7.19.2003

the joes come out of the wood work...when they find out your the 'phone guy'...they ran a phone into our tent...it's 'for official use only'...as they say...we keep it hidden...because they will ask...when we are sleeping...when we are naked...when we don't want to be bothered..."hey man is it cool if i use the phone"..."no man sorry it's not"...then they get surprised because you told them no...they don't get that you don't want the phone in your tent...which makes it about a trillion times easier for the 1st sergeant to get a hold of you for a detail...or a head count...or what ever...

people think that your tents got a revolving door on it...so they walk in...they don't live there...they call out someone's name...anyone's name...while your sleeping...and you want to scream..."WHY ARE YOU IN HERE"...

we all become space nazis...not outer space...but rather that bubble that is 10 feet around you...it's yours so everyone better stay out...most military tents...during deployments...take on a very sectioned off feel...everyone hangs up their military issue camouflage poncho...like a wall...because we like privacy too...you put it up not only so people can't see you...but so you can't see other people...how long can you really stare at private snuffy's butt crack before you go completely off your light switch...

so when strangers come into your tent...to ask you for a favor...like you owe them...and then get upset and pissy when you inform them that they ain't got a shot in hell of makin' a call off this phone...you just want to lay down and sleep...because who really cares...seriously...the man with more rank says you can't so you can't...i don't make the rules...i wish i did...

the ponchos keep out the light...the tent will get a dingy appearance...the common smell is a mix between bad feet and stale doritos...very tangy...

the most amazing thing that you will discover is that some people in your tent...that live 3 feet to either side of you...just don't shower...at all...no really...they don't shower at all...i've always heard about these people...but i had always assumed that it was an exaggeration...but no they exist...and they make up excuses for why they don't want to shower..."why should i take a shower when i'm just gonna get dirty again"...so what are you saying to me...are you saying we shouldn't wipe our asses because we're just gonna shit again in 12 hours...that makes no sense...don't try to justify being disgusting...just admit your a lazy som'a'bitch...and we'll move on...they don't realize what the real purpose of a shower is out here...you don't take them to stay clean for long periods of time...you take them to keep the layers of grime down to a minimum...that stuff builds up like floor wax...i think they just enjoy smelling like a yeti...

we had a guy in afghanistan who showered all of 3 times in two months...he gave off a smell that could quite literally churn butter...and then he would sleep in his clothes...with his boots still on...it was 100 degrees in that tent...and there he would be...drooling on himself...sweating profusely...wearing his clothes because he "wants to keep the dirt off his skin"...

these small things that build up inside of you...like a jenga game...they make you wanna freak out and just start screaming...it's so frustrating...so horribly aggravating...and you can do nothing but deal with it...day in and day out...month after month after month after month...
one of my best friends started a journal...he's still in kuwait...his wife just had a baby six weeks ago...he was lucky enough to get to go home for the birth...he left two weeks before the due date...he got on a plane 4 days after his child was born and flew right back out here...he has no idea when he is going home either...you think i've got it rough...
a soldiers paradise

7.18.2003

my girlfriend sends me emails that fail to hide the fact that she is just a little bit tipsy...she had a girls night out and now she is sending me love letters over the internet...it's late at night and her sister is passed out on the floor...and i smile as any good boyfriend would...and i laugh at her misspellings because unlike me...she is an excellent speller...she types to fast when she's been drinking and she writes in humongous run on sentences...and even though i laugh and smile at her in her drunken loveliness...it destroys me inside...

i'm tired...

when she drinks...then and only then will she dance...in the club...to the techno music...she will wander away from me and chit chat with people...and i will watch her...and inside i will feel pride...there is my woman...my beautiful woman...who is not afraid...who is independent...who is successful...who stands up for what she believes...who recycles...despite my best efforts to throw out the 'garbage'...she will dig through it...each and every bag...the card board...the glass...the aluminum...each into their respective bins...where they will sit until i slip upon the knife edge of insanity...THE GARBAGE IS PILING UP FOR GOD SAKE!!!

