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

Monday, February 04, 2008

On the Road Again

I learned some things the last time I was in Iraq- I learned of courage, and brotherhood. I learned that there is no glory in war- there are few heroes, and many decent, ordinary men too stubborn to realize that their actions are irrational, dangerous, and, well… heroic. I learned of emotional agony and of empathy; I also learned how to be callous. I learned how to tell someone with your eyes that you would kill him if he didn’t cave. I lost some timidity, and gained self-respect. The war did not make me a man- rather; I learned through the war some essential elements of manhood.

There must be a name for this sickness, for this consuming malady that compels some few of us back into the conflict, back into the desert. It feels like a mild form of addiction- there’s the drive to get more of it, and the rush, and the memories. It comes without the wasting, without the needle marks (that’s a lie, actually- I have a wicked bruise in my elbow right now from blood tests), but it brings its own scars, flashbacks, and dementia. There’s something very existential about it- I am forever the sum of my experiences, after all, and time spent in austere environs, separated from my comfortable life and often in the heat of combat certainly qualifies as life experience.

I’m happy to be on my way back again. I thought travel into and out of Iraq was bad when I went with the Army… I think it might actually be worse as a civilian. I guess we’ll see if they completely lose me on the trip back, like they lost my entire company in Kuwait. See, the funny thing about that is that the units in Kuwait control travel for the theater, and I never quite understood how they could not know we were leaving. But I digress.

It didn’t take me long to pack for this trip; the hardest part was selecting some civilian clothes that would work well in Iraq. I dug my tactical gear from my deployment out of the boxes I had it stowed in- everything was just as I had remembered. My tan Nomex gloves were still crusted with my sweat and Iraqi dirt. My little Timex watch was still running still set to Iraq time. That watch has to embody the best $12 I ever spent. I packed all the tactical gear into my carryon backpack for the flight; forgetting to remove my Gerber from its holster when I threw that into my backpack. At the airport, it took TSA 3 times through the scanner to decide there was something in my bag that didn’t belong. The screener acted as though my bag was radioactive. She gingerly removed books and power cords, and struggled to comprehend the fastening straps on the butt pack that held the offending multitool. I offered to help, but I was sternly refused. When at last she uncovered the grey canvas cover, she stared at it as though it might explode- which it might, of course. Standing next to her, I wondered how many suicide bombers tried to trick their victims into detonating their bombs, and only martyred themselves because they stuck around to watch the fun. In her mind, the number must be in the dozens. I can’t wait to get back to Iraq, where I trust the competence of the people around me.

The trouble I had at the security checkpoint turned out to be for naught. My flight was delayed to the point that I would positively miss the connector to my flight across the Atlantic, so I rescheduled for the next flight out and called my girlfriend: “Hey babe… Want to say goodbye to me again?” I’m sure it’s a little cruel to shift someone so quickly between tears and laughter, but I needed a ride home. My bag went on without me to my final point of departure from the United States- hopefully it will make it to the Middle East along with me, or I might get to soak up more Kuwaiti sand than I really want to.

Once I get to Kuwait, I will likely be unable to update for some time. I’m told that the damaged cables the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf have brought internet access in the region to a virtual (heh heh) standstill. In the meantime, spread the word that Teflon Don is back in the suck and blogging again.

25 comments:

  1. Dude, be safe and Godspeed.

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  2. Be safe and I'll miss you! We'll try not to have TOO much fun without you while you are gone... ;)

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  3. A safe trip, a reassurance that what you are doing is of great importance, a prayer for you to return home full of satisfaction and sanity, these are the things that I wish for you sir.
    Regards.

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  4. Hell of way to spend Mardi Gras.

    I'll have a beer in your honor. Keep your head down.

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  5. All the best to you and Godspeed.

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  6. good luck, keep safe

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  7. Travel safe! Drop me a line if you're ever in the Intl Zone. Remember, it's freakin cold in Kuwait.

