9.12.2003

thank paul woodward of warincontext.org for this interview
i'm writing from my tailgate...it's dark...the mosquitoes are bad...one of my best friends on earth...laub...he just left...he came over to my site and spent most of the evening with me...it was a good way to wrap this up...thinking and talking about old times...old parties...old friends...he just left...i may or may not see him again...it's hard to tell...i hope i do...i hope i see a lot of these guys again...my heat baby...willie b....big sexxy...oscar...who knows what the future holds...

i've been thinking about how i should wrap this up...i've actually given thought to what i should say...you should all know that i never think about what i'm going to write...it just kind of starts with a sentence...and a page and half later...it's done...i usually proof read about 9 times...but still the miss spellings will sneak through...i try my best...i really do...

there is a surreal feeling in knowing that this is my last night in the 'rak'...that by this time next week...i will be in my woman’s arms...that i will be home...and i will never have to leave again for something like this...it's a big feeling...calming in a nervous kind of way...jumpy while at peace...

i thought i should try to explain my confusion...to really lay it on the line...i think you all deserve that...especially you 'o.g.'s out there...the ones that have been reading since the beginning...and the ones i write to pretty often...you know who you are...

someone emailed me the other day and started this train of thought with in my big head...they used some terms that made me understand my confusion...my confusion was confusing...he used the words 'macro' and 'micro'...these words hit the problems square on the nose...and i nod an affirmative towards them...

to many i'm sure that it would appear that i can not see the 'macro' good that is attempting to come through with this war...the bigger picture...but i do...i know that saddam was a horrendous tyrant...capable of anything...holding his country at knife point...slaughtering...kidnapping...freighting...
this country was not free..and it was being taken advantage of...it was being reaped...and it seems as though only a few would see the rewards...those in favor with the big guy...america liked him...with the old adage of 'the enemy of my enemy...'...but that adage is not the best to ever come out of someone’s mouth...and it creates problems...just like in afghanistan...we create problems...we have to deal with them...it's not fair...but that is the way it is...i look at iraq now...and i know that they were not in a black hole...they lived somewhat normal lives in comparison to us...the u.s....they did have internet even if it was monitored and fire walled...they did not have television as we know it from what i've read...i'm sure the t.v. waves snuck through to some...but not all...they did not have some very basic freedoms that we take for granted...i read an article by salam...he actually feared for his life while writing his journal...he feared for his family...and he risked their lives by putting his feelings out there...the feelings that we all could relate to...the feelings that said..."we aren't so different...you and i"...

there are mass graves being unearthed...there are people digging through them...trying desperately to find long since gone loved ones...i can't even imagine...yes i can...

i do think that iraq will one day be better...i do think that this country will enjoy basic freedoms...and i hope they will be able to take advantage of them...with out intervention from any outside source...they deserve it...because they are not all terrorists/freedom fighters/militants/what ever...they are people...and they hurt...and they worry...and they sweat...and they work...and they provide as best they can...that's what we do...all of us...

and maybe that is why the 'micro' problems hurt me so...because i see now...like i've never seen before...the blinders are off...the eyes are wide...my heart is open...gut wrenching...and horrible...a problem we caused...that we have to end...and i wonder...at what cost...how many more will die...how many more will fight...how many more will feel the unquenched disbelief at this new situation...this situation that isn't exactly panning out like we might have imagined...i here the small arms fire...i feel the explosions...the 'micro' has slapped me in the face everyday that i woke up here...it has affected me...it will continue to affect for the rest of my life...i know all to well that people...iraqis...and americans...are dying everyday...i see the smoke from the car bombs...i feel the hurt in my heart...

they are dying here...these people...humans...us...

i have felt...on a few occasions...an extreme relief...a overwhelming peace...a mind-blowing simplicity...i have realized in nights of thought and self reflection...that every particle...every moment...every act...and every life...that has ever existed throughout the dawning of all and everything has worked to bring you...me...and us...to this exact moment in time...and who are we to waste that...who are we to throw away such an opportunity...to see the other side...to feel one another’s pain...to work for a better tomorrow...to make good on bad decisions...

i know that the world is hard...i know that iraq is worse then it was 6 months ago...in terms of just about everything...but i have to believe that it will turn around...someday...i have to believe it in my heart...that i was apart of something good...no matter it's perceived reasoning...no matter what...i have to believe that i have worked to do the right thing in this country so far from my home...because how could i live with myself any other way...

my walk is almost over...but the journey is far from complete...

this is moja_vera...live from baghdad...

peace in the middle east 2003

9.11.2003

some people join up...and they know that they will do 20 years...they just know some how that they are a 'lifer'...some people sign on for only 2...and they know they won't do a minute longer...i signed on for 6...boom...right off the bat...6 years...i would be lying if i said they were all easy...if they were all a cake walk...i've hated my job more then once...and a few times the only thing that kept me from fleeing was the fear of jail...it's not an easy profession...and it's not for everybody...

