This is a hard post to write. Not because the subject matter is painful, (I’ll stare into the darkest pain with you), but because it is so personal to my daily life. Someone asked me why I let the events in Iraq bother me.

I’ll tell you why.

Every day I interact with guys who lost men they loved dearly, who struggle every single day with memories, horrific flashbacks, anxiety, guilt, brokenness, anger. Men who are afraid to sleep because of the terror that waits to ensnare them when they let their guard down. Men who carry a weight on their hearts that comes from being forced to kill parts of themselves in order to do what combat demanded they do. Men who stared death in the face day after day, deployment after deployment, who made decisions that can’t be undone. Men who died inside themselves to keep their brothers alive and must live with the fact that they couldn’t save everyone. Men who were fucking good at what they did. And did the best they could.

If you’re reading this, you most likely are one of these men. You know what I’m talking about. The world doesn’t see the man you were in combat. They have no idea they are in the presence of some of the highest caliber and highest tested human beings on earth. They see PTSD, and stumble over a “mental illness”. They see the guy working checkout at Walmart with a little pin that says “proud to be a veteran” and scowl at him for taking too long to move their groceries past a scanner. They see an overweight guy with a beard at the bar who doesn’t look like he has it all together and dismiss him without a second thought. They see a thin wiry guy who works in the cubicle next door and keeps to himself and think he’s socially awkward. They see… absolutely nothing.

They don’t see you. The real you. The man you are. The one you became in those streets and houses and rooftops, the orchards and roads. The man you still are. The man you will always be. They don’t see what courage means, or honor, or love that is stronger than death.

So, why does Iraq’s fall bother me?

Because I see a generation of men who will have Iraq woven into their souls for the rest of their lives. I see the pain, the struggle, the cost to hearts and how it plays out in daily lives. I know what it has cost and what it still does. I cry with these guys, I carry their secrets, I know the stories so painful and horrific they can hardly find words to whisper it. But they do. Because they are men. Brave. And unafraid to be afraid.

But the fall of Iraq? The fall of Iraq rips open tender wounds, starts the bleeding again, tugs at the part of these men that longs to be powerful and fierce and vicious, that part of them that knows expertly how to take those motherfucking extremists out — that part of them that can kill evil and has. These men know power. They know it unlike anyone else. And that desire… that desire forces them to come face to face with the reality that now… now they are that guy at the Walmart checkout, the overweight one who’s invisible at the bar, the wiry guy in the cubicle next door. Men who now everyone assumes are not much more than losers, hardly getting by in life, just barely making it. And that… that, right there, that realization, is what kills me. That pain.

These brothers that I love and am willing to fight for their soul’s freedom, they aren’t going back to Iraq. Their warfighting days are over. They have PTSD, and TBIs, and worn and battered and bone-weary bodies, minds, and spirits. They have to wake up each day and face the reality that they’re never going to be that Marine, that Soldier, again. And that is what fucking hurts so bad.

So, yeah, we can deploy to Iraq again, our current warfighters know how to fight. We can fight again today. It’ll fall again in 10 years. We can go back. We can stay out. We can debate it until we’re besides ourselves. It’s not going to make a difference. The Administration is going to do whatever is in their best interest. And our warfighters will do what they do best.

But my guys, they have to live with what that land has already taken from them. And what they’ve given it. And what they still give it every fucking day. They have to wonder now if their buddies died in vain. Or if the ache in their knee and the images of bloody flesh in their mind and the screams they hear when the room falls too silent — if it was all for an Administration who never actually saw them. And still doesn’t.

And that’s why Iraq bothers me.

200 thoughts on “Why the Fall of Iraq Bothers Me

  1. As a two tour Vietnam Veteran who lost a Brother-in-Law, 5th Infantry, and friends, I get why the fall of Iraq bothers these veterans. They as we then fought to free a country and it’s people only to walk away and turn our backs on those who died and were wounded and those with PTSI (Post Traumatic Stress Injury) and those who have died by suicide. We are not a nation of quitters, we are a nation of liberators. I mourn the Fall of Saigon and will until the day I die. From Korea on we have lost the will to finish what we start.

    To the Band of Warriors, we live and die to a higher code.

  2. What may seem like no honor and no spine often comes from generations, if not centuries, of different cultural values and experiences. But no person and no culture will ever move forward until they personally own responsibility for their own lives/country. That’s hard to do when someone else started your war or changed your life, but ultimately, it’s the only way forward.

  3. I am a Navy vet from the previous generation. The generation that went to “liberate” Kuwait from the invading Iraqi military. I never served in combat ops, my ship was busting drug runners in the Caribbean. Even then I wondered why we were fighting a battle for such a wealthy country as Kuwait. And I had my theories. When Bush Sr declared victory and the end of Desert Storm, I was absolutely furious! I told my Captain we needed to cruise our ass to the Gulf and finish the job our President was too stupid, corrupt, or incompetent to finish. I obviously caught all kinds of shit for that position, which I have never wavered from. We LOST Desert Storm according to the objectives of the mission. Specifically in removing the threat Iraq posed to the region and the world. I still don’t know if that threat was real or not. I have my doubts today. What I do know is this. Right or wrong, you don’t go into someone’s yard and kick them in the balls and think they are going to just take it. You’re going to have to break their back, or they will continue to be a problem. We needed to hammer on Iraq like we did Japan and Germany in WW2. But instead, we pulled out before the job was even close to done. And that’s why you’re generation had OIF. That’s why you’re brothers are so broken and struggle so. They did their job, and even today, DC fails all of us. From the moment Desert Storm was declared a victory, I knew my service to this country was in vain. I knew my chain of command was incapable of completing a mission. And I knew they would never be honest about it. That decision was made 25 years ago. And I have lost most every veteran friend from that time, and many more because of it. But here we sit, today, where every day history proves me right. I’m sorry you have had to serve under the traitors who occupy DC. And thank you for your service and courage and dedication.

  4. Those of us who were there are also not surprised by what has happened. We knew how lazy the IA is, how corrupt they are. We also knew the IP were a bunch of corrupt cowards. You can’t expect someone to defend their country when they have no honor and no spine.

  5. Never deployed to Iraq, but I’ve been a spectator to war in both Afghanistan and Bosnia. Its not easy seeing something you were willing to put your life on the line for eventually fail. Something the guys next to you did pay with their lives for. The military was never going to be the final solution in Iraq or in any place in the world. Our job, as I see it, is to clear it of, at least, one faction of assholes or hold it together long enough for a lasting political / diplomatic solution to be reached. Most of the time, the military does its part and more. The failure is not ours and we all have to recognize that.

  6. What to say? I’ve been there. I feel that pain of not being seen for a part of who I’ll forever be. I haven’t whispered enough of my pain yet, though I’ve been trying to get there. I am a death bearer. I fought for causes I ceased to believe in while”over there.” I believe I was used as a machine over there. But, whatever the Admin.’s intent, mine was as pure as one’s can be when going to kill, to risk your life, to see So Many others DIE… I was an “Expert.” Does it matter now??? I fought for freedom, for democracy, for national security, to protect those I loved… There’s too much locked up inside. It’s great that so many men entrust you. God, I can’t stand thinking this, but you say the men that told you their worst stories did so because they are men and not afraid to be afraid. I think I know that feeling, for not long ago I fired a therapist/counselor for refusing to listen to me. Yet, I’m wondering, knowing intellectually that this isn’t so, if it’s because I’m not a male that I haven’t found that degree of readiness to reveal my pain.

    You spoke of parts of us dying. I feel that. It is a strange phenomenon to experience profound disappointment in one’s self having taken a life, and simultaneously to have felt exhilaration, pride, &/or relief. It seems to me that what we do to others we do to ourselves, and in that sense, I have killed off a lot of me before I decided I could do it no more, not when I no longer saw a reason… Am I weak? Am I the unidentified nobody that maybe some see in me, not wanting to see the pain and fear, the guilt or shame, the Hell that travels with you (with me, that is) wherever I go?

    Living in a world where it seems the norm to compare ourselves with the outsides of others, contributing to it by playing the game, it can be confusing: I want to fit XYandZ’s expectations of me, to fit in or blend in. But how do you do that? Can you? Some can. Should we? Is it in our best interests to do so. Maybe at times or for a time. Yet eventually, at least for myself and so many of your courageous male friends, I’m beginning to feel the necessity of acknowledging parts if who I am and will forever be in the presence of validation and love. When? How? — After serving for months with a counselor who I felt obligated to better train, yet leaving as if I’d just lugged the 175lb body of a male comrade up an 8 mile hill only to have him die at the top. I left there feeling more loss and grief than I knew what to deal with. I went in to fire her on the day she told me that she was going on vacation for two weeks.

