I was talking to last night about memories of my deployment; she recommended that I should write down some of the memories so that I can share them with my kids later.
I wanted to post this particular memory here because often times you don’t hear about things like this. Most of the time we don’t have the time or the energy to even let our minds wander.
Every now and then we occasionally see something that’s thought inspiring. One of those times was during Phantom Fury in 2004. We were occupying what passes for an apartment building, in Iraqi standards, on the north-west corner of Fallujah. I, and many other Marines slept in a very small apartment with 1 bedroom/balcony, 1 living room, and 1 bathroom (which for them is a hole in the ground/floor with a pipe to take the waste away-read this as NOT A TOILET). There were pictures of the wife, husband and two children. The pictures of the wife were at various ages throughout her life, and they appeared to be mid 30’s at the last portrait. I saw pictures of her without a veil from childhood up to the point where she was married. I saw the same pictures of the husband’s childhood, and their own kids.
I finished looking at the pictures and moved on to look at the rest of the apartment, which was filled with their possessions. I saw the adult possessions, and the toys belonging to the children. I was struck and couldn’t help but wonder: where did the family go? Did they make it to wherever they were going alive? Were they still alive? Was there even somewhere for them to go? How did they feel about leaving everything behind? What did they take with them? How did the children feel, and what did they think?
We aren’t mindless killers. We generally don’t even want to kill anybody. We want to live our lives, just like they do. Not that I want to find out, but I wonder what it was like to be them. Having a foreign military in an area you may have spent all your life in, basically ruling the place. Not running their day-to-day life, but when we showed up to an area, they were expected to part ways or suffer the consequences. The threat of IEDs was huge, and especially dangerous were the SVBIEDs, or suicidal vehicle borne improvised explosive devices. Here’s what an IED did to my truck as we passed it at 45 mph:
I literally almost died. The truck was on fire before we stopped, the truck was without power or hydraulics. The only reason we did survive is because my driver was able to fight the truck to a stop about 2 feet before we went down an embankment and into a swamp. Without hydraulics.
Something else that was expected was that if we talked to you, you talked to us.
We weren’t being assholes. We just wanted to know if they knew where the insurgents were. They were in just as much danger as we were.
I love being a husband and daddy, and I am glad I gave up what I used to do. That doesn’t make me miss it any less. I loved going to Iraq and was hoping to go to Afghanistan before I got out. It takes a special person to re-enlist in the Corps, and especially the Infantry. My job wasn’t a 9-5, and it wasn’t fixing a truck. When you join the Infantry, you’re taking up a profession where the “goal” is not to finish the TPS report, it’s not to put a certain amount of information in the database, it’s not to serve food to customers and it’s not to field customer complaints; when you join the Infantry your job is to kill. Like or dislike, that is your job and you will do it.