After trying to decide if I should or should not continue my blog, I've decided to continue it. I've been doing it too long to stop. I cannot, however, be as open as I once was. I hope to continue to write about things that are interesting though, and to keep your attention. That being said, what I am posting below is the last email I sent home from Iraq. It was written a month ago. I haven't changed it...even the mis-spellings or grammatical errors.
Deployment, it seems, is like putting ones life on pause, then
returning a year later. Wait...I backtrack. Imagine, if you would,
that life is a video game, one played and shared by everyone you know
and love. Now...imagine that video game is put on pause for a year
while someone hands you the controls to another, different game which
you play for a year. You then return to the first game, and no one
knows where you've been, what you've done, or what the second game was
even all about. The first game, in your absence, has continued, and
no matter how well, or how poorly, you did in the second game, you are
expected to pick up and continue in the first.
I'm sitting in Baghdad right now, waiting daily for my flight out
Iraq. I haven't written as often as I'd like, but I probably should
take the time now to consider the last year. In NOV 2008, I was
sitting in front of a ten by ten storage bin where I had put my
things...my mattress, bed, a borrowed dresser and many, many t-shirts.
The compiled effects of my 28 years alive. They didn't fill the ten
by ten room and I told my mom that, were I to die, that would be the
only traces of me. Nothing to be impressed with.
I looked forward to the year ahead, and yes, I was scared. I can
admit that...there's no lack of bravery in admitting one is scared,
but there is a lack of honesty in denying it in retrospect. I didn't
know what to expect, either from deployment, or myself. I had never
been tested in a way, or by a thing or event, which I didn't know
ahead of time I could achieve. Not just achieve, but excel at. So,
there I stood...in front of my things, wondering what would happen
over the course of a year. Would I come home, not with things, but
with experiences, stories, and personalities to share--to fill the
empty space that had accumulated while I spent years learning to be
the Officer that I was about to embark upon Being? Yes...I was
The experience was not--is not--what I had expected, but experiences
rarely are. And the challenges I faced were not (and will not be)
those I expected either. This, it seems, is a lesson I refuse to
learn, for as I look back, it is one that has tried to impose itself
upon me often, to no avail. In any case, that realization is the
simplest of those I have learned through trial and error. I've
learned some about myself, about my limits and my leadership--skills
which may or may not ever come in handy again. And I've learned a lot
about the Army. I lost my pride (something which I'm sure many of you
will consider a change for the better), and if I am to be completely
honest, my belief in my ability to achieve anything. I've lost my
dreams for the Army, and my aspirations therein...but I've maintained
my honor...and I'm told that is worth something. I've learned what
"alone" means, and I've learned how important family is (instead of
learned, I should specify, re-affirmed, for I've been lucky enough to
have familial bonds that many would kill for).
Salman Rushdie wrote, “Most of what matters in your life takes place
in your absence." So, I ask myself, what is it that happened in my absence? There were
babies and marriages--a niece was born, and a friend was married under
a canopy with ribbons of blessing from her friends and family.
Another married in the Philippines, where years ago, my grandmother
married and my father swung through branches, barefoot, not ever
thinking someday I too would wear the uniform he wore. There were
challenges and changes I could not be there to help through or share
with. There are friends I'll never see again whom I will Always
Remember standing in their Dress Grey with smiles and eyes looking
forward with excitement and pride in what they hoped to do. There
were legs and gods left behind, never to be felt again and there were
examples gained from men who will never know they've changed someone.
Deployment changes people, even if the closest you've been to combat
is a live video feed from an office. Deployment has changed me, that
too, I can admit. But sometimes failure is as important as success in
building up to who I am to become. That being said, a year ago, in
front of my consolidated belongings, I jokingly declared that
"success" for the year would mean that I would be 29, single, living
in Killeen, TX, and no one had died. And, by those metrics, this year has
been a success. And so I look forward to the plane ride home, and to
seeing my family again.
I apologize if this email is maudlin and semi-depressing, but I wanted to be sure I was honest about my year here and, upon my return, no one had illussions about what I did and what was done here...least of all, myself.