it is wrong but sometimes it makes me feel better...when i hear about how boring her day was...how she will not go out this weekend...she would rather rent 'the sopranos' and stay in...and i know that i'm not missing any of those 'special' moments...those unforgettable memories...she is there in the one place in this world that i truly miss...in her big fluffy socks...with the plaid pants i picked out from that outlet store...on my couch which i bought for $50 dollars in germany...and she is not having fun...

that makes it easier...

that is shameful of me...because i do want her to go out...and dance and try to forget about this horrible situation that i have dragged her into...i want her to get tipsy and laugh with her friends...and be beautiful...and i want to watch her hold her beer with two hands a listen to people talk...with both feet planted on the ground and her head tilted just a little to the right...like she does when she is listening...and then she will laugh...her big laugh...the laugh that says..."i do not care what you think of me"..."happiness is what's important"...

i can see her in my head...each time i close my eyes...in the bed...i bought her for christmas...the huge bed to replace her little one that is to small for lovers who enjoy to snuggle but also require their sleeping space...under the covers...the thick brown comforter...that she picked out to replace the horrible red one that i choose...

even now as i look up...at the wall of my shelter...under the air conditioner...there is her picture...the smile that never falters...just as her real one does not...her brown eyes uplifting me and convincing me that i WILL go home...

eventually...

7.17.2003

i couldn't do it...not a minute longer...i could not sit there on my cot...and read...or sleep...or eat...or think...or even pretend to sleep...i had to get out and get some kind of insight...some kind of perspective...

so now i'm thinking...where can i go...where can i get away from all of this...for just a few minutes...a few stinking minutes to myself...that's all i really need...some of that 'private time'...i've got to reflect...and tune out...and listen to the wind...

there is a mosque on the compound...someday it will be very beautiful...when it is finished...the work was...how you say...interrupted...i've been up the tower once...i don't really know if i'm 'allowed' up there...but i'm not 'allowed' to do a lot of things...

i followed a bright orange iraqi dump truck around the lake...i wanted to take a picture...but i couldn't get a good angle...it was always just a little bit canted the wrong way...so screw it...

i get to the mosque and i can already feel it...there is just something peaceful about religious places...i think it's all mental...ingrained into our subconscious to respect places like this...i've always been so amazed at church burners...have they no shame...

the tower is surrounded by scaffolding...all the way up...i can see the door leading to the stair way underneath the scaffolding and i hit it...into the darkness...i climb over scaffolding parts and old MRE bags...the stairs are covered in bird poop...i try not to touch it...but then it gets dark...i honestly can not see in front of my face...so now i'm going by touch...and i'm touching pigeon shit...finally it's starts to light up...i'm nearing the top...a dim orange glow...brighter...brighter...then i'm out on to the tower top...

there is something like rubble...bricks and mortar...iron pieces...speaker megaphones...there is debris...but not the war kind...just your average run of the mill mess...there's a ladder welded in place...i'm up it and on to the ledge...it's beautiful...to say the least...

the war is smaller from up here...the damage not as pronounced...the destruction harder to spot...you really have to look for it...

and out...past the scaffolding is baghdad...green trees and aqua tigris...i feel better up here...this is my place...i took some pictures of the horizons...the airport...the palaces (i can see what i think are three others from here)...radio towers...i can actually look out on the real world...and i can't see the fighting...i can't hear the shots...i can't see where all the troubles are coming from...it looks ok to me...maybe peace is only in a 10 foot bubble around body...

i'm eyeing my watch...because i do have obligations...there is a real world out there and it does not pause...i wait until i absolutely have to...then i make my way back down the shit covered stairs...my rifle banging each step behind me...one hand firmly planted on the banister and both feet working slow...the army teaches us '3 points of contact'...if you are always in contact with at least 3 of your appendages you probably will be able to stop a fall...i exercise this tactic in precise detail...if i fell...no one would find me for days...another causality...you'd read about
me in the news paper...and you know i'm doing all i can to prevent that...

