Wow, and everyone said George W. Bush called it too early. I think I was just being hopeful. I wrote this three days after Saddam’s statue came down in Firdos Square and I had been at Baghdad International Airport for nearly a week. Even the Iraqi antiaircraft batteries were getting quiet. I think by this point we were actually taking single-truck “convoys” back to LSA Dogwood south of Baghdad for mail calls and the like, which was cool, because it got you off the airfield and into the population. That sure seemed like a good idea at the time. God knows what things were crawling in my stomach from drinking orange Fanta out of recycled glass Iraqi bottles.
12 April 03
It’s been a few days. We’re all settled in here. Got moved up to the 4th floor of the office building. Dan’s back and moved in as well. Life’s been busy, but I haven’t gotten much of my work done this week. Now I have a ton of stories [including this one that eventually ran in Soldiers magazine] to work on, though. Just gotta find my notebook again.*
The war is just about over. Only Tikrit remains from what I hear. Now the stabilization of this country can begin.** Hopefully that means the new guys will get here soon and the rest of us can go home. The sooner the better. Everyone finally seems to be able to look that way now. It may be 2 months away, but it seems closer than it has in a long time.
Will we go back resembling ourselves though? A lot of people have done and seen things they never imagined this past month. I’ve carried dead and wounded. I’ve lost friends. I’ve seen the empty look on a thousand faces beat down by years under a terrible regime and shocked by the short weeks of a war to free them. I really did finally realize what this is all about last week. Tom said the other night that in this case, no matter what our country’s reasons for going to war, the ends justify the means.^ He’s right I think.
But we’ll all go back with a different worldview. At least I hope we will. Some will have trouble adapting back to a quiet life. Others won’t miss a beat. I’ll probably slide right back into my own skin again, if past performance is any indicator. But grown, a man in every way I wasn’t before. God knows what Josh has done and seen. We’ll talk again soon I think.
I am thankful that both of us came this far physically unscathed. I saw my brother’s face for the first time in 6 months yesterday and I barely recognized him.^^ We’ve both gone and lived through the things we played at as children. And we did it together in a disjointed kind of way. Our reunion will be happy after all that’s happened in the last year.
What a year it’s been. One year now since Donna left me. One year of upside-down madness. All that time in the bottle. The fights. The beach. Buffalo. California. Kings Dominion. Kuwait. The war. The realizations. The redemption of a soul that was going nowhere fast. The new friendships. The old companions. The mountains. the airplanes. The new car. The new life. I think that when all is said and done, my 25th year on this Earth was about as crazy a 12 months as I’ve had, and when I get home I’ll be ready to settle in a little and prepare for whatever curveballs life wants to toss me next. Now I am a man. Strange how it all happened right under my nose.
* For some reason, this was an ongoing problem of mine all the way through the first part of the war, right up to my last days in country. I know I didn’t write in the journal about it, so a story: I covered about four stories in Fallujah the last couple days I was there. We were having lunch at the Mayor’s office on what I knew was my last day in the city when a mortar attack started. In the rush to get to the trucks, I lost the notebook. I never went back.
** Yeah, Bush, Rumsfeld and Bremer got nothing on me. I called the war and said we were well on our way to stability a full month before that carrier landing!
^ Tom, if you’re reading this and I put words in your mouth, I apologize, but it’s what the journal says you said!
^^ The first day I had access to my personal email in Baghdad, I logged in in a services warehouse on BIAP. After sifting through tons of email, I found a thread that included many of my female family members trying to decide if that picture was of Josh. It’s a bad angle, but you can clearly see his tattoo sticking out, so I got to definitively drop that on them. It was really good to see his face, even though it was another eight months or so before we got to actually have a beer together.