i've known troops who stay in for an assortment of reasons...there are those that genuinely appreciate being a soldier...the military gives their lives worth and purpose...i find that very admirable...there are those that stay in for so long because they are scared to get out...a steady pay check becomes quite an important thing once you've started a young family...there are those that stay in because they think the job is easy compared to working in the outside world...you get a pay check no matter your job performance...it's a lot harder to get fired...

people are here for a vast and unending assortment of reasons...soldiers do their duty for the most part...every profession has it's slackers...the people that skate by...the troops that do the bare minimum...i've felt more then once that those that do the absolute least amount of work they can get away with are rewarded in a way...because if you're a horrible worker...you will not be picked for the important jobs...the 'good' missions...if you're diligent...and steadfast...and intelligent...the army will use you for all you're worth...and more often then not put you away dirty...it is a thankless job most times...

i'm not a lifer...i never intended to be...that was never the plan...the army has been my home for so long...but i could not even imagine starting a family with in it's confines...i've seen more divorces then happy endings...it is sad but is true...this life is to hard for most soldiers loved ones...i like to be there for my peeps...i like to do 'stuff'...i like to be home...in america...the country i love...the country that gives me worth...the country that i would fight and die for to protect...that's what i signed on to do...that's why they tell me i'm here...

hermann hess said something remarkable to me...in a book he wrote years ago...
"a man is a hero, and deserves special interest only if his nature and his education have rendered him able to let his individuality be almost perfectly absorbed in it's hierarchic function without at the same time forfeiting the vigorous fresh, admirable impetus which make for the savor and worth of the individual."...clearly he speaking on more the moral based nature of man...and not on the action/reaction bound individual...they are quite more then heroes if one were to go by this decree...and 'hero' to me is not a big enough word to describe what i think of my fellow soldiers...the ones in the trenches...doing what soldiers do...following their orders...

i am eager for home...and nothing that is said to me will ever make me feel bad for those feelings...not today...or any day...every soldier out here would leave just as quickly if the big man in camouflage told him or her that their day was up...especailly having reached the tail end of back to back 8 month deployments...and 6 long years...a quarter of my young life has been guided and shaped by the military...and for the rest of my life i know that i will remain a military man at heart...utilizing all of my gained knowledge and strength that the army forced me to create within myself...i took advantage of this time...i put it to my own best interest...and i will return to america in a few short...forever long...days...because it is the land of my birth...and it will be the land of my death...it is where i will create my children...and watch them grow...there is no other country for me...and that is why i feel so strongly for all of it's decisions...the decisions that affect my life everyday...that will continue to affect each and every life it touches for all of it's existence...in positive ways...and in negative ones as well...

for the last six years...i have completed my duty...i did raise my hand...i took the oath of allegiance...and it has taken me far...now i will come home and live a normal life and raise a normal family enjoying the normal freedom that is provided for me by our countries normal soldiers...but the greatest irony...or the greatest reward is that i still do not have to agree with any of the reasons in which i have been questioned...because that is the right that i have earned...that is my right as an american...and as a soldier...

9.10.2003

i packed today...i still have a few days to go...but since i really had nothing better to do and i knew that packing would only take me a few minutes i went on ahead...i never really unpacked...i've lived out of duffel bags for almost 8 months...i used an old n.b.c. bag as a sock drawer and i hung it from the tent rail across the ceiling above my cot...i stick my underwear in there too...when i left this last time...with the newly gained experience and knowledge of my last deployment...i bought a gratuitous amount of socks and underwear...because i knew that i would burn through them like old newspaper...they never really get washed very well...they get stained...and thin...and patchy...and i ended up throwing quite a few pairs away...i learned that you shouldn't use the whitey tighties...because they will never stay white...the lack of showers or laundry services force you to create an apparition of cleanliness...if it looks clean...it is clean...

i just got my final laundry bag back...i've got a few things that i need to wash but i will do that once i reach kuwait...i only need to worry about having enough underwear and socks to make it through the next few days...i wear 1 uniform for about a week so i kept a clean one out and i will add the one that i am wearing now to my dirty clothes bag the night before my departure...