7.16.2003

so you wanna see into the mind of an american soldier...what's he seeing...what's could he be thinking...i wonder what he's smelling...does he feel like i do...could he be hearing the sounds of war...

i see port-a-johns and dirt...which...coincidently is what i smell too...

i hear explosions and helicopters...all day...and all night...

and i what do i think??? i don't even know any more...

on my way to afghanistan i read a book in the c-5 by kurt vonnegut...it was called 'mother night'...the book was about an american spy who worked as a nazi radio broadcaster...he spewed propaganda all over the airwaves and riled up the german people to fight and hate and kill...but underneath it all he was passing coded messages to the allies...they caught him 50 years later and tried him for war crimes...he worked desperately to prove that he was the most loyal american in the third reich...he realized before his verdict...as he held the sole piece of evidence that would exonerate him...that he was guilty of all the things he was accused of because he did them...no matter how much good became of them...

there are four groups of people who email me...i try as best i can to answer all of them...i get quite a bit...you'll have to forgive me if i missed you...

the first group wants to let me know how much they support me and just about everything else that is going on...they don't read far enough into my journal to find out what i support...

the second group informs me that they stand with me and they do support the troops but not the war and they usually read everything i write...

the third group reads a little of what i write and they believe none of it...

and the forth group reads absolutely nothing that i write and they use me as an american soldier punching bag...

i try to answer everything...give them my perspective...i listen to theirs...some of this forth group are so filled with hate that they won't even let me agree with them...they fling their hate all over me...who knows...their hate might even be justified...they just want the opportunity to tell off an american soldier...

i guess that's what i get for putting it all on the line...throwing out my mind and heart for the world to look at and chomp on...these people want that small satisfaction...however miniscule...that comes with telling someone off real good...they want that small victory over the baby killers and life takers...the mindless automatons and trained destroyers of peace...

i want to discuss...and learn...and hear...there are other opinions in this world besides mine...besides ours...i want to understand...why we feel these things...where is it all coming from...where will it all go...

they blame me personally for the deaths of countless children...they accuse me and each american for the horrendous atrocities inflicted upon their people...they hate us and wish us harm...i don't know about you...but i have never killed a baby or destroyed a home...but does that make me innocent...

do horrible things happen under our watch...do we turn a blind eye to death...because it is not down the block...it's off in some country that most americans probably can't even find on a map...out of sight...out of time...

i tell those who hate me that the feeling is not mutual...that i understand where they are coming from...i can see why they feel the way they do...i don't agree with these things either....because why??? i read a book...i looked at a few websites...is that really enough...what will it take to end this hate...someone please tell me...i'm running out of ideas...

i sit here all night trying to change the world from my lap top...and it's beginning to weigh on me...there is a story here that deserves to be told...there are other sides to this multi faceted goliath...

i forgot to tell you what i feel...i feel like atlas...with the weight of the world as my burden...simply because i have waken up to it...

please...

someone else wake up and help me...

7.15.2003

today was deja vu...we recently had a change of command...so the new commander made his first walk through today...just getting a feel for the troops...putting names to faces...he wanted to look at all of our new shiny equipment...

the way briefings usually work is pretty standard...the youngest soldier gives the brief...he practices for a few days...getting down signal flow...and putting names to equipment...he practices and i quiz him...over and over...he knows the brief like the inside of his sleeping bag...the commander comes in to the van and the soldiers gets so nervous that he can barely speak and he just about forgets everything that he has practiced...

i watched my soldier give his wobbly brief today...and i smiled...i've been here before...on the other end...giving the brief...scared to death of the larger then life commander...if he's a good commander he realizes their nervousness and does not mistake it for ignorance of the job...he asks some simple questions and test their knowledge...making the soldier comfortable in the process...

i'm signed for millions of dollars in equipment...i counsel my soldiers every month like clock work...i continuously train them on basic soldiering skills...but for the first time i actually felt like a team chief today...
i stepped into my first real leaders shoes and i saw everything from his perspective...

