On 14 August 2003 the Northeastern United States and Canada experienced a massive blackout which started right here in Akron, Ohio. Two days later I received a call from my sergeant, and based upon an almost manic journal entry, I may have been working on creating my own personal blackout. I learned that I would be activated and deployed to support the Global War on Terrorism. Rather than doing easy time guarding the Perry Nuclear Plant, I was destined for an overseas deployment. And, by the time my pen hit paper that day I was apparently fully engulfed in the second stage of grief.
I am not sure why, but I thought that I would be doing peacekeeping, in a war zone. Prior to facing the consequences of their favorite policies I was a mindless Fox News viewer, so the seeds for those thoughts may have been planted by the media I was consuming at the time. The valid concern that I was unable to articulate was probably related to entering a situation where it would be very hard to differentiate between civilians and un-uniformed enemy combatants.
From my perspective, I was going to be entering a hot combat zone where I would need to take the appropriate posture. From the perspective of Iraqis, I was entering their hometowns where they were doing their bests to live normal lives. In the end, there would be something that both of those perspective could agree upon: I shouldn’t have been sent there.
What follows is an emotionally heavy journal entry, but there is at least one light spot. I laughed out loud when I read the complaint about selling my car. It was sandwiched between two very real concerns. Like a tomato slice on burger that is overly lubricated with mayo, it sticks out. It was placed as if I intentionally planned to amuse my future self. The most generous thing I can say is that it was my first new car and I had literally just purchased it. I half expected my next complaint to be about being forced to use generic military grade toothpaste. Perhaps what comes through is that I was still a child when I was called up to serve.
At the point the words below were written I hadn’t even started on my deployment journey, but I was already learning from the experience. My lived experiences helped me to better understand what Thoreau conveyed in Civil Disobedience, though I didn’t even know who he was at the time. Challenges are opportunities for growth, and by the time I got to the end of this screed I had began to realize that.
What follows are the raw thoughts of someone struggling through the personal implications of a national tragedy. I wrote these words. But, I would not be able to share them if I thought I was still the same person that wrote them. It is only through a lot of space and time that I can read these thoughts, let alone share them.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Although it was cathartic at the time, today I harbor no ill will towards anyone; I have learned that holding on to toxic thoughts only intoxicates the holder.
16 August 2003
I found out that my unit is on alert to get orders to go to Iraq for civilian support operations; i.e. peacekeeping. I think that peacekeeping is the worst job for a soldier - you can’t shoot until one of your buddies is already dead. I do not want to do this at all, for many reasons:
- I hate the Army
- I will miss H⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆
- I will miss at least a whole year of both my sons’ life
Not only will I probably take a pay cut, but I will also lose health care and subsidized day care for Ben.
(Pay goes down while bills go up)
The cause is NOT just!
I will probably be different when I return.
H⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ may be different when I return.
I will lose some of my technical ability, marketability.
I don’t want to die yet.
I don’t want to sell my car.
I don’t want to get some “Gulf War Syndrome”.
I don’t want to go to a country where the people don’t want me there.
I will miss my family.
I will miss my family
Some of the other guys in the National Guard say things like: “if I didn’t go I would be letting the unit down (and other guys in the unit)”. I say by going I am letting my family down. I wont be here when they need me, even for the small things. That is a lot more important to me.
All of this and more. And for what? To stop terrorism? To rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction? To remove “the evil dictator”? To free the Iraqi people? The story has changed and I don’t know what to believe, err, I don’t believe any thing the government says actually. So far I have learned, in this one day, at least one thing: if you are complacent and do not challenge what the government is doing you are essentially supporting them. I blame this on all the war supporters, who would no way in hell go and fight in this war (generally). I also blame the masses of ignorant Americans who don’t give a damn wha the government does - so long as it doesn’t effect them.
I am beginning to hate America and what it stands for. By the time I get done with a ‘tour of duty’ I may be on the “terrorists’” side. I truly believe that most Americans would have no problem sacrificing my life to save 25¢/gallon on gas. I think the percentage of people who are truly, sincerely concerned about the Iraqi people is very low. Further, people were supporting the war to show they supported the troops - to me those are two different things. I hate Americans - they are selfish, greedy, over-opinionated bastards. I know now why we are subject to terrorist attacks.
Americans don’t care about my life, the life of one US soldier, so long as their security and standard of living is maintained. Alas, I would have never had the epiphany had I myself not been put in this position. I did volunteer for this, but if I could go back and change that I probably would. I wish to un-volunteer.
THE BEGINNING: My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 07 April 2003