Where to begin, what to say...
The past 4 years have gone by, they have seen like they have taken forever and gone by so quickly, all at the same time. How this works is beyond me.
I'm talking about the military, and my time is up in just a few days.
What a weird trip it's been.
See ya on the flipside...
This is long... so I left the "meat" out of block quotes, and put the "potatoes" in block quotes. The "potatoes" part isn't any less interesting, we just all have busy lives I know.
I should be honest and upfront here. I come to DailyKos for several reasons. First and foremost, I am here for political news, activism, etc. Second, I am constantly impressed on a DAILY basis by the level of knowledge, expertise from all walks of life, research capability, etc. etc. etc., that this site provide. (I especially enjoy anything by OrangeClouds115 and teacherken) I may not have much to add, but I ALWAYS take something away. I've been coming here for a while now, though I don't always say too much. If DailyKos were a girl, I'd want to date her. If DK was a city, I'd want to live there.... you get the point
So that's why I am here today, to take, as usual. Any advice about anything, I am all ears.
It all began...
In the spring of 2002 I was just another 21 year old broke ass kid who felt he should be further in life, without the means to pay for an education, and the desire to succeed. Like many other young Americans, I weighed my decisions.
Is the military right for me? Hell, I had hair halfway down my back, and my life revolved around going to punk/hardcore shows and playing the drums. Was I willing to sacrifice? Not for my country, but even sacrifice my own lifestyle.
I sat down, I talked to everyone I thought would have an intelligent insight into the whole matter. When it all come down to it, I thought it would indeed be an alright idea. How bad could it be? The war in Afghanistan was considered done (even though our objective wasn't complete) and there were no other real threats at the time.
So I went down and signed up. I joined the Air Force. My dad was AF, and told me it was pretty easy comparatively speaking. Even if there's a war, the Air Force isn't actually on the ground. We are far away, in the rear, like the Navy. Besides, who would we actually go to war with?
I left for basic training in October of 2002. Around this time the administration started kicking dirt around with talks of war in Iraq. But that would never happen right, what had they done? They didn't attack us. They had no provable WMD. Sure Saddam was an asshole with horrible human rights violations. But that never stopped us from dealing with China or Saudi Arabia, did it? There wouldn't actually be a war. The House and Senate wouldn't allow it. Democrats wouldn't allow it. The World wouldn't follow suit. And fuck, even if there was a war, would it be a real war, wouldn't we drop some bombs on shit and call it a day?
Man... was I ever fucking wrong.
After basic was over, I went to my Tech. School. The Joint NBC School at Ft. Leonard Wood, MO. They were pushing a lot of us through the school; they were really ramping up for this war. The first time I looked in the mirror and said to myself... what have I got myself in to? A month into the school came Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address. Again, looking into that mirror, what have I done? The lead up to the war throughout February and March 2003 were long and drawn out. Day after day we were told that war was coming, and Saddam would use Chemical weapons against us. We BETTER TAKE THIS SHIT SERIOUS we were told time and time again. I never thought Mr. Bush was an honest cat, and I wasn't going to start now.
Near the middle of March, when the administration failed to get a U.N. resolution declaring war, I thought we were safe. No war, phew. Thank whoever. Seems that this wasn't enough for BushCo. The night the war started will be a night I don't think I will ever forget. As I sat in a common area in Missouri watching TV, fellow troops half a world away were getting ready to march into battle.
I was the lone person sitting in that common area. I sat there alone, through the night, watching... waiting... This is the one and only time in my life I have, or ever will, rooted for Bush. Once I realized this was actually happening, I hoped... I hoped that Bush was right. I hoped that Bush was right because I wanted the guys with boots on ground to actually be fighting for something, not a lie. I wanted Bush to be right so we didn't look like imperialist jackasses to the rest of the world. I wanted Bush to be right because I didn't want him to cheapen the military, or what it means to be an American.
