us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.”
I don't know much, I haven't been alive long enough to be wise. I have seen more of the world than most, but am not worldly. What I do know it this. Chamberlain was right (more than one hundred years ago, near Gettysburg, we are fighting a new kind of war, with a new Army. We are fighting for an ideal. Freedom, such an intangible notion, such a simple thing, such a complex thing. We can quantify the price in blood, we can quantify the price in dollars. What is so simple here in B'dad, is so lost on so much of America... Freedom.
I watched Gettysburg a few nights ago, and was so awestruck by the noble speech of Colonel Joshua Chamberlain portrayed by Jeff Daniels. Those of you who do not know of the Battle at Gettysburg, or of COL Joshua Chamberlain, he quite possibly was the finest battlefield commander the United States Army ever produced. He was a man of quiet religious conviction ennobling the cause of the Union so eloquently that his speech has rarely left my mind, nor its meaning far from my heart.
“This is a different kind of army. If you look back through history, you will see men fighting for pay, for women, for some other kind of loot. They fight for land, power, because a king leads them or -- or just because they like killing. We are here for something new. This has not happened much in the history of the world. We are an army out to set other men free.”
I am aware there are many reasons we are here in Iraq, some say an illegal war for oil, some say to settle an old score. Some say we are attempting to set a puppet government here in this strange land. Some say Saddam violated UN resolutions time and time again, some assert he was harboring terrorists. To each one of us there is a certain truth what we belive to be real. To some of us our perceptions have become the only reality. A world seem in “black and white”, a world of absolutes. I am not a worldly man, but I am here in this world and it is my only reality. My vision is not clouded by an unreasonable hatred for the President. My heart is not cold with the lust for the blood of our enemies. My mind is not predisposed to condemnation of all of Islam because of the murderous actions of the few. Simply put; I am just here walking through this moment in time. The future will judge what we have done here.
these thousands of men, many of them not much older more than boys
each one of them, some mother's son, some sister's brother, some
daughter's father, each one of them a whole person, loved and
cherished in some home far away. Many of them will never return. An
army is power -- its entire purpose is to coerce others.
Now, this kind of power cannot be used carelessly or recklessly; this kind of power can do great harm. We have seen more suffering than any men should ever see. And if there is going to be an end to it, it must be an end that justifies the cost”.
Chamberlain (Gods and Generals)
If the end justifies the cost will history be kind to the horror our soldiers have been witness to, will it judge with less scorn and bitterness than those who judges us now for that which had to be done?
“May the judgment not be too heavy upon us.”
I have been thinking a lot as of late about my wife, and the struggle she has had to face alone to maintain hope, and sanity. The sacrifice for her is tearing at my heart. I never thought I would miss another human being as much as I miss her. This time will pass, and fade and the bitterness will erode from my heart and hers for the separation we have been forced to endure. She will forgive me in time, and in time the scars will also fade. Yet the memories of this place will linger. I cannot see nor feel the changes that are taking place inside me. Yet, by virtue of being here in this place and fighting in “this war” there undoubtedly has been a change. Mustn't there be a change?
To those of you from Generation X, I have a favorite song in this place I listen to it daily. Nine Inch Nails “Everyday is Exactly the Same”, a favorite verse of mine is;
writing on a little piece of paper
I'm hoping someday you might find
I'll hide it behind something
They won't look behind
I am still inside here
A little bit comes bleeding through
I wish this could have been any other way
But I just don't know- I don't know what else I can do!”
Baby-boomers...”We Got to Get Out of this Place...”
Silent Generation...”We'll meet again..Don't know where don't know when...”
Millenials... “You know You're Right.”
I just finished Reading Dean R. Koontz's “Velocity”. It was the second fastest I have ever read a book in my life, less than 36 hours. He quoted Elliot throughout, and caused me to dig out a book I have been keeping for nearly 20 years; in it I have detailed and captured favorite quotes from my time just before I graduated Kemper, until well...today. I have over 7 thousand quotes in it, many I can recall from memory. Each one has a particular place in my minds eye, from days past. Trying times, sadness, heartache, love lost and love found. Each quote takes me away from this place if only for a moment, even the saddest memory I have is more pleasing than being here. However I am not here to be entertained, nor pleased. My existence here is part of a bigger collective whole. I get that, duty first. Yet as a man, no as a human being, I eagerly await to hang my uniform, and return to my life. As an adult I have never known a normal life, I look forward to walking the road to “normal” with my wife upon my return. Yet as I wrote that line I smiled, running for Congress isn't really normal is it?
War tears at the heart, it destroys the soul. It has divided our nation, and torn a line down the middle of the very fabric of who we as a people are. A soldiers job is to kill without question, or hesitation. It is not my job to care. Yet as a human being I am compelled to care. I feel the pain and anguish of Iraq, I see it in the faces of the Iraqis I see everyday. I hear it each night when the thump of an IED echoes in the darkness. Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to stand still. Time here has no purpose, being half way through this deployment is largely like being the middle child. Still to young to drive, and as a National Guardsman still not old enough to not have a babysitter.
Each time I am asked what is going on I hear myself saying same “story”, same day. Here in Iraq; “Everyday is exactly the same”. Tomorrow is the day I go home...but tomorrow for me is 5 months, 23 days, 11 hours and 14 minutes away. My basic reality here is, tomorrow I'll see my wife again, and tomorrow I will try to see what normal feels like. But today, I have a job to do. Today I have to keep moving forward, and keep moving fast. If I don't there won't be a tomorrow. Today, was a good day...Today and everyday I am here I sit still... as time slowly passes by.
world turns and the world changes, but one thing does not change.
However you disguise it, this thing does not change: the perpetual
struggle of good and evil.”
***I used to read only military fiction, and historical books; studying my craft through the eyes of warriors who have come before me. Yet here, in Iraq I find that reading military fiction has left me drained and nearly crushed my desire to read and write (Sorry Mr. Clancy). Just as I wrote that last sentence an IED exploded (close). I don't flinch anymore and that worries me. Anyway, I really recommend “Velocity”, it was a page turner. I still read daily from “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius. Old habits resist change...***