rummaging through my big desert camouflage flight bag...the one i bought in uzbekistan last year...i pulled out little trinkets and trash long since forgotten...1 cuban cigar...previously held captive by the old regime of saddam..but newly liberated...i will smoke it in the name of freedom upon my arrival home...1 kuwaiti/iraqi map...given to us for our convoy up into baghdad...1 ash tray smuggled through the underground railroad from saddams personal smoking parlor...6 old love letters which will remain with me until my dying day...an assortment of pictures sent to me by my woman...1 humanitarian MRE...it's bright yellow and it says "a gift from the people of the united states of america"...they make the packaging bright yellow so that they will not be confused for bombs when they are dropped from planes...1 book entitled "the story of philosophy" by william durant...1 book entitled "religions of the world"...1 book entitled "the count of monte christo" by dumas...1 book entitled "the glass bead game" by herman hess...1 book entitled "invisible monsters" by chuck palahniuk...1 box unopened Q-tips...13 empty cd cases...1 belt buckle that is molded in the shape of an open book with the words "Bible Belt" etched on it's surface...1 ukulele...1 american flag (dusty and torn...folded)...1 coleman lantern with batteries...1 bottle all natural insect repellant...5 yogart dipped power bars...1 note pad...1 spare hat...and 1 deflated inflatable mattress...

it all fit nicely...and now i could be ready to leave in all of 10 minutes...these are...without doubt...the longest days of my life...

9.09.2003

well i've caught hell over what i said about riverbend...what she said moved me like nothing that has moved me in months...it upset me...it made me feel bad...

there are so many people out there who think that all iraqis are the enemy...that all of them are not worth one american life...i'm scared by this mindset...this is how these things will perpetuate and drag on forever...we will have a strong military presence in iraq for years to come...some of your children that are still in junior high will serve over here...it is going to happen...be ready for it...and it is only going to get worse before it gets better...be ready for that too...

there are so many questions brewing inside of me...i am more confused now then when we arrived almost 8 months ago...to many...a good soldier must be one who doesn't look at the bigger picture...they should only care about the mission in front of their eyes...and the guy next to them...i wonder now what i am...if i have clouded myself in an illusion...because i think of all and everyone...because i am just as worried for riverbend or salam as i am for chief wiggles or chromedome...their lives all mean as much to me as any of the others that are here...those that live here...and those that deployed here...

for all those that would question me and my ideals...i can only say that i hope each and everyone one of your children joins the military...and deploys to a far off third world country...and watches the american might destroy another force and nation in the name of freedom...i hope they see the insanity of war...the madness all around them...and i hope they return home to you...alive and with all their limbs...more confused then when they left...just like me..

i spent this war in a box on the back of a hmmv...i was not on the front lines...i was on the phone lines...i have earned from the military everything that i set out to achieve...and then some...my opinions may be clouded with thoughts of being a civilian...my ideas come straight at you over the internet...but i know that i am not alone...i know that for every one soldier that would think less of me because i do not understand this war...there is another combat veteran or serving soldier who understands what i have tried to say...and your emails of encouragement are the ones that mean the most to me...those are the ones that i read over and over again when i feel less then 100%...those are the ones i fall back on when i begin to doubt myself and my decisions in life...i know that i am not less then any other...in fact...i am more then most...and i am not alone...

9.08.2003

everything i have ever written...or said...or will ever write...or say...is worthless in comparison to this post...08sep2003
the word for the day is empathy...

surprises for me this morning...i got in two new soldiers...new troops to take the load off my horrified privates...one of them is a reclass generator mechanic (which is always a good thing to have around) and the other has a few years of experience but it is all strategic...which means they both know nothing about tactical...but they will learn...they are both very intelligent...

i spent the majority of the day getting them acquainted...showing them the ropes...bringing them up to speed with all the equipment that they have never seen before...i have to work quickly...the freedom bird awaits...

one of my infantry puke buddies brought me a going away present last night...he said he was going to...i guess i didn't take him seriously...it's a brand spankin' new iraqi bayonet...and it's really freakin' cool...very tough looking...i've never been a weapon guy...i'm not into rifles...or pistols...or knives...but this thing is a keep sake...thanks brother...i'll treasure it always...he said it was confiscated off one of the iraqi workers who tried to bring it on to the compound...and although a nice gruesome story about it's appearance might make it cooler...i would rather have a bayonet that has never been used...especially one that's sole purpose in life is to kill other soldiers...namely me...

there is some question as to whether or not i'll be able to take it home...they keep changing the rules about war souvenirs...i guess i'll find out when get back to kuwait...

my time is so short now that i've actually started counting down more things then just my days...like right now i have 11 meals left...5 more drives to work...2 more P.T. formations...i speculate that i will probably use the port-a-john 4 more times for a number 2...and i will wear 3 more pairs of socks...

i think about leaving every minute of every day...while i'm talking to my troops...in the back of my head...even though i'm saying something very profound and important about their job performance...i'm thinking 'i want to go home'...it really sucks...i even dream about it...i actually dream about going home...amazing...

i've been working really hard to make sure that i don't portray a 'short timers' attitude...i want my last impressions on my soldiers to be that of a professional...i want to leave my team in better condition than what i found it...creating quick reference sheets with all of our crucial data and settings...schedules for maintenance...phone numbers they might need...everything that i can think of...but the problem of thinking of everything is that it's impossible...and i know that the day after i leave they will come up with a question they will wish that they could ask me...and i won't be there...they're nervous...i am too...

