Monday, September 3, 2007
Iraq and Back
Sitting in the darkness of my living room before dawn I gaze out at my backyard and drink my coffee. Sitting in my favorite chair I let my mind wonder. The house is still with everyone still asleep as I look out into the darkness my mind travels back over this past summer. I can see the helo's and hear the sounds of the convoy and artillery fire in my mind. I close my eyes and think about the whole experience, the memories are still very fresh. I can feel the heat and the weight of my flak jacket and the snug grip of my pistol strapped to my right leg. I think about my first time leaving the "Wire" and my heart racing, rifle and pistol at the ready, the anxiety and rush of adrenaline mixed with a very real and strong sense of fear. I remember being in Ramadi when a suicide vehicle exploded very near where I was and can feel the concussion and hear the load roar. I listen to the news and hear names like Fallujah, Ramadi, Baghdad and I know those places and see them in my mind. I sit in the quiet of my home as sunlight breaks over the tree line and I smile quietly to myself. I did what I felt I needed to do and I am proud of my actions and happy to be home safely.
Now I am stateside and have checked back into the History Division at Quantico, turned in all of my interviews and photos. I have gone back to supply and turned in my pack, kevlar and flak jacket and all the associated equipment for life in Iraq. I noticed the dark stains on my flak jacket when I turned it in, my sweat from riding in Helo's, convoys and walking out with Marines in Iraq, a small piece of me forever on that flak. I have also left my dog tag in my left boot as a reminder of where I have been and for me to take note for those who still serve.
Sitting in the darkness I think about being home now for 3 weeks and what life is like. The thoughts I now have and the perspective of my time in Iraq. A few things have changed for me I think, at least my view of life in general I think has changed. I had a LtCol tell me in Ramadi that "Iraq will make or break a Man". I also had a Maj tell me you will find "The mark of a man while in combat". I have found that I view things now in a much broader sense and do not get so excited or worked up. I keep the perspective on how life can change in the blink of an eye. I take note of the small things, I sit here in the early morning and hear birds, no artillery fire, helos, rockets or machine gun fire. I went to church last weekend and was struck by the calmness of everything. In Fallujah during Mass it seemed the artillery would always start, giving a surreal feeling with rounds going downrange right outside the door of a house of worship.
I know I will never look at an American flag the same way again, after seeing one draped over a transfer case in Iraq sending a service member home for the final time. Knowing personally the sacrifice being made while serving under that flag has made me look at it much differently. I have gone to war under that Flag and my colors and I have seen the dead sent home draped with it. I have to wonder do we realize how lucky we are to live here?
Very soon I will detach from active duty and go back into the reserves and then begin the paperwork for my retirement. There is now not much more I can tell anyone reading this blog. I have striven to give anyone who wanted to know a personal view of one man's journey to war and back, the stories of those I have collected along the way and my personal thoughts. I hope my journey has shown you a world you were not familiar with or a side of a man who felt he had to do his part.