Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Beyond The Sand

Hello again.

Yes, I'm back from Iraq. Yes, I'm back safely with Anne. I returned home in December of 2007, and after a well-deserved month of leave stateside, I'm once more back in Germany, though thankfully I've managed to get myself behind a desk, for the time being anyway. Connections are good.

I'd like to apologize for my absence. The truth is, I needed the hiatus. I grew tired of living in fear, of worrying when some vindictive person might use their surfeit of free time to track my writings to their source, thus creating difficulties for me and my chain of command. To this day, the amount of effort wasted by those who wanted me silenced disgusts me. So to those individuals, I say: You failed. You failed, and I am not going away. Not again.

It came to a point where my days were so long, so exhausting that I grew tired of reliving them in writing. Living out the Army life is one thing: rehashing it every day in words is quite another.

Truthfully, it was good that I stepped away when I did. It was a chance to focus on myself, focus on my marriage. I kept myself busy with other forms of writing; the woodworker's daughter helped me to escape the daily confines of the deployed environment. I owe much to her, as well as to my wife Anne. Odd: it is women--their compassion, their expressive natures--who give our worlds sense and purpose. Says something, I think, about who is truly the stronger sex. So yes, I am back, and I am glad to be so. It was a long time in coming, but it has not been without its difficulties.

Simply adjusting to the lack of a weapon proved a daunting task in those first weeks. Me and Anne have been required to reacquaint ourselves, thankfully a smoother transition for us than for most military couples we know. What has truly shocked me most was my return to the States. It was like somebody simply shut off the war. No mortars; no rotating shifts in the guard tower. People actually receive weekends off; can choose what they wear, and when. More than that, though, was a sense of disappointment. It seems as though the normal excesses and stupidities of popular culture, obvious enough before my deployment, seem more starkly exposed now. The same stupid reality shows on TV, the same banal obsessions with Britney Spears and her decaying mental state. Meanwhile, news coverage on Iraq has nearly faded to zero. As Jon Stewart put it last night, "Is that still HAPPENING?"

I finally saw a piece on CNN this morning, featuring Gen. Petraeus promising imminent drawdowns. He promised a return to the normal 12-month deployment cycle for Army soldiers, down from the current 15-month rotation still in place. I don't know if I believed him or not--realism has never been a trait I saw in him--but whatever the case, it daunted even me to consider that there are people still back there, still suffering through the loneliness, the endless ticker of 14 months to go, 13, 12. To be honest, with my own plight resolved, I found myself saddened that I had forgotten so quickly.

We've all forgotten, it seems.

Here's what happened while you were sleeping: Violence in Baghdad decreased, or so we're all told. In response, it spread to places like Diwaniyah, home of Echo, or Balad, where the pro-U.S. mayor was publicly assassinated. It flooded out of Baghdad into outlying areas, leaving soldiers in those areas to try to account for the sudden spike in violence. Meanwhile, soldiers are still suffering through the 15-month rotation. Fifteen. Can anyone untested truly understand the grueling difference in those three months? I think not. Meanwhile, while we listen to our candidates bloviate and postulate, while we complain about the falling dollar, people are dying. Friends and lovers and family members are dying. And yet our newsmedia can spare little more than a thirty-second blurb.

Is this how far we've fallen? Is this how tolerant we've become to the abuse?

I'm close to abandoning the Army as a career. I'm bitter, I'm tired of the lack of privacy. I'm tired of the lies, of the separations. I have a degree to finish, I have a craft--my writing--to hone. I began writing a novel for young adults back in May; I hope to have in finished by July. Meanwhile, my wife and I want to start a family, and I'm not sure I can stomach leaving them to grow up as I blink in and out of their lives. Sorry, fellow patriots: my family, my wife, all matter more to me. Leave someone else to clean up the Iraqi's mess.

I'm no longer the person I was. I was lucky--I saw no close-up death, no friends put in the groun, despite all the time I spent out the wire. But it was still hard, and none can expect me to renounce that statement. I pray for and pity the ones left behind, but the truth is, it's just not my fight anymore.

I have no plans of going back.


Blogger Pixie said...

I hope no one "goes back".

Milo... Anne... I am so relieved ... so happy... so worn the hell out.

Keep writing, Milo.

I've never seen any world beyond our country (save a vacation or two to Europe)... I've never fought in any wars outside the workplace or here in my own yard - politically or otherwise, but I lost my heart... in this one.

I am changed, eternally... and I never held a weapon.

Hold each other tight and hang on to what you believe in. Hang on to eachother. Does it sound like I'm pleading?

I am.


11:27 AM  
Blogger The Earth Bound Misfit said...

I know the crushing disappointment that occurs when a deployment is extended, but that was only for about three weeks and nobody was trying to kill us.

I cannot imagine three additional months in Iraq.

4:32 PM  
Blogger toadman said...

Welcome back Milo. You've safely traversed hell, and returned, albeit, NOT unchanged, I'm sure.

6:44 PM  
Blogger cinnabari said...

I'm glad your back. Bad enough being downrange without some dipshit troglodytic self-proclaimed patriot trying to hunt you down, too.


My father blinked in and out of my childhood...missed my first 13 months to a remote deployment, missed my 10th year to another one, constant TDYs. I remember thinking how amazing it was that other kids had fathers around, like, most of the time. I couldn't imagine it.

The ennui and self-absorption over here is just... just... yeah. Half my students last quarter actually thought the war was over, and had been since GWB declared it so from the deck of an aircraft carrier. I sent one to this blog, and he used it to write his final project for the course. You've been cited! And he's been educated. That's one.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome home Milo!!! I am so glad you have made it home safe.

12:14 AM  
Blogger iamcoyote said...

Yeah, Milo, you don't seem like the kind of person who would do well with the constant surveillance over your entire life, down to the clothes you have to wear every day. I hated the constant moving, the separations, all of it. Good for you for knowing yourself enough to know that it's not for you, either.

Woohoo about the writing, though! Let us know when your book's out...

1:58 AM  
Blogger simonsays said...

Wonderfully written. I'm happy to see that you are home. God bless. :)

2:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have so missed your brilliant writing. I am glad you and Anne are together. Hopefully, you will transition to some happy productive life outside the military. You have done your job, and we deeply appreciate it.

1:57 AM  
Blogger Long-time RN said...

Welcome home!! Our thanks to you for the months of hard work and separation from loved ones. All the best to you and Anne.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

I have lurked here for quite sometime. I'm glad that you are back! I wish that all our troops could come home now.

Thanks for sharing your experiences and views. They're important.

5:37 AM  
Blogger The Earth Bound Misfit said...

Tag, you are It, by the way. Rules on my blog.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Hayden said...

I'm so glad. So, so glad. The long silence was very worrying.

3:43 PM  

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