The camo lining
If home really is where the heart is, then roughly three years spanning the last ten of my life, I’ve just been renting.
Oh, I have a mortgage and a permanent place where my joy lies. My family, my friends, house, work and 2005 Toyota Corolla that’s starting to border on being a piece of shit now that it’s paid off of course.
Occasionally though, I have to leave it all.
In 2005, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserves. It was something of an impulse decision, but I’ve never regretted it….for very long anyways.
Just a little update, I’ve made it to Afghanistan and I’m getting settled in. It’s hard to believe it’s the third deployment. Every one has brought new challenges, but I have a confession.
I feel guilty.
The support for the troops is at an all time high and everyone always talks about how thankful they are for our service. The thing is though…for me, deployment life has never been that bad. I’ve never been comfortable when people want to shake my hand.
I always thought when I joined, I’d be fighting the bad guys and get shot at and bombed on convoys, blazing through the dessert…instead, my first deployment consisted of taking care of the “bad guys.” I was a detainee guard and was charged with making sure they didn’t hurt each other, make sure they were fed and showered and made sure they were all still there.
Sure I lived in a tent for awhile, where there was often no air conditioning in 120 degree heat. Yeah, occasionally they bombed the base, but thankfully our unit never lost anyone…to the “bad guys” anyway.
There were other unpleasant things as well.
One day, we were told at guard change, the detainees had been somewhat unruly on the previous shift. They had been throwing rocks at the tower guards, but I thought nothing of it really, it was just part of the job and I just had to pay attention. Well, I paid attention to the wrong thing.
Sitting atop my tower, I heard over the radio they “were throwing shit,” from another guard. In my mind, I thought ‘shit,’ meant rocks and other things.
Just then, I tilted my head and watched two men, dressed in bright yellow with their faces covered with scarves, (not a good sign by the way, they weren’t supposed to hide their faces) point up at me from an open compound. They walked freely below, with walls made of sand keeping them in. I was distracted by the two who were paying attention to me, so much so, I didn’t notice the other man run up from behind them.
He chucked something in my direction. I watched a plastic bag of something sail through the air and I managed to duck to the side as it thudded loudly onto the side of my tower.
SHIT, they threw actual shit, human feces, not rocks. Some had splattered on my sleeve and I could clearly see whoever’s shit it was, had eaten an orange recently, what with the tiny orange kernel mixed in the brown muck.
Five minutes later, I was squeegeeing it off the side of the tower with cardboard.
“Save refugees, fight the enemy!” said my recruiter.
Nowhere was it mentioned I’d be cleaning a grown ass man’s poop off of my workspace. Nor did they say I’d have to just sit in my tower, as a group of detainees used razor wire to slit another detainee limb from limb because he got caught asking a guard for a cigarette. The recruiter never said we would have to just listen to an Iraqi scream and we’d have to wait until they brought his bloodied body to the gate, because there were too many of them for us to go in and get him.
Why tell this story, I ask myself. It was nothing compared to what some of our bravest men and women have had to deal with. That’s why I tell it though. My guilt comes from knowing I was trained to do things I’ll never do and I’ve had it far easier than I ever expected.
Now, I have access to a coffee shop every day and a Subway sandwich shop…with mostly fresh bread. I don’t even have to do my own laundry for crying out loud. Seriously, I drop it off, about two days later, pick it up…AND IT’S EVEN FOLDED!!!! Oh, and it’s free, absolutely free. Yeah a pair of socks goes missing here and there, but I don’t even care.
On my last tour, I was a journalist. On a small outpost I visited, the Marines there had no way to clean their clothes on the little base. They were filthy after wearing their uniforms for weeks straight.
They went on missions every day and they had no shoppette where they could buy cigarettes or junk food like you can on most bases. They cooked their own food and ate around the table like a family. And you know what, that place was heaven compared to some of the other places I’ve been with Wifi and Pepsi. Those men on that outpost loved each other like none other. They welcomed me and treated me with nothing but respect.
To them, home was not a place thousands of miles away. They had carried their hearts with them and gave them to the men they served with. That same unit lost two Marines during their deployment. You can read one of their stories here.
So when people thank me for my service, I say a thank you for the ones lost. The ones who didn’t have it as easy as me.
Yes, I miss Indiana.
Even as I write this, in Afghanistan, the sewage is being sucked out of the bathrooms where I live. Before I eat any meal, there are giant piles of sand outside the chow hall and we have to fill two sandbags before anyone can go in…no one knows what they’re for really, I suspect they’re being used to rebuild Iraq.
But I’m happy.
I know others are currently sleeping on a mountain somewhere right now, fearing for their lives, while I’m sitting on my bed, typing on my Mac. I’m here, and I’m writing…unlike so many others.
Yes, I miss my family, friends, dogs and boyfriend… HI JACKSON!!! (Shout out to my homie)
You know what I don’t miss though?
Cleaning a whole house I don’t even have time to be in. My room here takes about five minutes to clean. I don’t miss shopping for nightgowns because the Army tells me what I have to wear to bed anyways. I don’t miss doing dishes and mowing the lawn and picking up dog crap from said freshly cut grass. I don’t miss red lights or magazine after magazine with Justin Bieber’s face on it in the checkout line, where I’m waiting to pay for food and crap I don’t even need. The best part…no shopping carts just left in the middle of parking lots!!!!
Because there are no fucking shopping carts here.
I’m with the two very best friends anyone could hope to have. I have my stuffed honey badger, Glen. I have books. Thank the business cash Jesus, there’s coffee. I love the job I’m doing…taking care of Soldiers. OH, and there’s a CrossFit gym.
Yeah, home is where the heart is, so you just have to pack it in your carry-on.