9.07.2003

i started throwing stuff out this morning...the whole mice thing has me freaked out...because i'm deathly afraid of snakes...i went digging around in my 'poggy bait' box...poggy bait is just junk food...i don't know why they call it that in the army...it's just one of the many things that i take on face value...once i reached down to the bottom and pulled out my ramen noodles i could see that some of the bags were half empty and nice big holes were chewed right through the sides...and in the bottom...rolling around in the box...freedom turds...oh the subtle joys of iraq...

the weather has been so nice the last few days that i'm almost sad to go...no i'm not...it's very strange...and i'm not sure if anyone else knows the feeling i'm talking about...but do you know when you have to go into work on the weekend...how it all just feels kind of different...like for some reason the fact that it is a saturday or a sunday puts a whole new spin on the work day...everything is a bit more relaxed...it's weird to me because even though absolutely nothing is different about my weekends from my weekdays it does feel like the weekend...i've wondered about this for 7 months...coincidently...i've only had one day off in that time...what kind of pay scale does that work out to...at least 12 hours a day...everyday...for over 7 months...i'm sure it works out to a lot more then i've earned...if you ever hear anyone say we do this for the money...bitch slap them...

my soldier is still coming to me with issues...and he gets all big and wide eyed when i turn them right back over to him...he has to learn that he is going to be taking care of himself and another soldier for the next few months...at least until they get another team chief...i think this entire chain of events has the opportunity to create one hell of a leader in him...i'm doing my best to instill the proper guidelines...it's up to him to carry them out...the military really is to easy to succeed at...there are only four major requirements...be where you're supposed to be...do what your supposed to do...be in the right uniform...and be on time...these things are easier said then done...but it's all about the principalities 'smokey'...

we have another rig set up next to us...and they are to relaxed...they don't really clean up their shelter...or work on their generators...or do anything that they are supposed to do...and lately...they've been getting trashed by our l.t....so it is even easier for us to look like we are military superstars just by doing our jobs...my troops see this...and i think it is having an effect...true character is derived from how you handle yourself when no one is looking...

rummy was here...and now he's gone...his visit really had no effect on my life..and the flippin militants/freedom fighters/terrorists/what ever tried to hit his flippin plane with a flippin missile...oh yeah...a missile...i was actually given a choice on how i am to leave iraq..."sergeant...do you want to convoy back down to kuwait...or would you like to fly out a day earlier then the convoy"...they really asked me this..."um...as much as another heart warming convoy through the very heart of combat zone iraq does sound strangely appealing in a saddo masochistic kind of way i'm going to have to turn that decision over in my mind for a few moments of quiet deliberation...umm...i'm going to fly first sergeant"...exactly one minute and 14 seconds later i had a plane flight...but now i'm wondering...should i've taken the convoy??? missiles...snakes...mouse dookie...people does it ever end...why actually...yes it does...in about a week it ends forever...for me anyway...

peace in the middle east 2003
it's the middle of the night...02:39 to be exact...blogger is finally up and i understand why they have been down for 2 days...they have totally revamped their template...it's actually pretty killer now...to bad i think i'm coming to the end of my journal...today i received a definite date for departure...i'll be out of country in a week...i've been giving a lot of thought as to whether or not i will continue this blog and i don't think i will...this thing has been part of a chapter of my life that is now coming to a close...and soon i will step out of my d.c.u.'s and into some nice blue jeans and d.c. shoes...i'll be a normal guy once again...doing normal guy stuff...nothing special about me...no new worthy adventure where my life is flashed up on the news groups or channels...but who really knows what the future holds...

i'm up late because there is another v.t.c. scheduled with my girlfriend...it almost seems unnecessary...seeing as how i am leaving in such a short time...but then i think about how much i miss my woman...and i say 'naah'...i could look at her lovely face for as long as they let me...

i've been spending the last few days bringing my senior operator (the heat baby) up to speed with all of his new responsibilities...he's signing for all of the equipment...this is a pretty big thing...especially for such a young soldier...the cost of my rig is well into the millions...and that's a plural on the end...he's so scared of screwing up that i'm sure he's going to over do everything and leave no room for error...i know he can handle it...

he came into work today and told me that in the few hours that he was trying to sleep before his shift his mouse trap caught 7 little mice...this was only in the period of about 4 hours...he was using pop tarts as bait...mice are bad news because they bring snakes...and they are even worse...especially when you have to worry about some crazy iraqi pit viper of death...living in a tent sucks in more ways then most will ever realize...

he's on night shift now and he spends most of his time watching baseball scores change over the internet...adjusting his fantasy football team...and scrutinizing his hand receipts...

my time is almost up for the v.t.c....i'm tired...and i have to get up in few and do it all over again...but my days are down to handful and 2 extra...i can handle just about anything right now...