We can't process that much. Not ever. It will take years and years to process, deal with, sort out, and resolve. It can't be done alone, and it can't be done overnight -- as you seem to expect.

In fact, it's really good that you care. That's a great start and a good sign you'll be all right.