I was worried that deployment would wreck my home. It’s not an unreasonable fear, that outcome is a high probability event. A lot of things need to happen in order for a family not to be destroyed by a deployment, the sundry details fall into one of three conditional categories. The people left behind have to hold everything together with one less contributor. The person deployed has to make it through the deployment. And, the expeditioner must successfully re-integrate into society. This last item is often taken for granted. Most assume that surviving the war is surviving the hazardous part.
My family had a community that supported them, and they were able to make do without me. It wasn’t fun for them. They had to learn to cope as a one parent household, on what they hoped would be a temporary basis. They were on edge, praying that they didn’t one day learn the situation would become permanent.
I wasn’t killed in the war, but parts of me died. The remaining innocence I had and my naïveté about how the world worked were both certainly causalities. Some might argue that those represent positive changes; I’m not sure that I would agree, but it makes for an interesting debate. On balance, being deployed made me a worse person, at least for a while. I had great people in my life that helped me through periods of dealing with untreated post traumatic stress. With their support I was ultimately able to find serenity. I knew people who were not so fortunate.
The reality is that, for many people, the war doesn’t end when they arrive back home. The effects of the war linger on in people, long after the war has supposedly ended for them. Somehow, I eventually got better. Miraculously, my home wasn’t wrecked by my 18 month adventure.
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.
21 September 2003
It’s getting closer - I’m going to have to leave soon to start training for my deployment to Iraq. Many of my initial thoughts on the subject were pretty rash. I don’t really hate American Society. I understand that most Americans don’t have the time to really worry about large Political things as this war. The average American is just trying to make a living in order to support their family. The spare time they have is spend on their family or recreation; the average American does not have time to be the watchdog of the politicians. Unfortunately, politicians know this and don’t feel they have to do what is in their constituents’ best interest - because the constituent probably won’t notice any how.
George Bush just admitted he was wrong on all the reasons he used to justify the war and no one noticed. Even if they did, it is too late now - our troops are there and now must stay to keep peace or another dictator will take over. Everyone I know has been very helpful and sensitive to my situation - that helped me realize they do care and would stop me (us) from going if they had the power to do so. I very much appreciate all the personal support I have gotten from everyone. That means a lot to me.
I have been trying to be as stoic as possible, especially for my family. I must confess that I nearly lost my composure when Z⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ told me that he didn’t want me to die. He was trying to be tough and yet still tell me what was on his mind. I am so proud of him. I think that was the hardest thing I have had to do in a while - tell Z⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ I have to go to Iraq. But, I think he knew before I told him, he is pretty smart.
I don’t want to leave him or B⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ or H⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆. Especially since I don’t even know why I’m doing this - to liberate the Iraqis I guess. I am worried that this whole experience is going to change me for the worse. I try hard to stay open minded and treat every person equally - but I fear this experience may change my attitude.
I am worried about so many things, the least of which right now is being killed. I’m worried H⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ and Z⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ will get used to being without me and won’t ‘need’ me when I come back. I’m worried B⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ won’t even remember me. I’m worried I will change in ways I can’t imagine right now. I do hope I make it through all this alive. I hope that Z⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆ understands that I really have to do this, I have no choice, and would rather not leave.
NEXT: coming soon
THE BEGINNING: My Iraq War, 20 Years Later: 07 April 2003