On my way to lunch the other day, I paused at the crossing while a column of armored Humvees rolled past. Each one had a gunner sticking out the top, manning either an M2 .50 caliber or an M240B 7.62mm machine gun. Their eyes were concealed behind goggles and their faces behind scarves, so I couldn’t tell you if they looked scared or angry or bored or excited, but they were obviously going somewhere unfriendly. And as they passed, a single, absurd thought shot through my head, unbidden: I wish I was going out with them.
I know what you’re going to say: “Don’t be a retard, Delobius – you’ve got it great, chilling out inside the wire with nary a care but what’s on the menu.” And to that I say: “You’re damn right.” I’m going to be the last person to complain about our living conditions or safety situation.
All the same, though, I’m struck by a certain sense of…guilt? insanity? boredom? obligation? Maybe it’s the constant badgering by active duty soldiers that’s given me a complex, a sense that I have something to prove, that this time next year when I’m strolling around the IGH TACC with a 1st Cav patch on my right shoulder that I’ve earned it.
Maybe it’s a side effect of being in a job where no news is good news, where as in computer support if you do your job good enough you find yourself with no job to do. Maybe it comes from having a fundamentally boring job with little chance for positive feedback. If you go out on a patrol, at the end of the day someone can say, “good job, you bagged X bad guys/handed out Y soccer balls/traded Z frozen chickens for W RPGs.” At the end of my day, what can someone say to me? “Good job, your antenna didn’t fall over today”?
Maybe it has to do with contemplating the answer to the proverbial “Daddy, what did you do in the war?” question. Truth is, no one’s going to believe you if you say you went to Iraq for a year and nothing happened. Given the news reports, the popular image is that Iraq is like Iwo Jima + Tet Offensive, with a little bit of south-central LA thrown in for good measure.
And maybe it’s because while I’m sitting in my truck writing this, warm and safe, others like me are being killed and maimed to protect me. Not in an abstract “Americans fighting for freedom” sort of way, but in a concrete “combat arms soldiers fighting so Signal dorks don’t have to” sort of way.
I’ll stop before I get too maudlin. It’s almost enough to make me want to make a sign that says, “Have You Hugged an 11B Today?”
(11B being the MOS code for infantry, of course…)