Monday, June 16, 2008

Names on Rosters

My time with this record is coming to an end soon. You need to know that.

I have less than a month left. I have a lot going on. I have to start clearing soon; I need to start updating my resume. I'm getting ready to leave Germany, and when I touch back down in the States it will not be as a soldier, but as a veteran. I'm going to Michigan to see my family for a few days, and then I'm going to be moving out West to start my new life.

Things for me have changed. I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War--I've added them to my blogroll, and several of my compatriots are listed there as well. I feel good about the decision--after all, it's time I stood up for what I believe in--but still, it makes me sad that it should have had to come this.

I'll be honest: I'm scared. For four years, the Army has been a part of my life, three of that on Active-Duty. There is a comfort, a routine to things in this life, even when you're miserable. Field problems, deployment scares, and long hours be damned, there's comfort in at least knowing that you're getting paid. There's comfort in knowing that the medical bills will be handled. Now, I'm getting ready to leave that. After who knows how long, I'm finally getting out from under that umbrella. Soon, the Army won't be able to tell me who I am anymore. And I am grateful for that.

I'm tired of this way of life. It's not who I am. It's not the person I want to be. I did my time with honor, and in turn it strained my faith in the government, in the Army, in my fellow Americans to the breaking point. I have dreams, goals, a life of my own. I have a wife who needs me; I have a family to start. I have a bond with my Buddhist faith to re-establish. I have a book to try and publish, plus any number of others to begin writing. I'm planning to write a travel memoir about my trip West, covering the transition back to a civilian existence. I don't know where I'll be in a year, I don't know WHO I will be. But I do know this: the life I've lived for three years isn't the one I want anymore. It's just been too draining, too hard. It feels like I've been rucking it forever. I need to take a knee. I feel like I've earned it.

But will it be enough?

I'm in a small and highly specialized MOS. Our workload is brutal, our turnover rates high. Like every other soldier, when I joined I knew that I would spend several years after my tour in what is called the Individual Ready Reserve. Though I may be a civilian; though I may have any number of other obligations, all of that can be upended at any time by a letter from Department of the Army. At any time until early into the next decade, I can be called back for another year in Iraq, plus the five months it takes to train. Theoretically, they can do this as many times as they want. It doesn't even have to be in my MOS. They could send me out with Infantry, they could send me out as Convoy Security.

Once, when speaking to my recruiter, my wife asked him about this IRR thing. His response? "You'll basically be National Guard--you'll only get called up to handle stateside emergencies. But that's never even happened. Y'all don't have anything to worry about."

Looking back, maybe he believed it, maybe he didn't. But I know now that, in my MOS, the chances of me being called up are close to a hundred percent. The good SFC was wrong. Make no mistake: I WILL be called back. It's just a matter of when. Doesn't matter that I've come to reject this war, doesn't matter that I've come to reject war in general. In the eyes of the Army--indeed, in the eyes of most Americans--I raised my right hand. I signed the contract. I took an oath to both the Constitution and then the President of the United States, and I'm bound to uphold that, even when the two contradict each other.

It is clear to me now that I made a mistake.

The war was wrong. All right? It was wrong, and we allowed ourselves to be fooled into going along. The blood is on all our hands. People are starving, people are dying, and if you think that anyone who matters will actually stop this, you're fooling yourself. Part of this is why I joined IVAW. I don't like it, but what other choice do I have? I'm either part of the problem or part of the solution. In truth, I'm sick of being angry. I'm sick of protesting things. All I want is to live my life with Anne at my side. I want children. I want to write books for young people, and I want to pursue my faith.

But you know what else I want? I want to stop feeling guilty for having not done enough. I want the headlines to not affect me, every single day. I want one man's decisions to stop having a direct impact on my future, on my family's future. I want someone to see my name on the roster and pass me by. I want them to think: "Hey, this guy shows he's married. Did his time, got out. Maybe he got out for a reason." That would be nice. It would be nice to think that we, as soldiers, are viewed as people too. Not as heroes, not as idol figures, but as people.

