Jake’s OIF War Journal 9: Sleeping in a Stream

Before you read this, I want to apologize, because the end is a little bit of me staring up my own arse. Having not read further, I recall that I did a little of that in here. I feel like the point was for me to transcribe most of what I wrote, so I guess I feel like I should include this stuff too, because it was what was going through my head. I guess I was stuck in Jalibah without much to do for too long. If you don’t like it, by all means comment and let me know. If you do like it, do the same. Maybe I’ll stop including this stuff if it’s universally panned.

So, I’m still stuck in Jalibah, and after spending too much time in a helicopter dodging a duststorm, I spent a night sleeping in a tent on a concrete river. I also marked Josh’s birthday, at least in print.

The time in Jalibah was also the last time I chipped a tooth. I was eating the Charms in an MRE, bit down and the stupid candy broke a piece of my molar.

26 March 2003

Happy birthday, Josh. You poor bastard. Your 21st birthday finally gets her and where are we? Definitely not the bar we’ve talked about for so many years. No, you’re probably fucking shit up somewhere near Baghdad while I sit on this same fucking airfield in Jalibah. Yep, still here.

Flag

American flag on the tail of a Blackhawk in Jalibah. We weren’t supposed to fly our American flags, but we got bored. Photo by me.

The dust is gone now, but visibility’s shit. We got a tent up in the dark and squeezed for of us Joes in there. ‘Round about 10 o’clock the wind died out and thunderstorms started rolling through. Did I mention we put the tent up sans rain cover? I got it up as the rain came down and returned to my sleeping bag …

Which was now in the middle of a minor stream.

Suck.

So I kept my JSLIST [chemical] suit on and used the bag as a pillow. Still got soaked. Went outside between storms to try to dry in the wind. No dice.

Cold and wet, I finally passed out some time after 1:30 in the morning. Slept fitfully. Woke up at 6:30. Rain gone. Fog and cold everywhere. Now the sun is burning thru and there’s hope we’ll get out of here before the next dust storm rolls in. We’ll see.

Empty Blackhawk

This is something what it looked like for the birds that weren’t on a mission. Geared dumped to the side, ready to be tossed in, but usually more ready to be unpacked for the night when we inevitably found out we were staying in Jalibah another day. Photo by me.

There’s a war going on, but I wouldn’t know about it because I’m still here in Jalibah. Me and my little brother sure did get lucky. This place is freakin’ miserable. Flies one day. Extreme dust the next. Thunderstorms that night. Absolute misery. But I’m still enjoying all of this in a perverse way.

On Sacrifice

I’ve given up much in my life. I’ve seen opportunities go by. I let them pass. Some of them at least. Others were taken from me as I kicked and screamed like a child finding out he isn’t going to the circus. I’m more comfortable with goodbyes than I’d like to admit.

But as I’ve grown, hellos have become somewhat easier. Every choice in life means the end of an era, be it short lived or long in scope. You go for one thing and it’s time to admit it may mean leaving that which makes you comfortable or brings you supreme joy.

I quit on my dad for my mom. I left Mom’s to go back to my father’s house. I went to Chattanooga when everyone and everything I knew was staying in Knoxville. I stayed in Chattanooga and let go of a scholarship, the Army and what probably would have been an easier life. To stay with my friends, one short year after I willingly left an entirely separate set of compatriots behind. I almost gave up friends for Donna. I almost let another opportunity at the Army go because of her. But then, without realizing it at the time, I sacrificed us (she and I) for an “easier” life in the Army.

Looking back, I should have said goodbye the day I left for basic training, my head freshly shaven and my heart lost to someone I thought felt the same. She did, I’m sure, but absence does not always make the heart grow fonder, and as winter changed to spring, her heart bloomed for someone else.

Although I knew the risks when I left, I was not prepared to accept sacrifice in this instance. At least not right away. I will admit that I didn’t act quite like myself for quite a while. It led to heavy drinking and several outbursts of the asshole. Meaning me.

But I realize now I gave up childhood things and finally grew up. I still retain my youthfulness, but I’m an adult … Now grown, when I thought I was grown before.

Sacrifice is required, because when we make choices, be they large or small, we mature from realizing their consequences. We learn to let go. We learn to follow our own path stubbornly. In hindsight, we can look and see that as bad as things seemed at the time, good times were ahead, and in the end even the big things are small.

It’s taken time in Kuwait and Iraq for me to finally realize this. Space and perspective on things you can’t get on one continent have a habit of aiding in the betterment of one’s self. When I get home, I have an almost clean slate, a new skin to slide into. The future is (relatively) unknown, and I’m better able to face it after my growth here, in a place where not much grows.

To Be Continued …

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About Jake Boyer

Hi, I’m Jake. Here are some descriptors that apply to me: writer, photographer, soldier, husband, son, brother, sergeant first class, geek, father, runner, reader, Hawkeye fan, lover of LOST, fan of Elmore Leonard, Sports Illustrated subscriber. I like a lot of things and want to start writing about them again. I used to blog a lot, but now I do all my writing for the Department of Defense, either at my day job with the Defense Logistics Agency, where I edit Loglines, or when I moonlight as a sergeant first class with the Army Reserve’s 200th Military Police Command. I hope you like what I’m trying to crank out here! You can follow me at Twitter through my handle @jakeboyer.
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