Monday, November 21, 2005

On the way!

This will be my last post from inside the borders of Iraq. Just typing that sentence and reading it back in my mind seems surreal. This place, these people, and this war have been the major part of my existence for the past year of my life. Reaching the end of this journey has been a daily obsession since I set foot into this desert land, and now that the time has finally arrived it is almost catching me by surprise.

I took a final walk through my area today and was amazed at the well of emotions that rose to the surface. It’s hard to believe, but I have actually become attached to this place. I can only think that it is some sort of “Stockholm Syndrome”, which refers to the emotional attachment hostages grow towards their captors. For the past year this place has held me hostage from everything I previously knew, and now by the grace of God I am about to be set free.

I have learned much about myself during this time, and though this experience has been difficult I have no regrets. Being here has changed me, and I know that ultimately it will be for the better. I once read somewhere that, “going into a combat zone is a one way door since the person that leaves is not the same person that returns.” This new person returning is committed to being a better husband, father, and friend. I have felt the pain of leaving all that I hold dear, and I will not take it for granted again.

This is not my final post. I will continue to write once I return home and share the experience of my homecoming. But it will take a while to make my way from here to finally being back in the states.

Until then.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This was probably the last time I will interact with the local Iraqi people. My unit will be going back home soon, and I need to focus all of my efforts on redeployment activities.

Regardless of how many times I go on these types of missions, their impact is always the same. I am continually impressed and frustrated with the local populace, and I am always a sucker for the kids. If there is anything that will be forever impressed upon my memory from my time here it is a profound hope for the future of the Iraqi children.

This particular trip was to a school at a local village not to far from our base camp. We were able to sit down with the headmaster and the village sheik for a brief visit. As usual, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of what the Americans can do for them and poignant questions about particular projects they would like to have done in their village. Our Civil Affairs officer, CPT Sean Walton tired to explain to them that we do not have the liberty to randomly choose what projects are done and which village receives them. He also encouraged them to utilize their newly elected local leaders to lobby for the help they need. The concept is so foreign to them, they just don’t seem to get it, and before Sean could finish explaining what they need to do they were repeating their plea for American help. I could tell he was getting frustrated, but he handled it very professionally, but I’m not confident they got the point.

Afterwards it was outside to hand out some goodies to the kids. I’ve expressed before about how they can be extremely forward and demanding. I tried to instill some order and at one point shut the vehicle cargo hatch and tried to explain to them I wasn’t giving anything else out until they got in line and waited their turn. That lasted all of about a nanosecond and they were back at it again. At the end of it all, however, I’m just a softie and a sucker for kids in general. Besides, how do you say “no” to a kid who has no shoes, rags for clothes, no running water, and intermittent electricity?

You don’t….you just give.