I watched the TV. I watched the "shock and awe"... No chemical weapons... why not? If he had them, wouldn't he had used them when the attacking began? What is going on? Is this it? Were we duped?
My hope in President Bush lasted about 30 minutes. I have never been so gullible in my life.
How did this happen? I still ask that.
Fast forward to May of 2003... Combat Operations are over. Mission Accomplished.... Pardon me for a second......... Ok I am back, I had to stop and regain my breath from laughing so hard. Yeah, Mission Accomplished jackass.
In September of 2003 I was told I would be deploying... great. So I did, and that's that. This deployment was nice and in the rear, no big deal. I left out in November 03, and returned in April of 04. 5 months, I can't complain. It wouldn't be right. I got lucky I tell myself, decent location (for the area of the World anyway), and I wasn't there a year like the poor Army guys.
Upon returning I was told... "Don't unpack your shit; you're leaving again in December." Great... stability! So I went on my merry way in 2004. I spent as much time and effort I could trying to get Kerry elected. I knocked on doors, I registered people to vote. I followed Pearl Jam around for a week on the Vote For Change tour and registered people to vote, handed out info, and saw 5 badass Pearl Jam shows. I was even interviewed and mentioned in the Detroit Free Press after a show in Grand Rapids. I gave my full name and identified myself as being in the military, which was/is always risky for someone on active duty. I spoke about my reasons for wanting Bush out of office, reason number one being Iraq. Little did I know that in a few months I would be there myself.
November rolled around, Bush won again. The air suddenly got really stale. Again, how the fuck could this have happened? I was slated to leave for Iraq on Jan 9, 2005. On 23 December I got a call..."Is your shit ready to go", no sir I replied. "There's been a change of plans in your report date, you are now leaving early morning on the 26th". Lovely... there goes my Christmas plans, and now I have to do everything I need to do to get ready, on Christmas Eve. Thanks...
So there I was, in Iraq, on the ground. Doing things I am not sure I was trained for. Doing things I won't bother mentioning, things better kept to oneself. It's amazing the things that you see, that remain etched in your mind. Things, sights, smells... that you can't forget. Someone had a diary posted the other day about how the Navy was sending in 10,000 troops to be boots on ground in Iraq. Well, the AF has been doing that from day 1. Airmen are doing things they are not trained for properly. Doing things that they never thought in a million years they would be doing. This is ok of course, provided the proper training is provided. Thankfully the Air Force is waking up and revamping its pathetic Basic Training program.
Well, upon return from Iraq, in May of 05, I had had enough. I was told if I was still around in the summer of 06, to be prepared to go again. No thanks... I applied for an early separation in December of last year (which means finishing time in the reserves), and it was granted. So here I am, with just a few days and I am out. The military doesn't like to let people go... so they make it rough. That's ok though, things always work themselves out. They are taking money back from me (from a bonus I got when I joined), that's ok, it's worth it. No more active duty makes it worth it.
So, next week I am a free man, time to go back to school. Time to find a job. Time to Enjoy D.C. as a regular ol 25 year old guy.
It sure will be nice to have that DD214 in my hands. Those words Honorable Discharge sure will be nice to see.
The ride has been up and down. I've seen things and places I never would have otherwise seen. I've been to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E., Cyprus, and of course, Iraq. I lived with Iraqs. I ate their food, learned about their culture, their religion. I still can't beleive that I lived in the same building as the Iraqis did, it blows my mind. I've learned things I never would have otherwise. I've had hands on experience with Sarin, I never would have expected that. Somehow, I'd like to think I am better for it. I'm not sure though
That's a problem I have faced throughout this whole thing though. I am proud of most of what I have done. I did was I had to. But at the same time, there is some shame I deal with. It's hard to balance the shame of things, vs. being proud for other aspects. Surely I am not the only one dealing with this fucked up mixed emotion, and surely many people have to deal with it on a much harsher level than I do. Life starts now. Who knows where the road will lead.