You know, it’s funny. To this day, I still think of myself as a soldier. The weird thing is that I am a Conscientious Objector. I know, it doesn’t make sense, even to me.
I’ll be blunt, I hate war. War is ridiculous and idiotic. Perhaps I still think of myself as a soldier because I was so well trained. Perhaps there is something hidden in me that still identifies with that uniform hanging in my closet. I really don’t know and my mind has a hard time negotiating the two.
I think what it comes down to is that no matter how much I despise the notion of killing, the Army and Iraq got into me, got into my head and infused themselves within my personality. No matter what I do in a given day, no matter how long it’s been since I left the Army, the “soldier” in me is always present, always wanting to have its voice in whatever I am doing, always adding its bit of advice when I make decisions.
I understand now that Iraq is a part of me and always will be.
There were so many things that happened during my tour of duty and I wrote about a lot of them in Lines. In Lines in the Sand I spoke of the man I aimed my rifle at one afternoon while traveling through Baghdad. I think of him often, what he might be doing, if he had a family, what he dreamed of in life, what were his interests or hobbies, what was his favorite thing to eat, was he in love… if he’s dead. At the time, I realized in that moment when our eyes met and my finger was on the trigger, that no matter how much I despised war and felt how senseless the Iraq War was in particular, when it came down to it, if need be, it was him or me. That’s hard to swallow. And that’s one of the hardest things to reconcile to this day. There are two of me, kinda like the Light and the Dark sides of the Force from Star Wars.
Are we all like that?
How much does it take to nudge a peaceful, loving person into the dark?
Maybe for some more of a nudge than others. Maybe for others, not so much. There seems to be a lot of people out there all too ready to kill.
A lot of people I spent time with in Iraq agreed that we had unleashed something that would have devastating consequences in the future. I believe we were right. I fear that the Iraq War never really ended even if we technically don’t have U.S. soldiers on the ground. I fear we may be going back, that it’s only a matter of time and that the killing will continue.
When will we wake up as a species?
I’ll say goodnight to you world with the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower: “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.”