    Since then, I’ve been taking a break. But a recent death of a friend is pushing me back to my need to let go and to be set free. Iraq: You said much. I pray now for people on all “sides.” I feel abandoned by the Gov. I say I do not care, but I care. I hurt. And I am seeking my way back to some Light and a Power of Love which I know can conquer evil, the ravages of war and the remnants in us all. There will always be ways to that Light and Love. This forum is one big step in that direction for me.

    Sometimes I don’t know if I’ll be as brave again as when trying to make therapy work with a clueless counselor… But, I must. The alternatives are too ugly and I’ve lived them long enough. This Blog is available on the www. One prayer I have is for dialogue between Iraqis and USAmericans. We have much to say to each other, much suffering that we share. I pray for that Country and those in it, including the terrorists, as one cannot, as I see it, be a terrorist without being first and foremost one in great sense of terror, usually denied via the masks of outrage and self-righteous indignation (feelings I believe that we would all do well to be aware of in ourselves, so that we may find the courage within to overcome those feelings with what we need more, Love, healing, compassion. Easy to say, less so to do. So I pray for the help we all need to heal and breach the gaps within and around us with acceptance, respect for self, for others, and Love, as universal as fear but more potent by far).

    No one dies in vain. How many times I have cried, woken in starts over the “meaningless” deaths of others, of Americans, of Iraqis, of others, countless in number. But, my soul tells me that the souls that came and “went” from life as we know it, did so to offer the survivors gifts and lessons that we will only receive when open to them. Grief and questioning, seeing No F’ ing point, it’s natural.

    However, it helps me to see that our Countrymen/& women (from any Country) were and are souls more than mere bodies through which we met their souls in tangible ways, and some we knew and felt connected to felt more in the gut alone… Importantly, to my way of thinking (at what I believe is at its current best) is that no soul ever dies. NO PERSON HAS OR WILL EVER DIE IN VAIN, NO MATRER HOW IT MAY APPEAR IN THE SURFACE, WHICH I THINK WE, Incl. I, DWELL ON AND IN TOO MUCH OF THE TIME, WHEN WE NEED BALANCE, JUST AS WE NEED EACH OTHER, OUR SHARED STORIES, A FOCUS ON THE LIVING SOUL OF GOODNESS WHICH LIVED IN EVERY CHILD, WOMAN, AND MAN, REGARDLESS OF HOW WE PERCEIVED THEM IN LIFE AS WE ARE SO USED TO SEEING IT, AS ENDING HERE.

    It seems to me that we have choices as to whether or not to seek out the gifts and lessons of the souls who were with us in body for a time. In doing so, I am beginning to find some piece, an early beginning but an important beginning. May we all find new beginnings.
    This is long, edit all you need or wish, I say this at the end… Mayhap I should have to start for any reader, Blog Chief or others. Thank you for this!

  7. You didn’t deserve it. There are no words that I can tell you that will make what happened to you right or better.
    All I can do is stand here as a human being and see you as a human being and hold you in Love and ask your spirit to forgive my spirit for what my government has done.
    Thank you for standing up and saying: here I am, look at the reality of what war costs us as human beings.
    The price of any war is too high.
    Please feel welcome to email me privately at brittareque@gmail.com if you would like. I would welcome hearing more of your story.

  8. Imagine urself as an iraqi person
    Now am homeless .jobless. and no future
    Am forced to leave home again
    Now am in Jordan. .I can’t work and I hear Jordanien people complain
    Btw am a dentist and I spent whole my life working so hard to have the best
    But because of u and the worst iraqi government. .
    I lost everything and I don’t know if I can rise again .. what did I do to deserve that !!!
    I even spent all my life at home because of the bad situation and what I got bad memories. .country tried to kill me ..I can’t even work my own job I can’t be a dentist !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Can u tell me why
    May be u r human and I am not
    Even animal have rights !!!! And I don’t have
    Why !!!!!
    U know I didn’t see dad for 3 months now because he is sacrificing himself to offer a good life for me !!!!
    Why should life be that hard !!
    Now tell me why and don’t say because of ur people because I think am a human didn’t kill didn’t steal and hard worker and all the world steal my childhood my life my dream
    I didn’t play like u .. even couldn’t’t have friends because we were so worry keeping our lives !!!!!

  9. Ron — thank you for your service, I think it stinks that the “military” puts so much energy into training you to be a soldier…………..and so little into undoing that training so you can be a happy citizen again, It seems like they think you are disposable. My thoughts and prayers are with you and I have written to my senators and congressman to urge them to fund “re-entry debriefing” programs I wish you the best for your future.

  10. these articles i have read (all of them) the vets agree on alot of things. the best i have received was not through the VA system. I like to listen to other vets on how they get through their ptsd. we all have fought for our country in different decades. with the same out come not much of a surprise. my biggest heart goes out to the corpsmen who help keep us alive and safe. In my eyes they are my god. and the part that’s irking the most the VA hands out pills like they are like tic-tacks. i wont go into the ones im on but. i feel better when i hang out with fellow vets.

  11. But WHAT still for the Nam vet? Buy denying that there was any nightmares and hell to kids right out of High School, do you know what kind of responsibility it has been to be a wife of 2 such men? Buy denying their rights, disability, health care and an validation that The Vietnam War was real, how were some to believe symptoms of PTSD were real? When trying to help these two men, I still Love today, I am 100% Disabled from POW type torture. What did you do if you are a disabled woman, disabled by a veteran nobody in the VA helped until it was too late??? I helped them both get their disability and they went off to find a younger one. In a way, I don’t blame them, entirely, but they know what they did to me. Some of it was “Torture we used on Charlie. Things we’d do to the FNG’s to make them forget shit” I have been a volunteer for many Vietnam Vet fund raisers. Hell, I tried to sneak in when I was 14, to take care of the guys.I looked 18! But, Pray, tell me, what do I do> Where do I go to put Humpty back together again? I lost $80k a year from 30+ broken bones and a drowning, a very shortened list, and I am 100% disabled , getting $8,000 a year to the last ones $50k. What about spouses getting educated while their Soldier is deployed?

  12. I completely agree! Thank you so much for writing this. “Why does the fall of Iraq bother us so much?” people may ask you have hit the nail on the head with this one. I did my duty over there three times. The thing that is the most painful for me is not the fact that I spent time with my brothers and sisters in arms helping this country and fighting the bad guys and now it is going south again, it is not the fact that I was jumpy with a possible slight case of ptsd when I came back like everyone else that served over there, but that doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as knowing that there is the possibility that my friends who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and theirs (the Iraqis) may have died in vain and their sacrifice may have been for naught. I knew some of them well and some of them I did not know them so well but the loss of them is always painful no matter how well you knew them. I pray for the families who have lost their sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, grandfathers, and grandmothers for some as well. They are in Gods’ hands now! They are at peace! What does not help is there is no one who understands except fellow vets who were over there and in other wars as well and unless you in a major city they are few and far between. To finish this I will end with an anonymous quote I saw once that always makes me think of my friends, my fathers friends (Vietnam), and my Grandfathers and Great Uncles friends (World War II) that made the Ultimate Sacrifice “And when he gets to Heaven to Saint Peter he will tell ‘Just another soldier reporting sir. I’ve served my time in hell.'” It may seem odd but it always brings me comfort believing and knowing God welcomed them into Heaven with open arms. Just because it says soldiers and he I still always think of all of our branches and females too when I read or say this. I wish all of you well and safety and peace on your journeys through life. Gordon Out

  13. Thanks so much I am a Marine and Female tears r flowing but is good to know we got someone cares and know the pain

  14. iam a father of a veteran. i love my son. i love you. god be with you all. amen.

  15. That is beautifully written with so much love, and righteous anger. My heart bleeds for our Vetrans. I feel sadness throughout my heart and soul. I love each and every Vetran and wish I could show them.

  16. I normally do not take the time to read anything that I believe is just to lengthy. But I am so glad I took the time to read fully your post. You are a talented writer and this post grabbed my attention and interest and kept it all the way to the end. I literally felt cold chills while reading this article and became teary eyed it’s like we sat down in person and had a convo And u told my story. Thank you for this article sir. (Soldierboi)

  17. I read your post and I am so sorry for all the experiences that you ( Men and women ) went thru during your time in Iraq. My Dad was a POW/MIA in Germany during WW11 and he always told us kids when we asked him about his war experiences that you weren’t there you would not understand. Later in life he had grown heavy and if someone commented about it him he would tell them that when in war you eat what they give you and it wasn’t much he had to endure eating maggets and very little meat or vegetables and he would never go hungry again like he did during his capture. After he came home he had dysentery and other related issues and I remember for years after he had to go up into Michigan to the VA center for his bad stomach. And I’m sure for many other things he would not tell us about he passed away two years ago on Veterans Day at the age of 87. A few years before he died he wrote a book on his experiences as a POW and it was heart breaking what he had to go thru and what he endured. We were so glad that he passed on that most special of dates Veterans Day. But the one thing he said and I will never forget it was “as bad as I had it in Germany the ones that were captured and tortured in Japan were far worse then anything I had to endure”. His name is Harold Maerz !! He was lucky that when he got released and got out of the service he was treated well by the American people. The ones for Viet Nam were jeered at and did not come home to cheering people. No one understood that war so they were awful to the Men that fought so hard for that country They were considered to be drugged up hippy losers. At least now the Men and Women coming home have people that cheer for them and thank them for their service to our country. If I see someone in uniform I will always go to them and shake their hand and tell them thank you. Those two small words mean a great deal to them as it should. Sorry this was so long but when it comes to Veterans I always have a lot to say. So I am saying Thank You for just writing this post that you did and saying so many things I remember my Dad saying. Thank You for your service and the daily struggles that you and so many of our Soldiers have to go thru each day of their lives. God Bless you all.

