Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


George Foreman and Candy Canes

We were hanging around the other day talking about how things are out here. We were joking about the George Foreman grill. You know, two metal plates sandwiching meat while all the juices run down the plates. Except in our cases the body armor is like wearing a George Foreman grill. Everyday the sweat just pours down our torsos. You would be surprised by the puddles we leave behind when we get out of our vehicles after patrol.

After another long day, I came back to my tent and sat down to unwind. As I took off my boots and looked at my feet, the first thing that popped into my head was candy canes. My toes looked like red peppermint candy canes from the sweat and irritation. I have been using lotion, foot spray, and powder regularly, but I am still putting lots of miles on my feet.

Camp life is really not that bad. We have three hot meals a day that we do not have to cook or wash dishes after. We do have showers and electricity in our areas. Hot water is not a problem anymore. We have no commute to work. We have a laundry service with 24-hour turnaround, and we don't worry about picking out what clothes to wear. The camp has a softball field, basketball court, and recreation tent with foosball and TVs. We also have satellite phones and internet. Bills are also not much of a worry, as we have very few options for spending money.

So what is the big deal? There is something missing. Although there are friendships and loyalties in the company and the camp, it is not really family or "someone special." We entertain ourselves by watching movies, playing games, and training when we are not on missions. But I can not escape the fact that I am lonely and feel somewhat trapped. We do not have the same freedoms here on camp. When leaving camp, we have to file an itinerary and understand the risks out there. Staying on camp gets boring after awhile. It is no wonder that animals do not live as long in captivity no matter how fancy the zoo. Even they understand something is missing.

Outside the Wire

Outside camp there are always things going on and changing. We have had more opportunities to touch the lives of the children as we bring food and toys. It is always bittersweet to see such poverty—looking at the joy in the children's eyes when we give them something, and then moments later they are still begging for more while they hide and horde their other gifts.

We also face an adaptive enemy. They stick with the same techniques until they stop working, and then they try something new. It is amazing how many ways there are to make bombs out of common things, never mind the continually surfacing "forgotten munitions" that the insurgents find, build, or the local farmer "finds" in his backyard while preparing his crops. It is impressive to see the changes in the neighborhoods. Some areas had electricity for only two hours a day, there were no street lights, and there were rotting trash and carcasses everywhere. Now they are trying to pave the roads, there are functioning dumpsters, and street lights illuminate the neighborhoods all night.

It is interesting to overhear meetings and discussions about where to spend money to improve the towns. How do you choose what is more important: sanitation, emergency services, or public education? Another complication is we do not want to make the decision; we want the Iraqi government to decide while we just facilitate.

Unfortunately as happy as they are for our help and money, there are still people here that do not want us around and want to harm us. There are those who say the insurgents are here because the military is here. Others say it is Arabs from other Islamic countries causing the trouble because they are afraid the Muslim community will be weakened by American influence. I feel there is a delicate balance rebuilding this country. If we do not do it right, we could end up with a welfare state or the infrastructure could crumble like a house of cards. Either way, we will be blamed. Still, I must remain optimistic and focus on the little bits of good that I can do and not be overwhelmed by the global politics.

Ajax and Achilles Revisited

I still think about the vase we studied in art history of Ajax and Achilles playing chess in a tent while the Trojan War raged around them. Here are some pictures of our moments of fun. I have also had some vivid dreams the last few weeks. I mostly dream of coming home and reuniting with friends and family or even sitting on my porch without any shoes on. Still, I think I have a difficult journey until then as things are always changing.

posted by Scott | 17:24 Baghdad time | © 7.09.2005
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Feedback from readers: 1

The way you describe your daily routines and the atmosphere around you, I almost feel like I am there. You have an incredible way of describing things.

Posted by Anonymous Katie | 1/8/05 18:18  

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