- Posted December 3, 2011 by
Federal Way, Washington
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Stories from the Iraq war
Operation Tell All
Looking back at my homecoming from Iraq I remember it as if it were yesterday. We marched single file into the Sheridan Gym at Fort Lewis greeted by loud cheers from family and loved ones. The smiles, the tears, and looks on young soldier’s faces as some of them laid eyes on their new born children for the first time. The feeling was so surreal; I had been waiting a long year for this moment. I felt so out of place, maybe I had grown used to living on the opposite spectrum of feelings that where now surrounding me.
Reflecting on my experiences from Iraq comes an extraordinary experience as with every soldier’s story. Even though I was an Infantryman my time was not solely spent kicking in doors and chasing down the enemy. Every day I got to work with the members of the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army. Our task was to train and prepare these men for the future when America would no longer occupy their home.
Our biggest priority no matter where we where was simple, win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. I always thought this was a daunting task realizing how much this country has put up with over the years. Up for the task I had the privilege in participating in the re-building of several schools. Our battalion commander Lt. Colonel Hodges, deemed the project name “Operation Extreme Tomahawk Makeover” after the television show “Extreme Home Makeover.” On the re-opening day of the first school, I watched as the teachers and children poured into the school with big smiles and looks of amazement on their faces. I thought to myself of all the things I’ve done up to this point, this I will remember, this is what really makes a difference.
People always ask me what your outlook on the war in Iraq is, “From your experience do you feel we are making a difference?” My role was simple as a lower enlisted soldier and I do not know enough of the big picture to elaborate on these questions, but this I can say: In the end we freed the Iraqi people from a Dictator, we helped build up their infrastructure after tearing it down. We helped train their leaders, police, and military so that on their own the Iraqi people have a chance at a brighter future. Our attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people may never change the contempt many Iraqi people still have for Americans, but at least during my time in Iraq I know my unit touched the lives of many people in a positive way.
The Iraqi people need so much, but we cannot provide them with everything. Working with Iraqi police and Iraqi army during joint missions and training I cannot say they are up to par with American standards, but I can say they are capable of carrying on without us. The citizens could use better schools, the streets are filled with trash, and in many places Iraq is really a 3rd world country. I can only hope that Iraq will grow better on its own.
Out of the Army now I sit at this computer typing my story, my thoughts race, my heart pumps so fast, and it’s even hard to breathe. Panic Attacks are just one of daily challenges I must face as a result of my participation in the Iraq war. I think to myself what kind of future do I have, here I am studying criminal justice in school not knowing if I’ll even be able to do the job of a police officer, knowing that another panic attack is just around the corner.
To all the men and women that have served our country I give you my thanks from one soldier to another. Thank you for your time.