Medicine Soldier

A View from Iraq


Once More into the Sand

When I was growing up, my mother always had that "footprints" story on the wall somewhere in our house. While making my own footprints through the deserts of Iraq as the war unfolds around me, I recently had an opportunity to turn around and look back. After months of plodding along, I was amazed to find a marathon of footprints behind me. I am truly blessed to have the support of so many people. From my family and coworkers to my new friends and passers-by I have met in my travels, I am thankful for the generosity, time, and prayers.

I had a chance to go home for a couple weeks recently. I had an amazing time, from staring out the window at the trees to hanging out with my grandfather to visiting friends in Connecticut. Mom threw me a huge bash, and I visited with old friends and made some new ones. It was relaxing to fix things around the house and also very worthwhile to catch a Red Sox game and some shows around town. The weather was beautiful, too. Although the temperatures felt cooler to me, the humidity was something foreign and my body did not know whether to be hot or cold. (Meanwhile in Iraq, it has recently cooled off to 95 degrees, not 120.)

Still it went by all too fast. My anxiety about coming home after months of being away quickly abated and it seemed like I never left. Unfortunately it made it much harder to leave again. So close yet still many days to go. I found myself a bit angry and depressed. It is harder to leave the second time, because you know how much people care about you and you know what you will be going back to in the desert.

Although we are approaching the end of the tour, it will be the hardest part, I think. We have to keep the guys together as they become burned out, tired, or just sick of the same routine. I found my first days back were productive, getting everyone back in order and tightening up some of the procedures. Still, in my first twenty-four hours back, there were four attacks in the area. It sure is hard trying to get work done when there are explosions going on all day and reports of suspicious vehicles everywhere. Someone also made a great decision to release 1000 prisoners from Abu Gharib prison to celebrate Ramadan. They promised to be good.

We are working more with the local police and Iraqi Army at the camp we are at now. I still miss working with the kids, but hearing the appreciation from the police chiefs makes up for the attacks the other day. It is hard to remember we are doing the right thing with everything going on. The hurricanes affected us even over in Iraq, as many of the National Guardsmen with us are from the Mississippi area. Imagine going off to war and not having a house to come home to afterward.

I think poverty is universal; the flood victims in the south seem to have the same reactions and frustrations as the impoverished Iraqis here. It is another hard lesson for America and Americans. Almost half of the National Guard is "abroad" this year and are unable to do one of their peacetime missions. The government is still very reactive instead of proactive.

In my travels, I saw just how effective homeland security has become. I wondered why after spending nine months in the desert I had to disrobe, from my uniform even, and go through metal detectors after being on and off planes and helicopters for 36 hours. I thought, "I just wanted to see my family, if I am a terrorist then than there are bigger issues." I was patient; these guys are just doing their jobs. Still, we are so focused on terrorist attacks that we forget there are other national emergencies.

I do feel bad for the people in the south; it does not seem that the local governments had plans for dealing with this type of disaster and people did not want to evacuate when they were told to leave. I still feel funny about having troops come home from shooting insurgents in Iraq and have to police other Americans, especially when the Americans are shooting at the police and military. The one good thing about America is we can all rally around each other despite our diverse backgrounds. That is one thing I wish the Iraqi people can learn from us. There are so many ways to segregate the Iraqi people. Sunni/Shia, tribal factions, political factions, and even the non-Muslim Arabs who live here.

I read in the papers about the anti-war protestors and the anti-anti-war protestors. I am thankful that both groups show tremendous support foe the troops. The bottom line is we are here and we need to finish the job or everyone who died, died for nothing. The Bush Administration may or may not have handled things correctly, Saddam may or may not have been another Hitler, but it is true this is not another Vietnam and should not be considered that. We are not fighting an organized army. We are fighting pockets of disenfranchised people. Some lost power when Saddam was removed, some lost jobs at bomb making factories when Saddam was removed, but these people were rapping their own country. There are lavish palaces in Baghdad while the children sit in a ruined building for school in between a cesspool and a landfill.

We have made a tremendous difference here, but the cost has been high in dollars, time, and lives. This is not a Vietnam; I see it more like Germany after World War II. Whether Bush chose to invade Iraq for personal reasons I don't care to speculate. Seeing it from the inside, we have a foothold closer to Syria, Palestine, and North Korea. Meanwhile, our presence in Europe is decreasing. We are doing good things here to better the Iraqi people and their outlook on Americans and also to keep terrorism out of the States.

So once more into the beach ... I mean breach I go.

posted by Scott | 00:50 Baghdad time | © 10.02.2005
Comments (2) | | permalink | main | email this

Feedback from readers: 2

glad you had a great time at home. i can only imagine how hard it was to go back. thanks for everything you are doing for us there. we do appreciate it all.

MarineMom @ Spaces

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 4/10/05 19:56  

Sorry I missed you when you were home. See you down the road,

Barry & Cathy

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous | 4/11/05 05:45  

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