  18. This is excellent and is exactly how many of us feel and have to work with everyday. Thank you for sharing

    Doc Vanderbilt
    Fox Co 2/23
    2nd Platoon Corpsman
    Sinners and Saints

  19. Rakkasan!! Fuckin beautiful brother, fuckin beautiful. Finally someone put it in words that most of us Iraq vets can’t find.

  20. Iraq isn’t going to fall. Baghdad isn’t going to fall. Too many Shia and Kurds. It enrages me that we had a chance to destroy ISIS staging bases in Syria and we did not do it. My buddies and I are just disgusted at the turn of events. Keep in mind that the best trained and motivated Iraqi Army units are near Baghdad and in Anbar. They also have 10,000-50,000 Shia signing up for the Army and militias as we speak. I have a hard tTheyISIS as a good move to tie down Iraq’s best units in An bar and assault Mosul where Iraq had their least trained and motivated divisions. Iraqs Prime Minster has been a disgrace and disaster.
    If the Iraqis can elect a new leader and unity goverment on June 30th that the Sunnis and Kurds can trust the ISIL will be left in a bad postion. They may wear out the welcome with Sunnis like in 2008.

  21. Dearest Jay,

    Thank you, ALL of you cause it is your words, thoughts, memories, fears, and hopes and dreams that are enabling me (a now retired Army Wife as my husband deems me :-), to better help my soldier. Though he just went thru the MEB process and April 29, 2014 was his first official day of retirement after 12 grueling years of being and Infantryman he still is very much “a soldier”. I know he would “suit up” if he could but an IED in the sandbox in 2006 pretty much done him in mentally and physically. He did pressure his doc to get him out of the boot so he could join his brothers for “one last go round in the sandbox” in 2009. He came back in 2010 a stranger in every way possible. I’ve endured it all with him as much as I can. I’ve watched as friendships faded, hobbies ignored, family brushed aside and children all but forgotten. I’ve seen my husbands beautiful life light dim to darkness as day after day he would either sit in solitude watching movies or playing video games. Eventually even they too lost their glamour. It’s taken me really digging in deep and dragging him out of his own private hell kicking and screaming, fighting for my marriage every moment of every day! It’s not perfect but I’ll take it cause it beats living without him and that’s just not acceptable. My husband, my soldier, is my best friend and if it means I must kick his ass from time to time to get his head screwed on straight then you can bet his best pair of combat boots I’m gonna do a good job! He refuses to talk to anyone much though he’s been medically listed with PTSD among the physical injuries. Most of y’all just don’t get it, we the spouses will take you any way we can get you cause you are still YOU, and we love YOU for the person you were, the person you are, and the person you long to be. If your spouses can’t offer you a love like that, kick her ass to the curb quick and find someone worthy of the warrior!!! I won’t lie nor make light that an military spouse is a hard life cause we all know its true, but if the love and trust is there you can endure anything tossed at you! I wish I could hug you all and say thank you and God bless you but I can’t so I hope you all know how much I appreciate your sacrifices and your words here.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Brown

  22. it took me along time to recover from Iraq and in some ways I will never will. I was wounded in iraq in 2004, I suffered a TBI, I also had to deal with the incompetent and toxic chain of command. I wrote a book about it. its called “the warriors way and the soldiers soul” I shortened it for the grunts out there young and old. I hope it helps , I had no choice but to write it.

  23. I appreciate you adding the comment including female soldiers. I was a medic who fought proudly with 1/6 inf in Sadr city, Iraq 08-09. I saw just as much combat off and on our JSS, held the hands of the dying men, and treated countless wounds. We all have a spot in our heads and hearts that was left in that place, something that no one but another veteran could possibly understand! My heart goes out to you and our comrades who also fight with PTSD. I have had several brothers who have taken their lives over the years because they couldn’t take it anymore. May you have one clear day where the ignorance if that country and our administration, doesn’t make you bow your head in shame. ALL GAVE SOME AND SOME GAVE ALL! SGT Burdick 68W20

  24. I feel for every person who has gone through this my eldest son went to Afghanistan. And he puts on a good mask although I know he’s hurting inside. I love him no matter what he had to do to make it back home safe and i am very proud of him! Always will be

  25. As a Vietnam veteran, I understand what it feels like to watch the country you fought in fall.

  26. You are not the first American vets to see this. Come with me those thrilling days of Vietnam. We fought (and many of us were drafted. We didn’t have a volunteer Army then.) There is a wall in DC that lists the names of those who died. And the TV stations broadcast film of helicopters evacuating panic stricken people from the American embassy. What has happened to the children of “The Greatest Generation”? We send our soldiers to fight and die for freedom, then get tired of the fight, announce we won, then pull out and let the remnant of our foes have the spoils.

  27. Thank you for your service, and your sacrifices. Some of us in the civilian world cherish you guys and gals more than you can appreciate. I salute you.

  28. Hi all,

    I’m not quite sure how I feel about this, and I say this because if you have traveled to multiple 3rd world destinations then you would understand that corruption, poverty and murder are normal everyday hazards. So I’m not the least bit surprised that Iraq would collapse after we pulled out. I’ve kicked down many doors to target houses in my time spent in the sandbox and was surprised to find local INGs and IPs on the otherside of the door. After a while it became normal putting Iraqi “Police” in zip cuffs. I found that my time spent there taught me a lot about how brutal the real world is, and how good we have it in the US. Now, I haven’t been overseas in a number of years, so I can’t claim to know everything that is going on there now. One thing that I do know is that I gave up trying to understand why we were there to begin with, I’ve lived and operated 7 of the major cities and moved approximately 14 times being part of a QRF battalion and have never seen any WMDs. I’m currently a civilian, and I’ll be honest in saying that it took a lot of work and crappy jobs to realize what it takes to make it in the civilian life. Some of the hats I’ve worn as a civilian so far are security guard, call center agent, construction worker, and worked in a tree nursery. I’ve been back to school and majored in criminal justice and business. I have now graduated in electrical engineering and I’m now working on medical equipment. It took a lot of decompressing and reflection trying to keep the good memories of my time spent in the infantry on the surface rather than bringing up the horrific ones. My advice to a soldier who is transitioning is find family and friends who are really there for you to help with the transition. I would also recommend counselling services, as far as PTSD goes. This is not weakness, this is sitting down with someone who is far more educated in what is going on with you to help you sort things out and get on with your life. I would also recommend going back to school and finding something your good at that will consume your thoughts in a positive way. I’m not saying that I figured it all out, but I feel I’m on the right track. There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not reminded of my time spent overseas, but I find now these thoughts are less and less throughout the day and they don’t consume my energy in a negative manner. This is a time to heal ourselves and move on from all this. To my brothers and sisters, I wish you the best in everything you accomplish from here on and hope you find a way to look past all this.

    J
    “The Right of the Line”

  29. I read this article all the way through and found it to be so true in a lot of ways. I was deployed 3 times to Iraq to run convoys. I’ve been shot at, blown up, and much more that can quickly be assumed, stuck in the middle of the worst towns with only my crew’s support and a lot more. In 2012 my crew and I were some of the last people on most of the fobs where there was no support of any kind. I know the emotions in this article all too well.

    I’m an Airman though. While it may not seem like a big issue, it is to me because I was there and felt what was mentioned in the article. Still feel it. We are just as invisible, if not more so, than the soldiers and marines because not even the other branches of military see or understand that we were just as much a part. And when I say we I include the sailors, and even some civilians, as well because I know they were right there as well.

    I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention to not include everyone but one of the things that sticks out to me about the article is how anyone could be one of the top notch individuals that you spoke of, but the top notch individuals aren’t always going to be soldiers and marines.

    Very nice article and thank you to everyone who’s served honorably.

