25SEP 0003hrs (My apologies in advance for any spelling errors, the net is back up, and my mind has been running on fumes for 72 hours.)
Our hearts are heavy, and thoughts of our own mortality have crept into our waking hours, fear attaches itself to the winds, whispering in our ears. So very close to home, yet so many unseen dangers that lurk in the darkened hearts of our enemies. Here in "this war" we have all peered into the heart of darkness, and all to often we have seen ourselves gazing back. Fatigue has once again set in, and black humor has mercifully albeit temporarily lifted our spirits. An off colour joke (I'll not share it in this venue) lifted my mood to the point of tears; this time they fell freely but not from the dread and sorrow of this place, but from a perfectly timed joke of a fellow officer, and friend. The laughter was loud and hearty, it removed us from thoughts of "when it's my time..." It was needed and will forever be emblazoned in my memory as we watched the clock pass the midnight hour, one less day in Iraq, one more day we are thankful simply to be alive...
24 SEPTEMBER 2005
“The future looks bright when the hearts of our young grow cold.”
Today, one of the finest soldiers I have ever known entered the Operations Center, and found out that one of his soldiers had fallen. Victim, of yet another cowardly act against us. A young man that I had spent time with that very day hours before; laughing with as he drove our HMMWV into a ditch drenching all of us with water from a cooler. I heard his name called over the robotic static of the radio, and my first thought was so utterly cliché'; “I just saw him...how can this be?”
As this fine soldiers disbelief turned to grief, and his tears fell, he began to sob uncontrollably. I was told that he was in the building so I sought him out, and found him there alone in his anger and grief, I reached out to this warrior, and embraced him, not as a parent would a child, but as brothers do. I shared his pain and refusal to accept that another glorious, and fine young man was gone.
September is a dark month for us, we have paid for the freedom of the Iraqi people with far too much of our blood. It is my hope that Iraq “Earns this” gift we pay for in our blood. It is my hope that our blood aids the flourishing of the seeds of democracy grown here in this alien land. I comprehend the political landscape of that which comes to pass here, in this place, I understand (all to well) the culture we now find ourselves interwoven with. We are the imperfection on the rug, for nothing save for god is perfect; thus we stand out to the naked eyes of the Iraqi people, the moving imperfection of the tapestry of life...and death in Iraq
Some of you may think that our desire to find these “arhabi” is blood lust, no it sadly is not. It is simply our seeking of balance, our desire to manage this chaos that surrounds us. In finding and closing with our enemies, it lends reckoning to our resolve. Yet, all too often there is no enemy to engage, no spore to follow, there is only the lingering rage of being attacked and the scale tilted yet again against us.
This month will always be a dark reminder for me, not only in my rememberence of September 11th 2001, but of September, 5th, September, 16th , and September 23rd 2005. Of the sounds of dogtags clanking in the wind, of anger, of sorrow, of a coldness not brought on by the onset of fall. Rather a coldness that slowly creeps into the heart of rational men, of caring, and merciful brothers in arms. A coldness that removes parts of our souls, and replaces the memories of hearth and home, with bitterness, with a rip-tide that lies just beneath the masks of indifference we all don here, the masks that help us cope with what surrounds us.
As our embrace turned into a slightly more relaxed conversation about “what now”, another young soldier entered the building; he hadn't yet heard, of our loss. This scenario is being played out all too often, and again for the 5th time in nearly as many days my heart tightened, and another piece of who I was, was lost to who and possibly what I am now. Wars have always changed men, perhaps it alters us, as Steinberg asserted, perhaps warriors will forever be “Homo sapien saevus.” Today my heart is cold, and my soul feels lost. Yet what I do know is that “this course” I am now on grows curiouser and curiouser as we venture down this hole.
18 SEPTEMBER 2005
How do you sum up the memory of a man? How do you remember a man in a few short moments? Another soldier from our Battalion has fallen. This man, I have known for some time. This memorial service left emptiness inside my heart, and has caused me yet again to remain in the shadow of doubt as to where my own faith lies. The memorial was full of the typical military ceremony VIPs from across our Division were present, and then there were his friends, the men who have shared his memories and walked a mile along side of him, his friends…His brothers.
“This war” has taken yet another Californian, another American, another husband, and Father. A sacrifice I will never forget, a good damned Soldier I will miss. There will be four places settings vacant upon our return. Our brothers who did not make it back, four empty chairs that cannot ever be filled, nor can they be replaced. I hope it will only be four, but as I have become fond of saying here in this place for me at any rate; hope is the beginning of unhappiness. I simply have no words of encouragement for this loss, no sense of higher purpose, or greater good. I think my heart has taken a step back last week. It was the costliest week thus far that this battalion has had to endure. Being in the Operations Center and hearing the battle unfold over the radio was…well it was not a place I look forward to going to anymore; we got bloody and for an agonizing 45 minutes there was no clear picture of who had perished, I know all who survived, and I knew the man that did not.
At the memorial you look into the eyes of those who were there, and the pain and sadness of the men who carried our fallen brother and tried to save him, it is an empty feeling. A desperate feeling begins to well within you and not unlike being shot at, or nearly blown up, you have the urge to flee this sadness. To run and hide, the little boy inside begs you to make it stop. It feels like there are ants crawling all over you, the stinging in your eyes gnaws at you, and the lump in your throat feels like it is strangling you. Then after the volley fires, and taps has faded the silence comes, and all that can be heard in the still of the evening is the dog tags of your brother clanking in the wind. Whispers cannot be heard over the solitary roar, of those two metal tags connecting with one another over and over.
Here in “This war” we are even denied that most human of things in time of war…revenge. Not that it is our way, or isn’t. Our enemy simply lays his devices, waits, attacks, and scurries away into the darkness like vermin when the lights come on. Granted, some of us probably do want blood, many of us are weary of it, and still more of us, want to end this one way or the other. Yet for our nation in this first great war of this newborn century, to fail here cannot be allowed to happen. I hate this place, this wonderful and terrible place, but I understand that what we are attempting here is simply bigger than me.
109 days to go…
Semper in Adsumus,