Wednesday, March 22, 2006


So I was out running this afternoon taking in the sweet, fragrant Hawaiian air (have I said today that it's great to be back in the States?) when I saw something that made me smile. I saw a man sitting by himself at a stoplight in his outrageously overpriced sportscar...laughing. Seven months ago, I wouldn't have given this man a second glance. But friends, let me tell you, these are the things that you are drawn to and that seem unique after every motorist that you have seen for the past seven months has nothing but the fear of death in his eyes...a man laughing in his automobile.

We truly don't realize how much we have been given here in America. We take so much for granted and our perception of the world is so conditioned by the lifestyles that we have been blessed with. And at the risk of sounding pious, you never can fully appreciate what we have until your comfort zone is completely shattered and you are given the opportunity to see how the other half of our world is being forced to live. It's one of those things that I can try my hardest to explain, but my words will always be found lacking. It's not the lack of rounds cracking over my head, it's not the awkward silence when I lay in bed at night or the absence of walking down the street without my rifle that I notice the's being able to watch others go through their day without a care in the world. They have no worries about running over an improvised explosive device planted for coalition forces...they have no concern about returning to their home to find it commandeered by insurgents and their families taken hostage. They do not fear being displaced - yet again- as a result of an imminate offensive operation in their neighborhood to rid it of insurgents.

In all fairness, not having to worry about these things is part of the benefit of living in America. But understand one thing...our lifestyles of relative bliss came at a price. And America does not have a monopoly on her citizens being willing to shed their blood to purchase these freedoms. The majority, that's right THE MAJORITY of Iraqis are now willing to stand and face these monsters and draw the line in the sand. It is my hope that we leave them with all the tools and training necessary to carry the torch and defend their homeland and are one day able to once again see their countrymen smile as they travel down their streets.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Return

I wrote along the many stops along our journey home. I am now back in Hawaii, and I will share more as the days progress. What follows, is a few paragraphs at different stops along the way from Iraq back to Hawaii:

It is almost over. We are at Al Asad airbase, which was once Saddam Hussein’s presidential airfield. It has been filled with American and coalition forces for some time now, and it is the primary redeployment staging area for all Marines heading back to the States. It is the closest thing to civilization that many of us have seen in six months. It is disturbingly odd to see non-tactical vehicles driving down the road on the base, the feeling of a porcelain toilet and the taste of a whopper. We have shuttle busses that take us to the chow hall, the PX and the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) center where many of the guys have taken to playing video games into the early morning hours. Me, I have slept twenty-six out of the past thirty-four hours. Administrative issues are the order of business tomorrow and the next day. We have to attend what many of the guys call the “I’m not crazy” class given by the Chaplain, Post-Deployment Health Assessments so that the Government covers their six when we come down with some crazy illness fifteen years from now and the Customs inspections to ensure that we have all hid our illegal war souvenirs well enough. Other than that, we are completely on autopilot and it feels great.

We have all shared our war stories and videos from combat operations and are amazed at how similar our experiences have been. There is one noticeable void and we have all been reluctantly hush-mouthed about it…Adam. We all feel it and it will be a long time before we are healed and over his heroic passing in Ramadi. There has been very little mention about him, and the few times I heard his name in conversation, it was said with heads hung and only referenced his absence. We all know that it wasn’t suppose to be this way. We were suppose to come together and leave together. Now, we are a man short and it hurts. I am going to miss this. This brotherhood that I have. It is not self-serving. We do for the good of the group. There are no favorites. If we lose one, we are weaker than we were before. We look out for each other and genuinely have one another’s best interest foremost in our minds. We are warriors and have a warrior’s bond which no nine-to-five could ever begin to offer. I will miss the life of a warrior. To be able to place my life in the hands of another, and have his place his in mine. To fight side by side; our only fear being that we may see one of our own fall. We all have seen one of us fall, and none of will ever feel the same.

We, in our own ways, are all scared. Husbands and fathers are afraid of being strangers to their wives and children. The single Marines are afraid of returning to an atmosphere of normalcy and relative serenity. We are all different men than we were six months ago. The thought of adaptation has become a collective, unspoken sore spot. The return will undoubtedly be easier for some than it will be for others but one thing is certain; we all long to return despite our fears. We all long for the lives that we left. Personally, I am apprehensive of the changes that my family has underwent since I left. My daughters know “Daddy” as a name and a voice that lives in the cell phone. My wife remembers me the way I used to be before war took a hold of so much of my mind. Yes, it’s ominous, but I long for it so much; we all do.

We are on the last leg of our journey; San Francisco International. I have given up on keeping my wristwatch on the correct time zone. A week in Al Asad, Iraq, seventeen hours in Moron, Spain, seventeen hours in Boston Massachussetes, three days at Camp Pendleton, California, and now a layover at San Fran en route to Honolulu. I am still very much compressed. Crowds make me extremely uncomfortable. Eccentric colors give me a headache. Driving down the street is a completely different experience that it has been for the past thirteen years. I am sure that this will all wear off in the near future, but until it does, it will be an interesting time. I have found that I prefer to either be alone, or with the other Marines. People just seem to annoy me since I returned. Of course California being the most rude and intrusive state that I have ever visited (sorry Californians) doesn’t help matters any. I have had to literally ignore a few people simply because I wanted to yank them up.

I've left one dream and entered another. It's hard to concieve how the life that I've lived for twenty-nine years could now seem abnormal. It's so different; I almost feel out of place, yet it feels so good to be that much closer to home. It feels akward writing in a barracks room as opposed to a bombed out building. It will defintely take some time. I've begun to notice how much my time in Iraq has affected me. I find myself still scanning roadsides, finding a corner in a crowded area and staring at people a bit more than I should. And as I expected, I can't bring myself to watch the news and see the Marines, my brothers, still fighting over there. I am just taking it all in right now and hoping that the sense of normalcy returns soon.