  30. I just came across your post and to be honest, it’s the dead truth. I got to tour Iraq once back in 2009 and dealing with the situations over there has truly changed my life forever. Your right in the aspect that none of us get to ask why or have the ability to say no, we do what is asked of us no matter what. In that aspect, I was a corrections officer running one of the largest prisons in Iraq. I experienced situations with the reset of my brothers and sisters that no one could ever imagine was even possible, for that it has changed me forever. I did get to work outside the wire quite often moving prisoners from one point to another, being fired upon, and roadside bombs. One of my sister companies that was providing security for us moving was hit with a daisy chain that was meant to hit the trucks in my convoy, we were lucky not to have hit them, but my friends were not. It does feel that what we did over there was for nothing, blood shed, lives lost, hearts broken forever. And to only see on the news that it’s starting back up again, I stated a way back when that we would be back again, it’s a never ending battle. Although we had good reason to be there in the first place, the end will never be foreseen in any future and more lives will be lost, it upsets me greatly. Personally, I hate it when I go out and people identify me for serving and want to thank me for what i have done, in my eyes, i did nothing to be thanked. Although many people say otherwise, it will never change my outlook on it. I still am bothered from my experiences over there everyday and can’t seem to move past it myself, but at least I know I’m not the only one who thinks the way I do. Thank you very much for your post! It did bring back thoughts and emotions that did upset me but in a way, they needed to be expressed again!!

    OIF 09-10
    23rd MP CO
    AIRBORNE

  31. Thank you. I am not a soldier or a combat veteran. I mentor combat vets to help them find a healing path that makes sense to them and I just happen to have a pretty deep understanding of them. You can read more about my personal story on the Who am I? page. 🙂

  32. That’s intense, thank you for sharing your deep inner feelings. Of course only you and the rest of servicemen that served know the magnitude of pain you suffered and continue to do so in more ways than one. I love your post, it really puts a different prospective on veterans for me, not that I didnt beforehand, i give respect to veterans. I will keep your post as a constant reminder. You are in my prayer, I hope you find peace. Peace out!! Thank you soldier

  33. Terrible and horrifying for anyone to have to go through what our Iraq and Afghan veterans have been through. I salute their service and sacrifice. It is our duty as Americans to make sure future generations are not committed to similar wars fomented by our elites in Washington DC.

  34. Preach on brother, these are the best words I have read in a long time. Being honest about what is needed and what is best are two different things…. Keep on treading.

  35. Every word you wrote describes what I have known since 1969, when I came home from Vietnam. We who have seen combat and death are forever changed. I have two siblings and hundreds of brothers. There is no stronger bond than the one shared by all of us who were warriors. It does not matter what the year is or where we fought it our souls will forever be tied together by the body threads of our combat. Thank you for you eloquent statement.

  36. Incredibly written…my heart goes out to all men and woman who serve and protect mere strangers like myself. I am forever grateful for your unselfish sacrifices. From the bottom of my heart…I Thank You. Truely the #forgottenherosofthiscountry

  37. This brought tears to my eyes! I have the privilege of having a son in law who knows this all to well but has my incredable daughter there for him and their amazing son. To anyone that reads this, stay strong and know that there are so many who admire & respect you. Do not be ashamed of ur duty. You who have the power to serve are truely blessed, and with that said I honor all of you. Peace

  38. Amen! Semper Fi! I will die for my brothers and the rest of the world can kiss my ass. Desert Shield and Desert Strom 2/2 USMC

  39. Though these sentiments apply to all battles/wars that we have engaged in, it’s very personal for us in relation to Iraq. This should also serve as a reminder that you never know someone else’s story, to not judge based on one little snippet you may see, and though they may appear whole in appearance it is highly unlikely that they are whole in spirit. I see the scars in my husband and our friends… I also know the second-hand damage that spouses experience. It hurts me to know that my husband (and friends) is hurt, and hurting more acutely because of the current state of affairs in Iraq.

    Please be mindful of the our Veterans (and their spouses) – never let them believe that what they experienced was for nothing or that it will ever be forgotten!

  40. Coming from a spouse, of a 5 time deployed soldier; I am sorry for the ignorance some portray. My soldier, doesn’t talk to me because he feels I don’t understand. Thank you for being vocal on this. I need this knowledge to under. I pray all goes well for you. Many blessings love and Respect

  41. This is so well written. I was in Iraq in 2009-2010 as an infantrymam with the 82nd. I feel exactly the same way. I served in Afghanistan as well (a much tougher deployment) and I lost 2 brothers on April 22, 2012. I hope our country can come to realize how remarkable the young veterans among our population are. It pains me too see vets struggling with daily life, and the line about the general public not knowing how capable and tested these young vets are is so amazingly true. Great job on the piece, God Bless
    Evan,
    US Army 2008-2013

  42. It is sad. I can see how the current development makes veterans start asking themselves whether their service and their sacrifice was worthwhile. In Germany this is still to happen: now that western troops pull out of Afghanistan I am expecting a similar development. And over here veterans also have long been out of focus. As far as I can tell it has started to change and support of veterans is improving. But now we have a minister of defense who wants to make the army an attractive employer – with child care and all that stuff. They are asking soldiers to risk their lives – and they offer a corporate bonus package – at least that is what it feels like.

  43. So heavy is the burden my brother. Your post got me in the heart. Semper Fi

  44. I know the pain of loosing close friends called brothers , the sounds of war , the screams of pain . I wake still at night to hear voices and shots made ever so close , the explosions of mortars and rpg’s wizzing by , a round singing off near by walls . The smell of blood and the burn of being hit from passing through rounds from your friend next to you that isn’t there any more . Told not to talk about what you were ordered to do , not getting to call home so loved ones wouldn’t worry that what you were doing could be your last . To carry a secrete with you till the end of your time that keeps building up inside . People wonder why you stay to yourself , well it’s hard for them to realize what went on and the things you done that wasn’t human but you did under orders just to stay alive . Things happen that don’t even get recorded or printed in the news papers so some people say that didn’t happen . Well guess what I have my proof and when I’m gone from this world it will come out .

  45. Thank you for writing this article and telling everyone exactly how I am feeling lately. First of all, those in uniform are sent into battle without asking why, they do their job as best they can hopefully without losing a brother or a sister. I was a truck driver that was deployed 4 times driving up and down tampa every single day seeing the horrible after affects of ieds (almost on every mission), and yes firing my weapon on many occasions. I watched my fellow soldiers die and cried at their memorials. It definitely changed me. Because of all that, I do not sleep, have PTSD, loud noises scare the hell out of me, and do not like crowds anymore. I retired earlier this year because of injuries I received while deployed both physical as well as non physical.

    SSG Mary J Shipp
    RETIRED US ARMY

  46. I agree with everything you wrote and thank you for sharing. I’m glad you’ve found some peace, it took me a while to get over some anger issues too. But this article is titled “Why the Fall of Iraq Bothers Me,” and my point is that the fall of Iraq shouldn’t bother you.

    1. It was inevitable.

    2. We fight for each other, not for politics. That’s for the politicians and the voting public to figure out.

    3. We did the job we were sent and trained to do; and the scars of battle, both seen and unseen, will be with us forever. But don’t tie those scars to some intangible concept of political gain or loss. Tie them to duty, to honor, to country, and most importantly– to your comrades in arms. Why let a situation determined by literally thousands of variables affect your ability to put the past in the past?

  47. I haven’t been to Iraq, but I’ve seen combat. Even took a bullet. Carried dead and injured buddies, as to many of you out there have had to do as well. There is no way a person can go through that and not be someone else. I know I am. It took many years to realize those changes as well. I am now in therapy and take medications. At first i didn’t want them, but it’s all helped. It doesn’t treat the PTSD but it does make my focus clearer. It helps me “turn things off”, like my anger and aggression. Some of the violence inside is gone. I’m able to be a father and husband again. I spent to long as the man described in this post. But changes made because of combat don’t have to be what runs your life. Because it will/can destroy it and you. My father is a lonely alcoholic because he never learned to deal with his PTSD. I have tried to help him, but he doesn’t want it nor know how to take it. He physically returned home, but mentally is still there. I wasn’t going to do that to my family.
    So if you saw combat or the effects of it via a non combat MOS get help. Be it counselor, therapist, or a battle buddy. There are many of us that understand and you are not alone. It doesn’t matter if we should have been in Iraq, Afgan, Kosovo, Haiti, Saudi, Vietnam, Korea, Bosnia, or any of the other places the American forces have taken up arms, the fact is we did. And we, the soldier, marine, airman, and sailor, male and female pay for it. In blood, sweat, tears, mind, body, soul, and sometimes our lives. We are in this together even after the physical war is over.

  48. I do recognize in all veterans that they are of the highest caliber and I do feel for every single one of them for the pain they carry every day of their lives. My nephew served in Iraq about 4-5 years ago and came back a totally changed man. I see what serving in Iraq did to him. He lost some close friends there. I feel for him every day and pray for him to heal. I grew up in the 60’s an 70’s and I saw what went on in Vietnam. My hubby and I had friends who came back from Vietnam broken. Now I see my nephew going through similar situations.
    Just wanted you and all the veterans know that most of us see and recognize what they are going through.

