- Posted March 21, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The war through your eyes: Iraq 10 years on
From the Beginning To The End; My Experience in The Iraqi War
March 17th, 2003 Camp Virginia Kuwait, I arrived the day the war began as a 2lt in the US Army in a Patriot Missile Battery. We came as the war began. It was my first time to the dessert. The sun was hot, the wind was hotter. We got off the busses after a day and a half of traveling from Ansbach, Germany and got in a formation where they announced to us the war had begun. Till then I still had hope that we could avoid the war. An hour later we had to put on chemical mask and chemical suits over our uniforms as scud missiles were fired at hour camp. It was the first time I witnessed grown men crying as they tried to put on their suits in time.
I traveled during that tour through Talil, Karbala, and to the Baghdad International Airport. We slept under trucks out in the desert. We only stayed 4 months. It seemed like my longest tour. I recall the time an Iraqi woman grabbed me crying and begged me to stay in Iraq. The news was reporting that the President said the war was over and we troops would be going home. She told me they needed us to stay as the women were being raped and the banks and museums were being robbed by people crossing the borders. She is the reason I kept going back. They needed us so we were there.
I remember that first tour we didn’t worry about IEDs we didn’t have electricity or running water. No air conditioning, no hot baths, no ice, no news, no internet, only sand, sun, and war. Time went slowly and I learned to hate spaghetti as it was our only meal for a month!
The second time I went to Iraq was in again arriving in spring. I had left my wife and kids in Hawaii. This time I volunteered to come as a Captain from my new unit in Hawaii. It was the hardest year I faced. I worked with 10 of the bravest men I know as a squad of advisors to an Iraqi Special Police Commando Battalion. “Commandos” that was just a name and they were nowhere near capable of the task. 11 US soldiers lived with a battalion of 300 or more Iraqi soldiers and we went to combat with them.
Often they would lead into ambushes. Often we worried they would try to kill us in our sleep. Sometimes our job was to protect the citizens of Iraq from their protectors. I made a friend amongst them and we gave each other gifts. He was shot in the head for working with Americans. They had fights amongst themselves between the Shiite and Sunni troops. I wasn’t prepared for the mission and it left scars. I lost some American friends in other units. People I thought were better soldiers than me. I felt guilty for surviving. I cried when I returned home.
I didn’t recognize my son after that tour. He looked so different I thought they had replaced him with someone else like on the TV shows. I missed half of his life while in Iraq. But I still feel it was worth it because of the difference we made and the lives we saved. I look at the sacrifice my 4 kids, my fellow soldiers, and the Iraqis made and I am disgusted any time someone says we were there for, “nothing”.
That tour was the beginning to the end of my marriage. I came back a different man. I yelled at my now ex-wife. I was angry. I didn’t like being around “normal” people. I only liked talking to veterans, “combat” veterans. I was depressed and I had to get counseling. I am certain the counseling saved my life. However it didn’t save my career.
I left the military too soon. I was disgusted with the non-combat leaders telling me what to do when I felt like they didn’t understand how the battles changed the way we should operate. In combat all the “red-tape” dissipates and everyone focuses on what needs to be done and what is important. So what you don’t keep your job, your still alive. So what they left you, you have all your limbs. I saw children that no longer had all their limbs.
I joined the Louisiana Army National Guard shortly after and volunteered to return to Iraq a third time in 2010. I saw how young and inexperienced some of the soldiers were and I felt I had to go with them to offer my experience and keep them alive. It was a peaceful tour acting as a Forward Operating Base deputy Mayor on Camp Victory. The same area I had previously known as Baghdad International Airport and then BIAP was now the largest base around Camp Victory. I left after 4 months due to the presidents draw down of troops. Sadly it was a rough tour for me as my marriage was falling apart and I was falling apart from dealing with the final remnants of the last tour. Army counseling and actually being there helped me overcome.
In 2011 I went to Iraq a 4th time but this time as a highly paid Contractor. However, might timing was bad as I arrived a month before the troops would pull out of Iraq. Most contractors worried that the Iraqi’s might come over the wall and kill us all after the troops departed. However, I had lived with and knew the Iraqis. They have an amazing history and are a highly cultured society. They weren’t going to come over the walls they were glad the war was over. The night the troops left I could hear the screaming, shouting and celebration from them and they were miles away. I was on BDSC a little scared but happy I had lived to see the war I helped begin come to a close.
Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center was the Department of State name for what was left of Camp Victory, BIAP before that, and originally the Baghdad International Airport. It was home to me. I got divorced during that tour and my son told me it was ok because I was never home anyway. It hurt because it was true. I spent a year traveling to all the remaining sites in Iraq. A year where I watched the nation of Iraq begins to recover. They still have a long way to go. But I could see the recovery.
A part of me died over there. I am now a different person. Hopefully, I am a better person. I would go back if I had the chance. I have friends I made over there that I hope I never lose. I met Tom Arnold because of the war. That’s Rosanne Barr’s ex-husband. He’s a great guy. He helped me after the war and he didn’t have to and has never asked for anything in return. He even took my advice and took a trip to Afghanistan to visit troops with his best buddy Dax Shepard.
The war was needed. The proof exists in the nation that is being built. Iraq was important to me and America. SPC Bostic didn’t die for oil, or a useless war. He died a hero as a soldier. You won’t know who he is or how he died. But I do he is the reason I respect the war and the others that also made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause bigger than our own lives. Honestly, I check every time they have a memorial to make sure my name isn’t up on it. It’s still hard for me to believe I survived.