Before now poetry has taken notice
Of wars, and what are wars but politics
Transformed from chronic to acute and bloody?
from "Build Soil"
Robert Frost

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Don't worry about us today. Relax in your fire-warmed homes. Cut the bows and tear open the packages. Call the grandparents. Shovel the driveway and then build a snowman. Dig into the potatoes and have an extra slice of ham. Share a kiss under the mistletoe. Drink up the eggnog, and don't forget to raise a toast for your soldier far away.

Make sure everything is well at home- we'll take care of things here.

I wrote a post a year ago from the heart of the insurgency in Iraq's al-Anbar province. At the time, Ramadi was still one of the most violent cities in Iraq- the province as a whole was considered by many to be a lost fight. How things have changed in a year!

Now, I can do all the things I told you to do in that letter a year ago. My brothers and I shoveled the driveway. I opened presents with my family and my girlfriend, and talked to my sole remaining grandparent- the last man in the family before myself to have walked the deserts of the Middle East. Last night, I raised a toast for my friends who have now taken over my fight. They, and we, are succeeding, despite the opinions of some to the contrary. I don't begrudge others their viewpoints, and I certainly appreciate that proceeds from "Christmas in Falluja" will benefit wounded troops, but I feel that lyrics such as "It's Christmas in Fallujah/And we ain't never coming home/We came to bring these people Freedom/We came to fight the Infidel/There is no justice in the desert/Because there is no God in Hell" reflect poorly on the reality of what we are finally accomplishing.

I'm rambling again... this post started out as a cheery "Merry Christmas", and turned bragging/political. I'll let it stand though. Thank you all for the support you have shown us, and have some happy holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2007


I've been home now for 2 1/2 months. I've spent a lot of that time traveling and visiting friends and family. I think I'm doing pretty well readjusting to living here- it doesn't bother me anymore when I drive at night, and I don't swerve away from objects on or near the road (though I do tend to follow them with my eyes). Crowds and people never bothered me after my return, and sudden noises only did so occasionally.

Iraq did change my driving habits, though- I've always been a bit more of an aggressive driver than most, and I'm worse now and more vocal about it. I think living in Idaho makes it particularly bad- drivers here are some of the worst I've seen, and I don't react to them particularly well.

For a week or so now, I've been noting all the stupid things I see while driving. The truck that made a right turn from the left turn lane during a red light was notable, as was the truck that tried to turn left during a red light, got caught in the intersection and still tried to creep through the stream of oncoming traffic. I noticed the van that turned from a cross street into the turning lane, because the driver got impatient with the car in front of him that was actually trying to turn and pulled into oncoming traffic to pass.

The worst incident for me occurred while I was traveling towards Oregon, heading for my parents house. I was the second car in a stack of five or six when I noticed a small white car parked by the side of the freeway. Suddenly, he pulled out into the right lane, and nearly caused a pileup.

The last time something like that happened, I was gunning on a trip from Falluja to Ramadi. We were passing by a "named area of interest"- a hot spot known for multiple sniper, grenade, IED and VBIED attacks. When the little white car suddenly edged into my truck, he was too close to bring the machine gun to bear.

I was tightening my finger on the trigger of my M4 and wondering idly to myself if I was too close to fire a 40mm high explosive grenade into him with being hit by the fragmentation when the driver looked up. I saw in his eyes the terrorized realization of the dumbass move he had just pulled, and how close it had brought him to death.

I remember that Iraqi driver every time I see stupid maneuvers occurring on the roads at home, and I wonder if the American driver sporting the yellow "Support Our Troops" ribbon understands that his driving would literally risk his life at my hands in another country.

I know he doesn't understand, and so I am angry once again about the blissful ignorance of my countrymen.