  49. I’m just a salty Marine combat vet who served in Iraq as part of the invasion force in 2003. Thank you for putting into words everything I’ve been feeling inside lately. I’m choked up reading this. Just Thank you and a great big Semper Fi.

  50. The problem I have with this article is that it completely ignores the reality in that we embarked on a doomed to fail mission the moment we invaded. It was never about if we could win battles; of fucking course we could.

    But war is an extension of politics. I hate when warfighters act like politicians don’t “get” warfighting. That’s exactly why we’re fighting wars.

    And when you dispose an asshole leader with no plan for how you’re going to keep a fake nation burdened with thousands of years of tribal animosity together, what do you expect is going to happen? I remember in ’06 getting briefed on the goings-on in the Diyala Province and thinking that this was more mob-style turf warfare (and kill “infidels” in the meantime if possible) for when we inevitably left– whether that be in one year or 40.

    So no, nobody died or bled in vain. We did so serving our country admirably and for each other. That’s all that truly matters.

  51. Thank you. I found it and I have emailed them. I don’t mind sharing, but they should not have used it without permission or at least naming me as the author. Thank you for bringing this my attention. 🙂

  52. They may have wanted to share it, but they should have asked permission first. Do you have the link? I will contact them and ask them to please identify me as the author and include a link to my site.

  53. Britta, the reason I ask about the original author is because there is an organization called The Warfighter Foundation that has also posted this article as an “original” piece on their Word Press blog. Any ideas on why this is?

  54. Having been a medic that worked directly with Iraqi’s (including running a burn clinic for Iraqi Children) I have to say we were needed over there. The news likes to put spins on things so people who haven’t been there don’t understand.

  55. I just wanted to say thanks for this. I have so much to say but that’s all I want to say. Besides, you’ve already said it for me.

  56. Are you the original author of this piece? I ask because I saw this exact piece, word for word, in another publication today. I am looking for the original author to pass on a few thoughts, as I have been to Iraq on multiple combat deployments. Thank you for your response.

  57. Thank you sir for your cumitment and you honur…you are so right people don’t see us for who we are or what we have done and it kills us a little ever day…the sleepless nights the endless nightmares, the ever vegolint minde watching and can’t let down its gard, and then there is our family’s that half to love with us and threw it with us every day if we are lucky enough to have the that will stay and help. Dose the fall of Iraq bother us yes, we can’t adored to think the things we did and still face today was all in vain and for nothing….thank you sir for believing in us and for caring

  58. So beautifully and gut wrenchingly written . My son and nephew are both Iraq vets. This could not be more true.

  59. The most accurate description of life after oif that I’ve ever scene. Glad someone captured it and could put it in words. Hopefully people read this and can better understand.

  60. Helene, I appreciate your honesty and as I was a former enlisted man turned officer after receiving a scholarship and being deployed to Iraq twice, I concur with you that you cannot return unchanged. Fear not, though while Brent’s article is true, and heart felt, and it is hard, realize that not everyone will come back and be changed for the worse.
    Honestly, it can be real difficult, heart wrenching when you lose a great soldier, even more so when you could have been the one that died oversees because of a decision you make, but on the other hand, it appears he is a strong minded individual and had a direction and approach in life that he may overcome these hard obstacles, refocus on what is important and be a better man as well.
    Yes we do change, and sometimes it may not be to someone’s liking, but as a whole many do become better. I believe I have in many respects, on the sad note I have disassociated more with my parents and sister since coming back, but I had always made the extra effort knowing I was there son, now that I have 3 children of my own, I spend more time and energy on them and with them then I do with my parents. Things change and you have to adapt, except, and still love and appreciate.

  61. Sue, were you over there. I was twice and I realize some people debate as well if they were over there. But, I will tell you living on the ground, working with local Iraqis, witnessing what they live with and had to live with under Saadam, you would never convince me that we did not belong over there. The debate for me is, when is or was the right time to pull out or what would have been the right strategy to have soldiers over there is what is the question not that we should not have gone.

  62. I have many friends that are vets and have so much love and respect for who they are. But what I’m having trouble with is understanding why my friends and others join in the first place? Why sign part of your life away, become brainwashed, and take the risk of coming back someone completely different than who you left home as, if in the end nothing changes but you & our government simply becomes more corrupt than they were to begin with?

  63. I just want to start this out by saying I am not a veteran, and I was never in the armed forces. However, many close friends have been deployed and in the service.

    I just want to say that, I like many other Americans can never repay you or ever truly understand the damage combat has physically and mentally. I do want you to know that no matter if I know any of personally or not I consider you brothers, and love, and respect you all for the sacrifices you have so selflessly made for this country.

    You are much more brave and strong than any critic of our occupations in those countries ever will be!

    God bless the USA and our most of all our battle scared veterans.

  64. I was a contractor in Iraq for 6 years. I have a son who was in Afghanistan for 15 months. I see what it’s done to him. I talked to a lot of young soldiers over the years there biggest fear was not being killed it was one of the guys being hurt and not being able to help them. So for are government to put them in pull them out to make there self look good in the polls. Is a disgrace to anyone who ever wore the uniform. Most people in this country have no clue what happened over there and a lot don’t care. God bless all the men and women and families who fought for the once great country.

  65. Thank you for this. In the endless news cycle we forget about the men and women who are and have been the tip of the spear. I want you to know that I remember. I’ve raised my sons to remember and respect what you have done. I know it seems pointless to you at times, but I know some good came from your hard work and sacrifice. Somewhere tonight there I will be on my knees praying for you and asking God to give you peace. Thanks for your service.

  66. I thank you for your service! You are a brave & inspiration to us all! God Bless You!!!

  67. Damn you. I’ve been out of the service for two years now and pretty much everything you’ve spoken is dead nuts. It kills me knowing I’ll never be that soldier that I once was. I ets due to the fact that with the pain that runs through me every day effects my daily life. Knowing that if I were back on combat I wouldn’t be nearly as effective and would most likely be a burden. And in accepting this was one of my hardest battles. Thank you ppl don’t know who we are and never will.

  68. I promise that some of us do see. Some of us do our best to understand something we have no way to fully understand, but we try because we love these men (and women) who steeled themselves to do what others could not. I teach my daughters every chance I get that we must always show our gratitude and honor our heroes. Men and women who have stood to protect us. These are debts that can never be repaid, but still we must try. These are things we can never understood, but still we must try. These are our brothers, cousins, fathers, and husbands. My girls see some of what their daddy lives with every day, and they know why. They see what their stepfather lives with, and they know why. They walk in a parade clutching flowers to decorate a grave, and they know why. They walk with me and look every person wearing Veteran’s insignia straight in the eye and say thank you, and they know why. Some people do not have the strength or the stomach to look upon grief and pain, but some of us must. Some people do not try to understand, but I promise that some of us do. Some of us care very much. It breaks my heart to see this happening again but do not ever doubt, you are all heroes and nothing was done or paid in vain. You all did what you were called to do for our country, you did what others would not or could not do.

    To the person who wrote “you’re not going to like this”, you’re right, we don’t.

  69. I normally don’t comment on this stuff… but what hits home to me is that all of my time in Iraq – nearly 2 years (2005-2006, 2010) – was in Mosul and the surrounding area, the Kurdish semi-autonomous region on the edge of the current fighting, Tikrit, Bayji, Tal Afer, Qayarrah…the list goes on and on. I see pictures of places I once stood, places that for all our flaws we tried to make better and bring some level of hope and civil order, and for what? And do you want to know the recurring theme amongst us who did those deployments? Retired, still active, it doesn’t matter… “Let’s get the band back together”. We brought order once, we can bring it again. Not that any one of us individually really wants to go back, but as a group we fought and bled together and we’ll be damned if someone else will take away and destroy what we still rightfully claim as ours, our small victories in a war-torn land. And that’s it. Because after fighting together, it doesn’t matter if you’re the wiry guy in the cubicle, the Walmart checkout guy, the bearded dude at the bar, or the guy still in the military who has done more deployments since…we all want to get the band back together for one last hurrah and one last victory if only for the memory of the sacrifice of our brothers the first time around to justify to ourselves that it wasn’t all in vain.

  70. Got med evaced out of Afghanistan in 2011, this post describes every bit of my life now and the guys I served with. Your spot on with portraying what we all go through on a daily basis. And how it kills us combat wounded veterans, knowing that we’ll never be able to go back to doing what we’re good at, being soldiers.
    OEF 11-12 26IBCT

  71. So well written, thank you for your service & may God bless you & yours.

  72. All I have to say is Thank You. Thank you so very much for writing this and trying to help people understand our struggles that we face on a daily basis. Thank you.

