Saturday, October 04, 2003

Dusting Furniture After Getting Attacked, Nonsense and Office Politics When We Need it the Least

4 OCT 03

Today was a strange day. I don’t know why exactly, but it was. I went with Sergeant Siegel outside of Baghdad to the east and to the desert. I was driving. The landscape while driving out there this morning was surreal. I saw a lot of farms and many homes. They were all nice. Some of the land even looked like it was from South Carolina, except when we got to the desert part.
Out in the desert, they’ve constructed a firing range and it looks pretty permanent. It’s just a flat wasteland, and numerous wooden houses that we’ve built (the Army). When we returned, we passed so many dirty little children – all of them waving and smiling. I reached under my seat and grabbed an MRE to throw to one along the way. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘this is jambalaya. It has pork in it, I wonder if I should throw it? Well, I’ll do it anyways, it’s all I have.’ So I threw it as I passed two skinny boys. I had to toss it so Sergeant Siegel wouldn’t see. He wouldn’t want me to give them anything.
As we got closer to Baghdad, we saw some kids coming back from school. They were so cute in their uniforms, and all excited to see us. ‘That’s why I’m here,’ I thought. They were carrying their new books and brand-new notebooks, probably given to them from the U.S. or from outside.
We got back to camp and everyone was on edge because the brigade sergeant major was coming to our office. They get so stressed out over it. SGM Walker was yelling at everyone. Actually, everyone is terrified of him. I just do what he tells me. He had Sweeny go around with his rifle tied by a rope to his wrist – like a pet or something. Sweeny left his rifle on top of his Hummer last week, and as he and sergeant major left regimental HQ, the rifle fell off the top of the Hummer and the sling got stuck on the end of the barrel of one of a passenger’s rifle pointed outwards. So, Sweeny’s rifle was hanging, but saved from falling onto the rushing pavement below. Thus, his rifle must be attached to his body in some way.
Anyways, the TOC was nervous. I went around gathering trash from the floor – little bits – just to stay busy. I placed them in my right hand (little bits of plastic and paper). Right then, the brigade sergeant major walked through the door and there I was. He grabbed me and shook me. I thought it was funny, like a kid being jostled around by his grandpa. It happened so fast.
“You hard at work? OR workin’ hard at nothin’, corporal?” he laughed. He went to shake my hand, but it was full of trash! So I tried to rest it on my arm (the trash). It must have looked funny, he gave me an amused look and went on to greet the others. My greeting was so informal and loud. I found all the stress and fear in the TOC to be laughable. Then, I left the command center.
I went to call my mom on the satellite phone, as I hadn’t heard anything from her since the hurricane. My dad, a veteran, answered and I told him about the grenade attack. He seemed a bit confused. Again, he and my mother are so supportive of the military – but he never got shot at in 18 years of service. No wonder they love the military. Then I told my mom, and she didn’t seem to realize how serious it was. She went straight to talking about her trip to Cleveland to drop off Kaylie with Nicol and her husband. So, I lost interest in talking to her, and she was using a cold tone of voice, so my 10 minute limit was a welcomed restriction. You and I got to talk for an hour or so! That was good! I feel so melancholy though. It’s just today though. Conroy and I talked some more about the grenade attack today. It seems only us that were there can relate about how serious the attack was. Everyone has heard about it, they even are amazed we were in the attack. They called our retreat to CPA “The Mogadishu Mile” after the movie, “Blackhawk Down.” It was no joke. It’s still on my mind, the explosion and the emotions – keeps flashing in my memory. I heard some gunshots today from a firing range, and it made me nervous. I just wanted it to stop. It seemed so senseless. It got on my nerves. I also feel a bit different since the explosion. There’s a frankness I feel inside. I don’t know. It will all pass. It’s difficult to relate the experience to anyone though.
Yesterday, when we returned from the CPA HQs, Sergeant Newsome came up to me and had the nerve to ask why I didn’t pick up breakfast for the TOC that morning. No one ever told me to pick up chow, and I haven’t done that in 150 days! These sergeants are so idiotic.
‘I don’t give a shit about your fucking breakfast! You got it?! I got a grenade thrown at me, so you keep your chicken shit to yourself. You get a schedule made up for breakfast pick up if it’s so important,’ I said to him. I can’t believe these people. Even when we got attacked, I had to control the situation along with my two captains – while Sergeant Albert ran around scared and confused, then later unable to keep up with our retreat across the Tigris River because he’s so overweight. Then, they needed help cleaning glass shelves only hours later for today’s visit. SPC Baker and I were laughing to ourselves over how absurd it was we were cleaning glass shelves in a combat zone, and only a few hours after almost being killed.
“I wonder if we’ll get a medal for cleaning this shelf? Haha!” we laughed.
Then, Sergeant Rush came up. “Did you finish those things I asked you for?” I was gone all day. See, Sergeant Rush likes to give me his work to do for him, as if I work for him. Like laminating and cheese work. So I did one book for him just to be nice and copied some other things.
‘No,’ I said calmly, ‘I didn’t finish it.’ I gave him a look that said, ‘Go to hell.’ He walked away, resigned to the fact that he would have to do the project himself. He’s one of those, “I’m so busy doing nothing” people. Then I looked around and noticed I was surrounded by scared men, men not scared or even touched by combat – but rather scared of looking bad for not having something small and insignificant done in an office. Men who hardly ever leave the building. I noticed too my hair is starting to fall out again. It stopped falling out for some time. I think it’s because of stress. We had such a good time before I came here, and it didn’t fall out! No joke! Ah Nora, I love you – I miss you so much.
Today, Major Ramirez said, “Get you some eaters and shitters,” (people who are just sitting around) to help me out carrying some things to another room. He spoke to me like I was stupid. When I came back upstairs, I saw him and Major Stanton playing chess in his office while he puffed on a cigar. He was trying his hardest to play the part of a playboy. I saw him move a chess piece, and thought,
‘You love playing that chess game with your subjects – but if you were such a genius in strategy, you wouldn’t have led us into an easy ambush situation yesterday.’ I remember clearly in my head images of him looking terrified, and then rambling like a lunatic about his 5 year old son wanting to be a soldier one day, and he punching me in the arm after we got to CPA to let me know he was proud of us. This was the same man who almost got us killed, and his cavalier attitude got us in a royal mess. Over the past week he’s talked about getting in the pants of the chemical officer girl at regimental headquarters (that’s why we sit outside even longer after meetings now – so he can flirt). He’s a homeboy in gentleman’s clothing. He said something very telling though. He said,
“The art of life is the art of hustling.” I was so deeply moved by his philosophy. It’s time to move on from the Army. It’s getting worse – even in the officer corps. It’s really important to have good leaders – exceptional people, people that draw you towards them. These people just repulse me. I need a good profession to seek. I would love that. I’ve been thinking more and more about teaching.
Lee just came in and told me there was a bombing near brigade. The MPs took some casualties. Absolutely horrible. I heard some .50 cal machine gun fire a little while ago too out of my window. Now we’ve got windows in our rooms (our barracks have been renovated), so I don’t hear as much gunfire. Spatzi, I love you! I miss you! I need you so much. I keep thinking about homecoming and getting back to normal again. You are my happiness – and I want to be successful for you Spatzi, build a home for you. I love you –completely. I cannot wait to hold you again. I thank God for your love, and all I’m learning.


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