Postcards from Tradocia

the following morning

As a Crazed Iraq War Veteran™, I’m supposed to have vivid flashbacks of my traumatic time in the ‘box (Sandbox, Iraq, Rumsfeldian Vietraq Quagswamp, etc.), not of my time on the university campus.

Since I had to drive Mrs. Melobi to work in the Human Transport Ark Eltreum, I decided to stop in and say hi to some former coworkers of mine. Luckily, most were already avid readers of this site, so the inane “how was Iraq?” questions were kept to a minimum – and even those were better by far than the utterly clueless response of a pretty young car salesperson, who upon hearing I’d just returned from Iraq said, “oh, how was it? I’ve never been there.” No shit? Not much tourism going on there – between the Ba’ath party and al-Qaeda it’s sort of fallen off the hot vacation list.

At any rate, it was a strange feeling to be there again – prior to my activation, I had spent the last six years of my life there, between school and subsequent employment. Somewhat like the Army, it was an all-encompassing environment; work, play, love, hate, friends and foes all rolled up into a tidy package. (Not that I’m romanticizing about my erstwhile glory days – college for me was generally a pleasant chore at best and a miserable drain on my human spirit at worst.) So many memories, with some places there so saturated with imagery so as to be almost overwhelming.

So stunning, too, is how far removed the campus is from Camp Liberty. It seems like an obvious statement, but the sequestered nature of my Army job isn’t too unlike spending a long day in your house in front of the TV. In either case, it’s easy to temporarily forget the existence of the outside world, and so the transition from trailer 5-264C to Fort Delobi isn’t as abrupt as one might expect (with obvious exceptions: cats, wife, food I have to pay for, indoor bathroom, etc.). The campus, though, is alive with people and strange sights and strange smells and the humming vitality of self-centered youth.

(I sound like an old man writing that. Curmudgeon before my time, I guess.)

There’s hate there, too; on virtually every light pole there’s some mockery of Bush, or the Iraq war, or some exhortation of some “progressive” cause. A tableau of anti-Bush quotes and pictures, erected by Melobi’s two agitated co-workers, decorates the office door. It’s the look on a new acquaintance’s face that’s the worst, though; it’s the deer-in-headlights stare, the literal seconds of silence as the brain tries to reconcile his/her own virulent feelings about Bush/Iraq/military with the reality of this short nondescript friendly guy standing there.

I got that look from one of the guys in Melobi’s office, when he came in and Melobi said “this is Alex” and he responded (stupidly), “so…what’s your connection?” and I said “I’m her husband. I just got back from Iraq.” He hit me with the usual “how was it?” (no token “thanks for your service” to be found on this campus, I’m sure), and when I said it was pretty good, all things considered, he kind of blundered through the rest of a sentence and left. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but he almost looked afraid. Honestly, I think he would’ve had more to say if I had said I just had a testicle removed and that the other one had just rolled down my pant leg.

I guess that informs my future interaction with other campus residents; except for what I need to discuss in any potential job interview, I’ll keep quiet about everything that happened – it’s just easier that way. I’m tired of people acting like I’m telling them I was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and then receiving either awkward silences or unwanted pity.

It makes me even more glad that I kept this blog – I’m able to tell my story, however trivial it may seem at times, in the way I know best – and the rest of the world be damned.


  1. Desult

    I hear ya, Alex. I had issues with telling people at work I enlisted. Only one of my 20 some odd clients knows I joined. Of the few people I told they all went nearly ghost face when I told them. They responded like I was going to prison and being told to grab my ankles…to put it in a gentler way. Anyway, after the few wack responses I just decided it’s best to keep my mouth shut. I’ll surprise ’em later when I only have one week left to train them. Makes me think, “For got sakes people all I did was enlist, then going off to basic then AIT…tere are more worse things than that.” You could finish this thought for me I’m sure.

    Altogether, I’m glad you have this blog too. I think most people are just too far removed from it to act normal.

  2. Anonymous

    I know someone else is feeling the same things!!! He managed to break his hand the first week home. JC

  3. MrPhil

    If I met you, I’d say “Thank you for your service”. I’d then be tempted to say what was it like, except I’ve been reading your blog, so I have a pretty good idea of what it was like for you. :-) So, I guess the awkward silence would come at that point. :-)

    Thanks for your service and sharing your experiences.
    God bless.

  4. Jane

    Alex, Thanks for your service to our country. People have short memories and have forgotten why your service was necessary. I don’t agree with everything this administration has done, but another 9/11 would be too much to bear. Then they would be accused of not doing enough. I don’t have the answers to this threat to our nation, but neither do the people who haven’t thanked you. You deserve our gratitude and respect for serving this free nation. Thank you again, Jane

  5. Deb (yankeemom)

    Alex ~ I’m so sorry you have to go through all that. When my daughter decided to enlist in the Army while she was still in high school, the reactions I received most were as if she had already been killed. And if I continued to talk about it, I could clear a room so fast it’d make your head spin. Well, I for one as an Army mom want to thank you and let you know how much I appreciate that there are men and women like yourself who will be watching my daughter’s back.

  6. G&G

    We’re glad you’re back and we too appreciate your service to the U.S. It’s good that you went to see your old gang at the U. of Minn. We look forward to hearing about your upcoming training at Ashland. Lots of love,

  7. SGM Brooks

    Welcome home, Alex and Thank You for your unselfish service to your nation and it’s people, regardless of how utterly clueless they may be.

    “Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

    Keep your wonderful and hard-won personal perspective and sense of humor. It will serve you well throughout your life and, those around you as well.

  8. Spike

    I hear ya as well.

    People seemed to have learned from what happened when the guys came back from Vietnam. But it’s still not going to be easy.

    I’ll just be doing what I’ve been doing all along: supporting all our troops no matter what I think of the stupid fucking politicians :)

  9. Sean

    Just want to say ThankYou. Sometimes it seems stupid to say thank-you, because that just doesn’t seem like enough to say.

  10. schaus

    Hey man, there’s not an adequate statement for giving up more than a year of your life and doing it in less-than-optimal conditions (to be euphamistic).

    Your discription of “the U” sounds like a microcosm of the U.S. We live in camps now. People that believe (in) Bush, and people who don’t. People who enlist/serve, and those who don’t. We both know I have my opinions on this, but I’ll just pose a question:

    What does it say about our country and ourselves that these “camps” can’t even figure out how to talk with each other any more, and we’re relegated to bumper-stickers and campus-flyers?

    I hope life regains a normalcy you can enjoy soon!

  11. Pontiff's grandma

    I guess I never said “Thank You” to you or the Pontiff. I was just so very glad to see you home that it didn’t occur to me. You have my profound thanks and admiration. I hope you never have to go overseas any more. Of course we’re proud of your service!

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