    Sgt. Richard McCarthy
    United States Army Retired

  73. Very good article. This really hits home for me. I did three tours in Iraq as a Marine and every day I watch the news in disgust. I’ve been off active duty for almost five years now. Nowadays I struggle with a place or role in society. I’ve been through extensive programming at the VA and have come along way

  74. I’d just like to say as a female OIF/OEF veteran that we rolled with the 1AD as military police officers. 2003-2004 not all females were behind the lines. I was a gunner, our company lost a female gunner to an ambush. I know you mean no harm, and this is well written, but please don’t assume a female soldier is hiding in a corner…I was one of the best SAW gunners in the company. I shielded the turret with my body so the rubble wouldn’t hit my team leader or driver, in the 5 IED blasts that hit our truck. Don’t assume.

  75. Our fight in Iraq was not for terroir or for helping the Iraqis. Our fight was to bring our brothers and sisters home to their familys and friends. We are Marines and other service members that fallow orders and do what we are told. We are told to go to some country and fight and complete missions and come home. Most of us are never told why we have to do it or what the real reason is for. All we know is that we may never see American soil or hold our family and friends again. Many of us will be scared for life whither we were injured in combat or not. Our sacrifices that were made were made for nothing because nothing will change over there. Their way of life is how it is, they don’t want anything from us unless we bring food or money, we can teach and rebuild all we want, when we leave to go back home everything will be lost. They have no care in freedom of speech, right to vote. They care only of wealth and family and the after life. This is just one wounded Marines thoughts and experiences in the crazy world.

  76. There is nothing else that needs said here except I feel what you have written and I cried over it. No one can understand other than us. It is good to see more here on Word Press writing about how we feel. I will be sharing this as I do all the things I write with my friends and bruthas. Thank you for this. THIS is healing.

  77. To all the vets out there thank you. My tears are tears to show that I have not forgotten even if the governments that sent you there have. Thank you so very much.

  78. exactly – they were sent. they went – that takes guts. The old men who start wars are never the ones who face the ugliness of it. The ones who served. deserve out thanks and respect.

  79. I’m just a Marine Veteran Wounded Warrior Mom but this is what I would like to tell you, and all of those who served in Iraq about what is going on now……..

    No matter what happens in Iraq that may seem as if our previous efforts were in vain. Remember this please; our men & women of the military are sent to do a job. They are not there to promote politics or decide policy, they are sent on a mission from their commanders and that is what they do. Therefore, their tours in Iraq were NOT in vain, but jobs well done!
    We don’t look at previous wars that were lost or efforts missed as failures.
    The blood shed and lives sacrificed are all because these heroes chose to do what was called of them to do.

    You are appreciated by this old mom and soooooo many more, please know that.

  80. I’ve never met you – my husband has never served in the military however his brother and our 3 nephews have and continue to serve proudly. All have had multiple deployments. Since we don’t live near that part of the family I’m not sure how much their assignments have affected their lives. I can’t even imagine or begin to understand.

    Now my son is a sophomore in college, going through the ROTC program. He’s so enthusiastic, so committed. I can see the change (for the good) about him already; taking pride in his appearance, always clean cut; working out everyday so as not to lose all that he worked hard for last year. Now he’s worried about not graduating with an active duty assignment – that he’d be put on reserve status. I have to tell you when he began this process I was not on board – I have no problem saying “not my son”. But how can you argue with someone who so passionately immerses himself into whatever he’s asked to do? For the first time he’s found his “place”. So while I’ve not completely come ‘on board’, I do support his goals and his ideals.

    So what’s my biggest fear? That he will come home from wherever he’s been deployed completely changed. How can anyone experience what all of you brave men and women have come up against and not be changed? I’ve read so many personal accounts and my heart breaks for all of you.

    My son has an amazing personality, he’s self confident, conversational, caring and committed to his family.He’s gung ho and ready to conquer the world.I don’t want to lose that part of him. After reading you blog entry I’m even more saddened.

    Please know I will keep you and all who have served our country in my prayers for God’s grace to bring you peace.

  81. My husband is an Marine who toured Iraq twice, both times were Fallujah. I whole heartedly agree with your insight. I love my husband before, during and after his beloved Corps and will continue to be his primary support through all of this. Our thoughts are with you and your family. Know you are not alone.

  82. Two deployments to Afghanistan and just recently out of the Army. This post describes my current life and those I love and served with. War and military life in general changes a person forever. Almost on a daily basis I fight internally with either going back or contracting. I will never be the same guy I was before January 1, 2008..my enlistment date.

    Thank you for putting into words how many of us feel. And even more kudos for using social media to spread it.

    Brent Howk
    OEF 09-10′ RC-S
    11-12′ RC-E
    AIRBORNE!

  83. The fact that we should have never gone there takes nothing away for your service and the reality of your experience. OR from the fact that once home those who sent you failed miserably to care for you …

  84. I feel the same about Haiti, and almost all of what you wrote applies to me almost 25 years later. We worked hard, we dealt and dealt with the unspeakable horrors of conflict. Tried to save lives, lost many, and saw an absolute miscarriage of justice on the murderers that we caught and handed over to local authorities. Am I surprised when I see Haiti in the news these days, and that nothing ever really changed, no. Does it hurt when I think of all that we endured in the name of our country to see it utterly be in vain, yes. I do pray for my brothers and sisters that some day, when they sleep, the devil will be held at bay, if only for a moment, that they may rest. Pray this for me too.

  85. Thank ypu for such an honest and open article. I served 22 years and spent 4 deployments in Iraq, you have expertly captured all of the emotions that have been coursing through me these last couple of weeks. Well done

  86. My son deployed to Iraq twice. He was in the 2006 battle in Ramadi. Last Veterans Day we went to a parade and took his two children to McDonalds afterwards. My son was in his Alphas and the young man serving him asked him if it was his costume. My son stayed somewhat composed and said “No, this is my UNIFORM for the United States Marine Corp. See all these (pointing to his ribbons) I have earned everyone of these, most of them in battle so you can stay safe and sell your hamburgers and be ignorant to the world around you.”

    The average citizen has no idea what the men and woman in the military actually do, the commitment, courage, passion and bravery they have for their country and one another. My son is still serving in the Marine Corp and I couldn’t be a prouder Mother of A Marine.

  87. The problem with the Iraq war was that, because we didn’t have a legitimate reason for our invasion, all deaths(on both sides) were inevitably going to be in vain. No matter what. Those of us who were paying attn knew that the WMD’s didn’t exist. That the “evidence” of Saddam’s pursing a nuclear program was based on intelligence from the 80’s. That’s the problem with lies, you can’t ever spin them into a valid justification. The web eventually entangles you. What we have gained from this is the important lesson that “who you’d rather have a beer with” isn’t an effective means for selecting a Govt. official. Let the dead & wounded remind us that in a Democratic Republic you can’t simply coast on autopilot. It’s our job to keep our elected officials on the straight & narrow. To make them accountable for their actions. If we truly care for our military we’ll stop allowing them to be sent into pointless conflicts & actually take care of them once they are home…

  88. This is exactly how I have been feeling the last few days with no idea how to express these feelings to anyone other than my brothers most of whom are out now. I retired just over a year ago, and have been glued to the news watching, and reading everything I can find on the situation only to find that there is a deep black spot in my heart that is screaming at me to do something….anything. I find myself wishing that my phone would ring and it would be someone telling me that they need me to come back, hell I’m already packed. However when the phone did ring and it wasn’t the call I wanted, instead it was my 20 year old son letting me know that his unit has been called up and that he will be heading to Kuwait in the coming days. Now, I am so confused on what I should feel. Proud of my son for standing up to answer the call, fear that he will come to know and see what I have seen, hate that the cowards who have put us in this position have no idea what it does to a man.

    For now, I will trust that the warrior brotherhood that stood to my right and my left when the shit was bad will be there for my son, and my brothers and I will pace the house waiting for a call that we know will never take place.

  89. I can’t stop reading this, it’s been 6 or 7 times now. I don’t know how you did it but I want to plaster this all over for the entire world to see. Thanks for writing this… thank you.

  90. Nearly every single day, day in, day out, every breath in my lungs, every beat in my chest aches to be back in the fight. I couldn’t have written a better piece to explain exactly what I feel. Thank you.

  91. Thank you so much for this! keep doing what you do and i guarantee that we will be there supporting you along the road. GOD bless you.

  92. Thank you for your service — my thoughts and prayers were with you then — and are still with all the fine young men (and women) of my generation who went there. I pray the memory of it dims, that new happy memories crown it out.