But we're not. And I know it. To the people who matter, we're all just another name on a roster.

We'll never be more than names on the roster. Rosters of the deployable, rosters of the fallen. Rosters of the ruined.


Blogger L said...

Please leave a trail of breadcrumbs...


2:14 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

We share a lot of the same sentiments. Good luck on your journey.

2:52 AM  
Blogger deuddersun said...

Brother, you belong in the American Patriot Institute. We are a loose knit group0 of Veterans who believe in the oath we swore, defend the Constitution of The United States of America, against ALL enemies, foreign anddomestic...

Feel free to drop by my place. Links in the left sidebar.

Welcome home, Brother.


3:45 PM  
Blogger deuddersun said...

Oh, blogrolling you. Yeah, my blogroll's a mess, but I will get it squared away someday.


4:30 PM  
Blogger Gillian de Chelseye said...

Let me know when you get back to Michigan, if you're withing driving distance I'd like to see you before you head out West.

Bryan seems to think you're a fable of some sort. I'd like to show him what a good man you are.


4:57 PM  
Blogger David M Christy said...

I dont know if you're looking for more resources or not. If you are, and havent heard of him yet, check out the works of Claude AnShin Thomas. He's a Soto Zen Priest and Vietnam vet. Claude's one of, perhaps the most powerful teacher I've done retreat with. He's a mendicant and so travels quite a lot, teaching in Germany and the US mostly. Many of his retreats are focused on working with other veterans.

His website is, and his book is called "At Hell's Gate."

6:39 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Milo, your voice has been a breath of fresh - and true - air. It will be missed. I hope after you settle down you will start blogging again. Perhaps you can come back here and leave a link to your possible future home in the blogosphere. Thanks again for your honesty in a time when our government didn't feel that was a requirement.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Polzoo said...

Hi, I read your blog and I think you're a good writer. I'd like to invite you to our new community at We are a user generated political editorial and social network site. We also choose from amongst our own members to be featured on the front page as columnists.

I think your voice would be a great addition to our site. Come check us out!


9:58 AM  
Blogger Marty said...

Here's some good advice I read on a blog somewhere:

Before you ETS get a Post Office Box. Give that address to the army. That way they can't harrass your family. Also give them a cell phone number.

Make yourself difficult to locate.

6:14 AM  
Blogger alicia said...

go you milo !!!! when i was in the army i loved reading your blog... I AM SO HAPPY for you and your girl that you're getting out of there. I was stationed in landstuhl till a few months back and live in lansing now. i feel like i need to make the world a better place though... all the bad stuff i did for the army. so me and my fiancee are moving to darfur! does everyone who gets out of the military feel that way... or just me? well good luck :)

7:07 AM  
Blogger simonsays said...

I wish you luck and peace and joy and...mostly peace. You certainly have earned it.

Hugs my friend.

And, I do thank you. Seriously, I thank you for your sacrifices, because no matter the differences between us, what you have done for this country is only to be respected. And I do.

1:13 PM  
Blogger BigD said...

Hello Seth,
I wish I could say I had been reading your blog from the beginning, but, I cannot. However, I have been reading a lot of milblogs lately and it is eerie how similar the feelings become from the beginning of the deployment through to the end. This post was beautifully written and is one of the saddest posts written by a soldier that I have ever read. Sad in the anguish you have suffered and the awful truths that you have had to put forth here. Sad in how you have been treated because you have chosen to be a voice against the war. Sad because certain American citizens do not understand anything about your experience and yet, believe they have the right to tell you how to feel and what to think. Sad because "supporting the troops" has become something that seems hollow and insincere. Sad because you are so young to have had your life impacted so deeply by the bitter and nasty realities of war and those who choose to wage them with the youth of our country. You are a gifted writer and you seem to have a good start on a new life for yourself. You are intelligent and wise beyond your years. Do not give up on your dreams, try to find the optimism of youth again. In time, you will discover how this chapter fits into the book of your life.

God bless you Seth. From one who will continue to read, learn, and try to make a difference, one soldier at a time.

9:38 AM  

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