in sarajevo...sgt. p was my team chief...a monster of man who i met in the pouring rain and made my first impressions with by working through the night packing up systems for deployment with a hernia...lifting and pulling and stuffing...not worrying about the hernia because i was getting surgery the next day...

sgt. p stood by me through out my first years...not only was he my finest team chief he was also one of my truest friends...i would work through any situation not because it was my job but because i feared letting him down...his approval was the most important thing in my young military career...not to mention my life at the time...

in bosnia he grilled me...and made me create power point presentations...we discussed signal flow...he ran it into my head until i was sure that i could give the brief in my sleep...then our brigade commander flew in...she was giant of woman who slapped your back to the point of knocking you over...she rode a harley and the soldiers loved her...while the officers knew only fear...

then she was in the shelter with me...standing so close...i started shaking i actually started shaking...my voice cracking...i get out the stuttered brief and apologize profusely...i know that i've screwed this thing up and she will label me a shit soldier..."i know this stuff ma'm honest, i've been practicing for a week, i'm just nervous"..."it's ok private you did fine"..."yes ma'm"...i felt like a shlob...but sgt. p. assured me that i was fine...i remember him smiling and i thought he was smiling at the humor in my incompetence...but i know now what he smiled at...

he was smiling not only at my life as a hatchling but also at his age as a soldier...he was smiling at the future when i would watch my own soldiers stand in that exact spot...and the feeling that he held that i someday would know...

life is about growing and changing...hopefully those that you love grow and change in ways that match your own...hopefully you don't miss out on the times that create the growth in them...and with any amount of growth be sure to realize that it is happening right under your nose...you'll turn around one day and you'll be a man with out even realizing that it happened...


7.14.2003

a friend of mine got the bronze star yesterday...he left with the first wave way back in the day...off through the desert with the tanks...he says they actually went forward of the line...they took their little hmmv's and their little box...which are just like mine...right up the middle of iraq...with a full fledged war raging...

they were shot with artillery...they were carpet bombed...mortars were flying...he said iraqi dead bodies were everywhere and i asked him if he took any pictures..."why would i take pictures? i'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to forget it"...dumb question...

one of his soldiers had to be medivaced...they came under mortar fire while in their convoy...they were driving with no headlights and using their night vision goggles...military vehicles have little lights called 'black outs' that you can use to follow someone really close...it's kind of like driving with one christmas tree light attached to the front of your car...the mortars started flying and the convoy panicked and raced off through the desert...the soldier didn't have the head harness for the goggles and he missed a turn and crashed his vehicle into an embankment off the side of the road...he broke his nose...luckily that was all...a 1sg came along behind him and pulled him out of the vehicle...they had to leave it...they lost the n.v.g.'s...all their bags...$2000 dollars worth c.d.'s...a spare barrel for their s.a.w....and the generator that the truck was pulling...

i had been wondering about whether or not the iraqis were stripping the vehicles or if the soldiers were doing it...turns out that the majority of the field stripping was done by us...we take everything that we can use...i mean everything...right down to the windshield washer squirters...hoses... hoods...tires...reflectors...and once the vehicle has been totally cannibalized the unit that did it is supposed to blow the vehicle up so that the enemy can't use it...

when my buddy got back to his vehicle the next day...they had to put 2 tires on it just to tow it away...he said that there was a roll of toilet paper in the gas tank...but it looked like they got scared off before they could blow the truck up...as they were hooking up the truck...a convoy of paladins and bradley came rushing past them at 45 mph and a soldier leaning out the top screamed "THEY'RE COMING!!! RUN!!!"...now if paladins (a tank with a howitzer built on to it) and bradleys are running that means you run...you run as fast as you can because very bad things are behind them...

they didn't even have time to fix up the tires all the way before they had to roll out...one fell off and they dragged the vehicle for about 20 miles...my buddy said he could see the carpet bombing in the rear view mirrors...he could feel it though seat of the truck...