  93. After every other war soldiers came home and were respected, honored, got “points” toward jobs and school and loans for homes. Viet Nam was an ugly war but the men who went we brave and loyal to our country – they were treats like S**t. A country that can find the $$ to train people to go to war should certainly find the $$ to help with “reentry”, I don’t pity – I salute you. When I hear of a vet with physical or emotional wounds again I don’t pity — I get angry at “the powers that be”. If some corporation finds a way to make big bucks on healing soldiers — maybe then it will happer. OR we can protest — long and loud to get what our veteran brothers and sisters need.
    Thank you for your service !

  94. In those nights when the darkness is SO deep … think about those of up out here who appreciate you and what you did, for us. My thoughts and prayers are with you, my gratitude is deep. I hope knowing this will provide a bit of light in the dark.

  95. As a contemporary of yours I thank you for your service – if ever there wee men who got a raw deal you and your comrades-in-arms are the ones. My thoughts and prayers were with you then and remain so now. Be well, my brother !

  96. Craig — brilliant words that could not have had more impact. Thank you for saying what many of us think daily.

  97. This is a great piece and I want to say kudos to who wrote it. Please don’t forget the females too though-I know a lot of times when people think of war they think men-but females battle with PTSD and TBIs just the same-there is just fewer of us. We are a very hidden population-but we are there. Thanks again-been feeling like this for a long time-

  98. To amagine so many hearts so sunk within the founders and fighters of our country. I only have one thing to dream.. The dream freedom. The rest are thankful! God bless!

  99. I married such a man. My soldier though no longer active will forever serve this country! Recently medically retired after 12 years of loyal service, he struggles with life back in the civilian world. How do we help them? What do we say? There is nothing to be had or said that we can possibly do or say that will make us understand where they are coming from, yet one word from their comrades “Hooah” speaks it all! God Bless Our Military, Our Fallen, and Our Veterans! Without their sacrifices this country would be such as those we vow to save!!!

  100. With many tears, I thank you for this post. When your children enlist in the military, as a parent, you are drafted. I will never completely comprehend all that you men and women know having never physically been in battle. However, I am not the typical civilian either. I did and still do battle here on the home front. I feel the same anger and resentment concerning the lack of understanding and respect for our military, veteran and active. The same passion and anxiety for the events in Iraq run through my heart. They, politicians and civilians, will never understand what you and our families have given, are still giving and will continue to give until we die.
    ~with so much love & prayer,
    Ruth (daughter of Dean – soldier in Korean War (not conflict!), mother of Nathan – Marine veteran, and Joe – active duty soldier)

  101. I know this was written about combat veterans. And no, I wasn’t anything FUCKING CLOSE to a combat veteran, I totally understand that. I got injured during AIT (I was 25B my AIT was 21 fucking weeks), and blew out my knees and my feet. My ONLY option to get out was a Chapter 5-11 (I had to say my medical condition existed prior to service, because it happened within the first 180 days of my enlistment and I get no VA benefits what-so-ever even though I was told that I would ). It’s a struggle for me to even find proper civilian healthcare, and doctors don’t take me seriously…
    But what I do understand are these words right here:
    “And that desire… that desire forces them to come face to face with the reality that now… now they are that guy at the Walmart checkout, the overweight one who’s invisible at the bar, the wiry guy in the cubicle next door. Men who now everyone assumes are not much more than losers, hardly getting by in life, just barely making it. And that… that, right there, that realization, is what kills me. That pain. They have to wake up each day and face the reality that they’re never going to be that Marine, that Soldier, again.
    And that is what fucking hurts so bad.”
    This, this is so deep. This right here is exactly how I feel, and why it’s so hard for me. Not only that, but the physical debilitating pain as well.
    But it’s also knowing that I gave 150%. That I went from doing 35 push-ups 40 sit-ups and 21 minute 2 mile run, to like 55 push-ups, 78 sit-ups, and 2 miles in 14:10. That I pushed myself so hard that by body literally gave out. And now I’m back at home, and those closest to me only see a broken man. They look at me like I’m worthless, and I’m nothing anymore, because I have trouble even getting out of bed and walking to take a shit.
    If only they knew… but they will never know. And I wish they never will know, because it is a pain that is all too real.

  102. Thank you for writing this. I am not good at putting my thoughts into words, but this puts it perfectly. It’s been bugging me to a point where I tried to re-enlist, but they won’t give me a waiver. It’s hard coming to terms that I will never be that again.

  103. I pray for all soldiers in fighting in combat, fighting here at home, and fighting the demons within. Walk a mile in their shoes and then you will understand. Every time I see a soldier in uniform I walk up to him or her and shake their hand and thank them for their sacrifices. I wish more people would do the same!!! Thank you to all of them men and women that suffer so much for so many around the world big and small black and white, young and old. God bless them all!!!

  104. Britta. Thank you for the brief conversation. I hope you have moment to look over the material and decide whether or not you can work with us. You appear to have a talent with words and an ability to unlock a logical yet emotional reality behind the minds of many combat veterans. Looking forward to our next discussion.
    -RJ

  105. I don’t know why I am surprised at the current situation, after 3 years and 6 months in country as a scout I saw the best and worst of that dirt patch and I knew then that the bad out weighed to good there, I saw the INA and INP lacking in ability, discipline, leadership, and national pride to maintain what we gave them, it’s apparent now that we were right….. I am the son of a dessert storm veteran, I fought over the same ground my father fought over in 1991, my biggest fear is my children will fight over the same ground again…. That’s what keeps me awake at night now.

  106. This fits every war starting with Korea we are wasting American lives. When the politicians decide that war is the only option then you WIN!!!!!!! The price is too high for these actions to be just walked away from. I have lived with this for 47 years since Vietnam. As a Marine in a Machine Gun Squad of nine. Two of us came home alive. I live everyday with the images of them dying and the survivors guilt. My life is a challenge everyday. The World will never know Peace our Country must realize we can not make it happen.

    PFC. William Knoop 0331
    Alpha Co. 1st Batt. 3rd Marines 3MarDiv
    RVN 1966-1967

  107. I appreciate having read this post. My two sons and I are among the many pieces of collateral damage to have come out of our experience as a country in Iraq 10 years ago. I’m two years divorced from a husband who deployed in 04-05 as an officer in the US Army, he lost a soldier and an airman two months before the end of his deployment, it changed him forever. I connected with the line “…they died within themselves…” because that is what happened to him, and I was never able to bring him home. He has refused treatment, believing if he doesn’t think about what happened it will simply “go away.” I’ve been reflecting considerably over the past couple of days, looking at the past 10 years in my life and the lives of my children. They are strong, we were strong together and just as we will never know what their father ever truly experienced overseas, he doesn’t understand the life we lived back home. Me holding my youngest son each night, crying for his father; me just praying the General who promised he would be my informant if something happened to my husband, never darkened my doorstep; graduations, sports, birthdays, alone. My story isn’t unique, but it’s the reality that has become all too prevalent. I could say of our divorce that he has “moved on,” but sadly he has chosen to surround himself with those who didn’t know him pre-deployment, so there is no one urging him to get well and help him put things in perspective. As a result, our family has suffered, my boys have moved on, but they have been deprived of the father they deserve. I hope as we face this turmoil ahead, this country continues to support our nation’s veterans so that families won’t have to continue to meet the same fate.

  108. Ted, I don’t ever offer pity. You can ask any of the vets I mentor. I believe if you hold up a vision of someone whole and living their best life and believe in it for them, they’ll rise to it. If you pity someone, they often become their pain and identify themselves as their pain. That keeps them stuck.

  109. Britta….thank you for this. I am a peacenik (for many years and through many wars) and this is one of the best aricles…written from the heart…about the futility of war and the damage to our best and bravest I have ever read.

  110. Thank you for writing this and hopefully it will open the minds and hearts of everyone who do not understand what our troops experience. I am a Gold Star Mother and know the grief of losing my son to war (AFG 22June2012). Thank you for your service, God Bless You!

