Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 Years Ago

It was ten years ago. It was yesterday. It was the day before. It was a week ago. It was a lifetime ago.

If you asked most people where they were ten years ago, today, they most likely would have to think long and hard. They would have to do an amount of research of current events of that time and make an educated guess. I don't have that problem.

Like many others, though, I can play the "what if I knew then" game.

Ten years ago today I woke up before dawn. It was hot, but comfortable. I worked diligently to accomplish as many tasks as I could before the sun popped over the horizon and began to make it unbearable. We were making final preparations to shoot, move, and communicate.

I was in a little country in Southwest Asia called Kuwait. Just to my north, on the other side of a huge, man-made sand dune was a war that would kick off soon.

The sand was everywhere. You couldn't breath, talk, drink, or eat without sand tainting the taste of everything.

It was the same with sweat. The arid air stole it away from exposed skin, leaving it dry, flaky, and feeling as though I just rose from being buried in sand at a beach. But there was no cool lake or ocean to run into for relief. Under the uniform, body armor, helmet, and combat gear, however, the perspiration was trapped. Without air getting to it, the sweat was unable to do its job in cooling the body. It made my undershirt stick to my upper body, irritating my skin. To this day, If I sweat, I cannot stand the feel of a wet shirt against my skin.

We were nervous and anxious. We just wanted this thing to kick off and be done with. The waiting was the worst part.

If I knew on that day what I know today, I may not have been in such a hurry to cross the border and start shooting. The war was not a short, violent action like Operation Desert Storm. Ten years later, Al Qaeda is still recruiting those formerly loyal to Saddam and killing innocent people. 50 more died yesterday, March 18, 2013, with 170 injured from bomb blasts. Ten years later and the war is far from over.

This was my first of four tours to Iraq. It would also prove to be the shortest. Despite the outright war with tanks and armored personnel vehicles moving in formation and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) firing rockets and missiles, this would prove to be the least deadly tour, as well.

If I had known on March 19th that three days later, on Camp Pennsylvania, a good friend of mine would be killed by a traitor, I may not have been as optimistic. The murder of Chris Seifert at the hands of traitor Hassan Akbar would later prove to be an omen of how this war wold be fought over the years. The enemy would be cowards in hiding. They would use children to conduct grenade attacks. They would fight from crowds of innocents, using them as shields.

If somebody had told me that I would do four tours, I would have laughed in their face. If they told me that I'd face a 12 year old boy throwing grenades at US Soldiers nearby, I would have laughed harder. I'm not laughing today. It's something I'd actually rather forget. I cannot, though. I still see images of the kid's dead body when I hear children at play.

Ten years ago today, many, many friends of mine were still alive, like Schuyler Haynes and Derek Dobogai. Others were still physically whole, like my good friend Christopher Edwards.

Ten years ago today was a good day.

Since then, I have done so much. I survived the war several times over. I met great people. I saw war do an amazing thing in its horror. I saw it bring out the best in great people. I was tempered into a better man. Since then, I met and married my wife.

It was ten years ago. It was  last week. It was yesterday. It was.