he had to call me up to get help setting up his equipment because he lost all of his manuals in the other truck...luckily the unit that stripped the vehicle had no idea what was in the back of his truck...so they left his equipment...if he didn't have that then he would have been worthless...

he told me about his convoy stopping in the middle of a circle of abrhams...the circle was the perimeter...and iraqi tanks were trying to get inside of it...the abrhams didn't even hesitate...he said he got to the point that he could actually get some sleep with the tanks blowing stuff to hell nonstop...carnage...he felt that safe with our tanks out there...they are impressive...that's what they're built for...shock and awe...death and destruction...

he was affected by the stop loss...he was supposed to get out of the military last month...he's not getting out until november now...luckily he's on his way home because he just finished a year long deployment to kuwait a month before he deployed for this war...this has been his life for the last year and a half...he is definitely entitled to something...an award...a gift of gratitude from the military...if it were up to me i would say he deserves a very long life...

7.13.2003

i had heard that there were iraqi barracks on this compound...and some swimming pools...i went looking for both today...i found them...and i took some pictures...

the first pool was in doors...it was very majestic...big and curved...the far side had a diving board...and behind it there was 2 story sauna...with windows...wooden...i've never seen anything like it...a sleepy looking female soldier sat in a lawn chair while iraqi pool guys cleaned and chlorinated...there were giant industrial size drapes that enclosed the pool area...they were pulled shut and there were signs that said 'no swimming'...moving on...

i walked around the back side of the compound...i've never been back there...there was a lot more carnage...but there's a lot of that...it's not really surprising anymore...i passed an orchard...it looked broken...i'm sure it can be fixed...

i could see the barracks poking up over an inner wall...i've driven past it and the disaster behind that wall intimidated me...i didn't go back there...today i clawed my way over the wall and the carnage was immediate...it looked like a war zone...well duh...

the bullets ripping up the sides of the wall...debris under every foot fall...a warehouse blown to every square inch of the inner perimeter...i found a u.s. issue desert boot...just one...on the ground...very weird...some body took it off really quick for some unknown reason...i hope it wasn't the kind of reason that required a medivac...

a bomb left a crater in the middle of the warehouse leaving the warehouse not a warehouse...there were giant rolls of insulation piled up and blown over by the explosion...i crawled threw a window because i couldn't make my way around the wreckage...i slipped and almost ate the glass covered pavement...i forgot i've got an m-16 strapped to my back...

inside the barracks...on the walls there are hand prints...and names written in bad english...tell salam i found raed...he wrote his name with his finger next to a really bad self portrait...it probably wasn't him...how many raeds could there possibly be...who knows...

everything was stripped...every light...every socket...door handle...toilets and sinks...

i tried to go up the main stair case...it was blocked with huge pieces of sheet metal...plugged up...i hadn't seen any metal like it inside the barracks...it looks like it was brought in and placed in the stair case...i found some more stairs in the back...leading up to what i think was the senior living area...there was no furniture...it's all been looted...

up on the 3rd floor...bricks and drywall everywhere...so much destruction...at first it appears like there were explosions up here...but as i inspect closer it looks more like all the walls have been kicked over...bored g.i.'s destroying shit...in the middle there are two big holes in the walls...i can see the palace out the front and out the back is a good view of the outside streets...vans and orange taxis...hmmv's with soldiers up in the turrets...

the windows are blacked out with paint...i thought they stopped doing that after WWII...most of the windows have been bricked over...or broken...

the staircase at the other end has definitely been stuffed with a barricade...did they expect to make a last stand here???

in the center there is a hole...another bomb came right through the middle of this building...barracks...i live in barracks...nicer then these...but still......

it's hot and i'm tired...i go to find the other pool...its in doors and on the second floor of a building...it's a lot smaller then the first one but the water is just as wet...i lose the shirt quick...because i'm in shape...the chlorine hurts my eyes...it's so nice...i just prop my head against the wall and float for about 20 minutes...i actually forget about everything i've seen today...