A warm, dark night atop the 7-story building I call home, for now. To the south, a mosque blazes into the night, looking more like a Vegas casino than any kind of holy monument. The rest of the city seems more or less normal: a mixed constellation of white and orange streetlights, stretching off into the hazy distance; pairs of yellow-white headlights floating through the darkness; the occasional wail of a police siren.
Only a few gunshots break the quasi-normality – lone shots rather than long ragged bursts suggesting a real fight. Up there we meet a pair of infantrymen, manning an OP (observation post), on the lookout for…anything. One complains about the boring duty; he says he’d rather be out on patrol; he says he “loves that shit.” It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels bored and caged; it somehow makes my boredom more authentic to know someone who’s been shot at also hates the inactivity of FOB life.
Life is different here at Justice – Liberty is a barren expanse of gravel, rock, and sand; where you live in non-permanent trailers and everywhere you go seems almost ephermeral, not having existed until two years ago; where it’s a war zone and yet manages to be just like garrison. Justice has a more concrete feeling of place, of reality – real buildings, real trees, real grass, real people – mostly enlisted infantrymen and Iraqi civilians and soldiers. The flora and fauna give the air a subtly different flavor, too; the trees and plants give the atmosphere a faint, familiar, pleasing humidity in the daytime heat, totally unlike the sandy alien atmosphere of Liberty.
Not to say everything is sweetness and light – mortar impacts are regular and close, though still random enough to dismiss as lightning bolt-equivalent events. Yesterday what I assume was a VBIED (vehicle-borne IED) detonated near the front gate in a tremendous crash, followed by a burst of small-arms fire.
But here we’re close to the mission, directly supporting the warfighters, and it makes this seem much more real and relevant.