Time To Speak...just A Little

I stumbled across this group tonight. Its almost as if by design that I found it. You see in late 2003 I deployed to Iraq and stayed in country until 2005. What I brought home was just something I thought was mine alone, but some of your stories have inspired me to write one of mine. I haven't talked about these things, they're hard to put into words, but I'll try to keep some order to these thoughts.

Upon our arrival in Iraq at the end of 2003 we moved straight into Baghdad and ran Ops out of BIAP. I was Platoon Sargeant in a Sapper Unit and we jumped right into the fight. Almost immediately we lost a great kid. He was a Soldier and an man by all definition, but a kid to me and it was like a punch to the gut. Before we left the States we had a feeling of invincibility, however, the swiftness and violence that killed this young man brought about a sense of morality that shook our whole Company.

Over the next 14 months we saw combat and were hit with attacks of IED's, sniper, mortor fire, car bombs and anything else they could come up with. I never got over the death of my young Soldier, even though we lost eight more great Soldiers over the course of that year. All of them equally important and loved. The details of that year are forever etched in my mind and I will always be able to see the faces of not only my Soldiers, but those faces of Haji as well. The range of emotions covered everything from happiness to terror.

I came home in March of 2005 to a world I didn't remember. One that didn't make sense anymore. The names of my Soldiers were written on my wall and in my heart, but no one knew them except me. I was alone, out of the Unit, by myself and everyone around me was conducting life as usual. I was lost and anxious, hypersensitive to every sound and smell. There was no structure to the daily routine. There was no routine! Simple tasks proved to much to bare. To drive down the streets at home was more than a challenge. I wanted to stay in the middle of the road, 25 meters behind the car in front of me, the proper combat patrol interval. Each time a car pulled in front of me I backed off to the proper interval, despite the honking of horns to speed up and get in my lane. I was losing it! At night I would drink myself to sleep, otherwise I would find myself outside Ramadi, kneeling along the side of the road, holding my best friend's hand while he took his last breath. Something happened to me over there. I didn't care about death anymore except for my Soldier's. If something happened to me, I saw how it worked and it was usually over quickly, but I feared for my Soldiers everyday. That concern was hard to let go of when I came home. Most of us went our separate ways and integrated back into the civilian world. We tried to stay in touch, but the transition was hard and we lost track of each other. It was hard to hold a job, because the crisis's at the office were hardly crisis's. I found myself asking the obvious questions, "Are you going home tonight, will you eat supper and sleep in a warm bed? Because if so and no one is shooting at you, then its not a crisis!" People would look at me as if I was from outerspace and I rotated from one job to another. What was wrong with me? I was always the guy everyone liked. Fun to be around, joking and kind to everyone. Now I was just angry and an ***.

The years passed by and I made the transition into civilian life. My friends like me again and even some of my family. Ha.

It feels good to get some of this off my chest and I apologize for what seems like rambling. It has taken me almost eight years to unload what seems like such petty personal crap. Not the loss of my Soldiers, that will forever be significant, but my stupid reaction to life when I came home. I was a leader of men, but I couldn't lead myself home. I have found some joy in life again and laugh more each day. I've started my own business, because its hard to not get along with the boss when he is me. Things are getting better and I don't regret a thing. God bless all of you who have served and thank you for the sacrifices you have made. And thanks for giving me the forum to ramble.
detranger detranger
41-45, M
11 Responses Feb 6, 2012

Your experience was not abnormal. I was in Baqubah from early 04 till early 05. I have friends that have reacted in ways similar to you. It doesn't make you less of a man. In fact, I think it highlights your humanity that you weren't able to transition easily between two very different worlds. It's ok. You're still a good person, and valuable. Thank you for sharing. Every time one of us tells their story, each of us becomes stronger, knowing we're not alone.

wow...just read your story, it almost brought me to tears...cannot even imagine what you went through..God Bless you, you are a truly inspiration and a hero...

Thank you for reading it and the kind words.

You are a hero to all of us. Glad you are healing.

Thank you. Life is just to short not to enjoy every moment. I seek out all the good I can every day.

VERY well said Sargeant . . . and may God bless you right back . . . your story feels like it is like this for all who return back from such a traumatic event like war . . . you are in good company . . . and you did exceptionally well to succeed upon returning as thus far . . . thank you for sharing your story with us and even more for serving for us . . . its good for civilians to understand better just what it's like over there . . . what you go through . . . not just while you're there but also what it's like upon returning home . . . thank you Sargeant . . . it's an honor to friend such human as you . . .

Thanks so much for sharing your story. My bf went to Iraq in 06-07 and your story has helped a lot to understand why he doesn't like to talk about the bad things in Iraq. I know that he will never be the same... Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing, I like a lot to read about soldiers experiences

I was a lot crabbier then, but not anymore. Still have my days. For the most part, however, I am pretty easy going.

Your story moved me. Thank you for your service, and for putting things in perspective. I think you made a great deal of sense with your question about food, shelter and avoiding being fired upon. I understand your anger, and I don't think you were an *** to have that attitude. But I am awfully glad you are happier now.<br />
<br />

thank you for your service! My son also was in Iraq and I am thankful he is home! :-)

I've often said that being deployed is far easier for the Soldier than the family. We always knew where we were and what was going on. The families are left waiting and worrying, waiting for any kind of news that we are safe. Thank you and your son for your service.

It was hard many times. But I looked forward to my 3am phone calls! I would stay on the phone for as long as he was able to talk! And Thank you as well!

you are not the first or the last<br />
<br />
and the sad part is the goveremnt while it talks the talks really does not care<br />
<br />
i spent a littleof 7 months in combat in 1966 of 100 people we started with the day i was shoot down by friend fire we had 13 left alive<br />
<br />
and we fault a different war then manyothers inviet nam we did not need permission to return fire when fired upon

Thank you for your service in Vietnam. I was just a kid then, but always looked up to you.

Thankyou for sharing. I have many members of my family, who have been or who currently are in the forces. My brother is a corporal in communications with the RAF and my Nephew, a sapper, just started in bomb disposal. The men and women who give up their lives for our protection are heros, every one of them. I know you didn't write your story for recognition but just wanted you to know... you are very special for what you have given to your country and I hope you find much peace and happiness as rewards.

Thank you for your support and your families service. I worked with some UK Soldiers over there and they were nothing less than professional. I always enjoyed working with them, especially the Sappers, but then I have a special place in my heart for my Sapper Brothers.