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  8. Godspeed, TD. Stay safe.

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  9. TD, glad to see you've returned to blogland; even if it means a trip to Iraq. I don't think your strange "addiction" is all that strange. I've watched it afflict my husband when he returned from Iraq in 2004. He still flirts with the idea of returning. I think it's because he believed he was a part of something important; something bigger than himself. He also believed it was a way to prove himself, in a strange way, especially since he was very accomplished in his career and life before he went to Iraq. My son, who's in Iraq, has the same reactions. No, I don't think the addiction is so strange; it's the reaction of committed people doing what they believe in. They want to keep doing it.

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  10. "It feels like a mild form of addiction- there’s the drive to get more of it, and the rush, and the memories."

    That is an understatement and you know it.

    This malady has effected (affected) thousands of grunts and other Warriors the world over for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    No cure for it is known. Of course now they call it by many names including the dread no name mental ailment of "Post Combat" whateveritists.

    Man is basicly still an amimal, he/she will adapt and conform to the worse and most terrible things even if it hurts and is hard on their hearts and minds.

    But they do it anyway...and then they have to go back through the process in reverse when plopped back down in "civilization".

    It takes years most times, to get back to that pre-war-mindset and attitude. It took me almost ten years.

    Hope it doesn't take you near that long.

    Papa Ray
    West Texas
    USA

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  11. Thank you for service & sacrifices in the suck previously...and for your service once again.

    Let our troops know we support them, their mission and remain grateful for their service and their sacrifices.

    To those who paid the ultimate price, we shall never forget.

    *raises a glass*

    Stay Safe!

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  12. Anonymous5/2/08 10:35

    I had this long comment being formulated in my head, then I read the other comments. I have to say that Papa Ray said it better than I could.

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  13. We are looking forward to your dispatches TD. You have my best wishes for a safe trip. And keep in mind what LT Nixon said. It appears from what I've been reading that it's a lot colder this winter than the last one. Take care.

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  14. We are looking forward to your dispatches TD. You have my best wishes for a safe trip. And keep in mind what LT Nixon said. It appears from what I've been reading that it's a lot colder this winter than the last one. Take care.

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  15. Marieanne5/2/08 11:14

    Godspeed.

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  16. The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 02/05/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

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  17. Good luck dude. Goofy as it sounds, I'm really proud of you.

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  18. There is something to be said for those who want to participate in history rather than just watching it go by. I'm looking forward to your reports and photographs.

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  19. I can handle however many goodbyes I need to as long as there's always a "hello, again!" in the future. Keep yourself safe, handsome.

    Oh, and as a side note: Unlike Krissy, I am indeed going to try to have too much fun while you're away. :)

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  20. Yes sir, we all learned all of those things.

    Be safe my friend, it is still a war, even if you are using a camera and pen.

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  21. Anonymous6/2/08 11:05

    Take care.

    And, would you consider turning on the full feed so people who can't read white on black can read your blog on bloglines or google reader without having to copy it into a word processing program? Thank you.

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  22. God's blessings on you, TD. I will be praying for your protection and safe return. We are so proud of you. Love and Prayers, Mama Lois

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  23. Sorry, TD, but I had to share with you (all) some parts of the poem "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson - Ulysses a.k.a. Odysseus experienced the same phenomenon as you and other warriors. It's a time-honored affliction. :)

    I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
    Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d
    Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
    That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
    Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades 10
    Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
    For always roaming with a hungry heart
    Much have I seen and known; cities of men
    And manners, climates, councils, governments,
    Myself not least, but honour’d of them all; 15
    And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
    Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
    I am a part of all that I have met;

    Come, my friends,
    ’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
    Push off, and sitting well in order smite
    The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
    To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 60
    Of all the western stars until I die.
    It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
    It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
    And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
    Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’ 65
    We are not now that strength which in old days
    Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
    One equal temper of heroic hearts,
    Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
    To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

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  24. Anonymous16/1/09 01:49

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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