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How We Deal
This weekend, we lost two more soldiers. Most Americans only deal with death when a family member or close friend dies. It doesn’t happen all that often. In the military, we’re all family. When anyone dies, we all feel it to some degree. We all deal with it in different ways. And we deal with it often.
Then, when someone dies on the same post you’re living on, we feel it even more. When someone dies from your unit, you almost die with them. The range of emotions in dealing with this is wide and varying. People go through different emotions at different stages through dealing. My method of dealing with a death has changed since this war began back in March 2003.
When I found out that two people were killed by a car bomb, my immediate reaction was shock coupled with anger. The focus of my anger is no longer on the Iraqi people like it used to be. When I returned from Iraq, I had within myself an Anakin Skywalker-like rage towards the Iraqi people as a whole. Even though I had many positive experiences, I couldn’t see past the fact that my brothers and sisters had died fighting next to me at the hands of Iraqis. I couldn’t get past the fact that, even though I was alive, I was the specific target of many bullets aimed directly at my head. I was the target of artillery shells and mortars landing all around me, many times while I attempted sleep. Emily told me the other day that had I died, it would have been more easily acceptable if I died with a group of people because then I wasn’t directly targeted. But, if I had died as a result of someone shooting a bullet and hitting me, that it was more personal. Someone had actually made an attempt directly on MY life.
I made many disparaging remarks about the Iraqi people. It didn’t bother me that I made those remarks around my kids who eventually started picking up my hatred. As I settled down and realized what I was doing, I realized that the Iraqi people aren’t to blame. The people who placed those bombs, detonated those vehicles, opened fire on convoys, or in any way hurt or attempted to hurt soldiers were to blame. I remembered the hundreds of Iraqis who came to me with information to prevent ME from getting killed.
So, as I stood in the shower today trying to determine whether the steam in the bathroom was coming from the water or my anger, I realized again that I shouldn’t be angry at the Iraqi people. I’ve had to correct my children many times for thinking that Iraqi people are bad. They don’t understand life, but they understand their father’s feelings and pick up on them. The Iraqi people are good people and deserve more than the media give them credit for. Granted, there is still a lot that they can do, but they’ve been oppressed for more than 30 years and that can’t be reversed in 3.
After anger is extinguished and those feelings are directed at the right people, a feeling of remorse sets in. Why am I here typing on the internet when two Army soldiers (one of whom will be a father next week) have died and their killers are possibly running free, gloating in their accomplishments? Why did I get to stay back here at Fort Irwin, while 2000 other soldiers are allowed to protect freedoms and rights for Iraqis and the world? It’s very difficult as a soldier to watch helplessly as life passes me by on a battlefield I should be on. I know I’ve done a major part already, but the work isn’t done. Why should I be?
The last feeling that sinks in is one of extreme patriotism. Those soldiers died with a purpose. They died for something far more important than a pair of Nike shoes or a stereo system. They died for far more than road rage or a drunk driver. Their lives and their deaths had purpose, much like the death of Jesus Christ (though not quite on the same scale). They died protecting people who have no influence over their lives. They died for people with different values, beliefs, religious convictions, and motives. In some cases, they died for people who would much rather have killed them themselves. But, they still died for something!! How can I be sad about that? How many people have died never knowing the price of freedom or sacrifice? How many people have died who did nothing their whole lives but make other people’s lives harder to bear? These soldiers’ lives were built around making the lives of complete strangers better. They didn’t ask for anything in return except that their families be taken care of and some money to make ends meet.
While I still deal with the anger that constantly creeps into my mind, I have to consciously tell myself to calm down. My immediate reaction is still to want to grab a weapon and hitchhike back to the Middle East. Who do those people think they are?! Do they think they’ll actually get away with it?! It’s a sad day for Fort Irwin because in the past week we’ve lost 3 soldiers, all to IEDs or car bombs. Each loss touches the life of EVERY soldier, civilian and family member on Fort Irwin. It causes ripples in the community of support and compassion. It tells us that our lives here are fragile and we should not take anything for granted. Here, we are among heroes and heroes’ spouses and family, heroes themselves!