I remember it vividly as I stood armpit deep in my fighting hole in an Iraqi citizen’s backyard. He walked holding his prayer beads with his son always an arms distance behind him. As planes flew up ahead, he cringed down covering himself as if his arms would provide some source of defense. The man looked over to me and pointed up to the sky and then back at me. I nodded my head then pointed back toward the sky and placed my hand over my chest a couple of times in a patting motion. The planes were ours, and not the Iraqi governments. Understanding my motions, I could see his relief as he stood upright once more, reassured that his yard would not be bombed—at least not today.
We were all dug in and I imagine this provided both comfort and fear to that man and his family as hundreds of Marines built a floating bridge in his backyard. A young girl came over to me smiling, wanting to trade some MRE goodies, and for the small price of a wet napkin I had myself a fresh rolled Iraqi cigarette. The flavor sits on my tongue still, reminiscent of a warm cup of chai tea. I often wonder if it was indeed a cigarette or some other treat but either way, the girl ran off excited with her recently acquired wet napkin and I stood there at peace with my ciga-what.
It was incredible watching how quickly a bridge could be built in combat. The resources were all accounted for, and the plan had been well thought out prior to our invasion of Iraq. As I recall how easily it was strung together and how well it supported dozens of tracks and tanks, I am left wondering how difficult it is to build bridges outside of the combat zone. Particularly the bridge between the Board for Correction of Naval Records and the Veterans Administration. To the public, the bridge has been built, but from personal experience, it cannot withstand a single “other than”. It’s been years since I have sought the comfort or even imagined an ounce of mercy from the country I once served. But I am now certain that there are other Marines and Soldiers out there just now realizing how lacking this bridge is. They walk with their DD214 in hand, combat action CHECK, presidential unit citation CHECK, Good Conduct Medal CHECK, Other Than Honorable CHECK. They seek out that one person that will acknowledge the link between PTSD and misconduct, whether it be violence or drug abuse, and unfortunately they are turned away with nothing.
As a country, if we cannot provide reassurances for those that volunteered to take up arms and kill on command, what does that say about our nation? What does it say about patriotism and our value for those that answer the call in the most important way they know how?
There are other thans around you, struggling to piece together the rest of their life, their purpose, and they need your help. Please like/comment/share.