  111. Thank you Britta for writing this. I served this nation in the US Army for over 16 years, of which, 12 years was spent in the Airborne. I never deployed to either OEF or OIF because I had retired before them, however, I trained with some of the most professional, disciplined men that this country has to offer that did serve there. These men would have laid down their lives for me and me for them. I am in contact daily and weekly with veterans from all branches from the Viet Nam war to our current struggles. These are some of the countries finest. They are compassionate and kind to their fellow man, but they deal with their demons and they do this by being with other vets that understand the emotions and feelings that they have. If someone out there is reading this that is struggling, but doesn’t trust the system to help them, contact a fellow veteran or someone that you have served with and just talk. We all want someone to listen to us. WE ARE OUR BROTHERS KEEPER. LRB AND AIRBORNE

  112. Your heart is in the right place and I thank you. Most American civilians aren’t too concerned with Veterans issues. If they were the government wouldn’t find it so easy to f%#k us. Remember the SUPPORT THE TROOPS bumper sticker that was so popular for a few years? That bumper sticker was the extent of most peoples loyalty to us. So when I came across this website and read what you’re all about, I was thankful. There’s just 1 thing. A lot of what you write sounds like pity to me, not respect. That’s one of the most annoying things about being a Veteran these days. Everything you said about sacrificing a piece of our souls is completely true. I have multiple physical injuries and PTSD that will be with me always, but I don’t want sympathy or pity. None of us do. We want the respect all Veterans from all wars deserve. We want to be able to find a job when we get out. At the moment 4 years in the military can’t compete with a bachelors degree, which is fucking retarded. 18 year old Marines deal with more pressure than most Americans will in their entire lives. If we choose to use the benefits promised to us, we want the VA to process our paperwork in a timely manner. At the moment it takes over a year. I was a Grunt and didn’t care what Middle Eastern shithole we deployed to. After 9/11 the newspapers showed Muslims from all over the world celebrating in the streets. That’s when I decided to join the Marines. I never gave a shit about establishing a democracy in Iraq, but I understood why we tried. There were plenty of people over there begging to be killed and we sent them to their virgins in Muslim Heaven. I hope they have deodorant in Muslim Heaven, cause they don’t in the Middle East. There were also a lot of Iraqi’s who I was glad to have helped. Even back then during the 2003 invasion and my 2nd tour in 2005, you could see how the American politicians were gonna screw it all up, just like they did in Vietnam. We are not victims and all we need from civilians is basic respect. Less than 1% of the American population served in the military over the past 15 years. I know some civilians think the only people who serve in the military these days are the ones who weren’t smart enough to go to college, but that’s really just what they tell themselves to disguise their own impotency. It shouldn’t be so hard to honor and respect Vets, but then again I am a Vet, so my perspective probably isn’t shared with the masses of American sheep. Sheep who are only concerned with obtaining more and more self gratification.
    That’s my rant and thanks for allowing it. I know your hearts in the right place, but please remember, we need respect. Not sympathy or pity, but basic respect. Thanks for your dedication. Semper Fidelis!!!

  113. I can’t do this fast.It’s my birthday and I have two auditions tomorrow and I just took an Ambien to go to sleep.But your post, your brave and vulnerable barring of your soul requires acknowledgement.
    I promise I will go deeper at some time in the future. The loop is continuious. It will play for the rest of your like.Gradually it will not be as harsh as it seems now. Nobody’s going back to who you were.Would you really want to? Figuring out how not to be a victim, no matter what shape you’re in, is one of the life hacks you must master. Some days it’s the joy in the little shit that will get you through the night. I ended up down a lot of false trails. Holding cells and emergency rooms became familiar places in various parts of the world in different states of mind and dubious endeavors. You will deal…or you won’t. For my part of some enormous fuck ups both in and out of the army I can say, I’m glad I’m here. In the end it’s worth sticking around even for the simple pleasure of hearing a dog barking in the night. More later. Hang loose.
    Max Thayer

  114. Thanks for writing this story. Once again our country continues to swim upstream & make the same mistakes. This situation had me discussing events from 20 years ago and opening wounds I’d rather leave closed. My heart hurts again, because America still has not learned a thing and my brothers & sisters continue to be slapped in the face.

  115. I just was thinking about why this situation bothers me. I have never read this blog before, but I like the style you write in. I like your sentiment, the tempered intensity. I feel the same way. I worked with va for 5 years, then with a non prof volunteering, and I just burned out. Being the over feeler and intense person I am, I grew tired with the administration and they will do what suits them,and that hurts. what more can this war take from my husband? what more from me? now my children. Its irritating to say the least. and yea, that heavy dude with the beard, and the gut, who is quiet and a little akward? that guy? Thats my fucking husband, and he’s my goddamned HERO. And he was awesome back then, but he’s awesome now too, if you’re lucky enough for him to let you near. SIGH. You are from the balkans? your name sounds it. -ic. I have a fondness for croatia 🙂 I’m from MN recently transplanted myself (not really sure why anymore, hoping God shows up on this one) and my kids and husband to the deep, deeeeeeep south (al.) Will be savoring your blog tonight, thanks for sharing.

  116. I would like to add “and sisters”. Never forget that women fight too. That our urge to “suit up” cannot be diminished by our gender.

  117. I just had a fairly intense argument with a lib friend of mine about this. I directed him this way since you were able to put it in words that I could not. Many thanks.

  118. My father was in Korea and WWII. He never spoke much of war or its effect on him. He did drink alot after leaving the service. He did explain to me why he felt our boys should not have been sent to VietNam, but they were and those that made it home deserved more , much more than was waiting for them. I know that at times if he was awakening suddenly, he came up with fists clenched ready to swing. He had restless nights where you could him talking rapid and low. I could not make out what he was saying but it sounded urgent. My father passed away when I was in my twenties. He was 59. He loved his USMC and often spoke of that love and of his “brothers”. TO all of you active or retired, you have my respect. I’m sure I speak for many when I say respect and gratitude for you is unyeilding. Anyone who has had a friend or family member go to war understands the surface of the events of war, and understands what lies below the surface is more than we could ever grasp or understand. We understand that is a daily battle each of you, reconciling life as a warrior with life as the civilan that you used to be before war filled her heart and head. Thank you to all of you. K A Johns

  119. This is an amazing post and thank you for writing it. This whole thing was stirring up bad feelings and I admire and appreciate you speaking out. I wish I had your strength. Well done!

  120. Radical feminist from the 60’s here — I salute you and thank you for your service. I don’t have the skills to be a soldier …..but as I said way back in the old days “some women do, and if they do – let them serve to their abilities and acknowledge them for it” ! Some of us are aware of you. Again —- Thank You

  121. I have often said the powers that are able to take a young man (or woman) and change them enough so that they are able to make that mental leap to be a soldier, to be able to kill if deemed necessary……fail mightily when they are finished with that soldier in not taking the time and effort to change him back into a civilian. There can, and should, be a period of debriefing, of reconciliation and reconstruction and healing. No one comes out of war unscathed. Civilians too, need to cut a veteran some slack….as well as welcome y’all home with gratitude.
    As you so eloquently said the war you, and your comrades in arms, were sent into was not what it was claimed to be. Certain people and corporations profited mightily, regular folks, not so much. Regular folks were used, abused, until they were exhausted. The rich old men make war to increase their power and wealth – they think nothing of the young lives they send to do battle.
    I keep you all, the fallen and the survivors in my thoughts and prayers— your willingness to put your selves in harm’s way for us makes you true heroes. You families are heroes too – they lived with your absence and feared for your safety and find their lives changed by the changes in you.
    God bless you …. and again thank you.

  122. thank you, well said well said. I don’t know how this feels, but I know how it feels to be the mother of one of these men. My sons (2) came back totally different men then they ever were. My heart hurts for them and all the Ira veterans. thank you again.

  123. You are absolutely right. I apologize, the exclusion was not intentional. The majority of veterans I work with are men who have been in combat, so I was writing out of that experience.

  124. Your letter ignores the over 800 women injured (myself included, Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient from OIF I and II 2003-2004) and the 98 female service members killed (as of August 2010) in Iraq serving their country. Articles written only about our brave men who volunteer to defend our country exclude a large portion of just as brave women.

  125. Thank you, Justin. More than 10,000 have read it today and the numbers are climbing. Feel free to connect on Facebook, too. Happy to be here for you and any of your brothers, anytime.

  126. This article explains exactly what it feels like after you have been to war. Ive been there twice myself in 03 and 05. Hopefully this will give everyone that has never been a different perspective on what its like. I know its hard for others to understand.

  127. I was with the first Stryker brigade to ever see combat….TWICE. Me and my brothers are some of the finest human beings you will ever meet. Words alone cannot describe what transpires in my mind right now about the current situation in Iraq. This article does help shed light

  128. My spotter took his own life this year. I sleep with the demons everynight that is when I sleep. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger I call BS what doesn’t kill you leaves you in pain the rest of your life. Thank you for writing this!

  129. Your child’s life was not in vain. He died loving his brothers and fighting for them. And Love is stronger than Death. Don’t let what’s going on in Iraq take away what your son believed in and fought for. And that was Love.

  130. I just want to say thank you for putting this together. I think about these things daily, although I don’t have war wounds like others, I feel for them. Thank you for writing this.

  131. Thank you for your post! this is something that stays with our hero’s everyday of their life! But as an added note of pain, as a Gold Start Mom….. I cant begin to tell you how this sickens my heart! all this CAN NOT be in vein!!!!!

  132. There is a part of me that will always be in Iraq, East Baghdad specifically. I’ll never forget what I experienced in that dry, dirty craphole. To see everything so many of my brother and sisters in arms died or were maimed for just get tossed away saddens and infuriates me.

  133. You are so welcome and thank you for sharing that, Jim. You have walked a long road, alone, and I can’t even begin to express how much you and your brothers deserved so much better from us. You and your son-in-law are more than welcome to connect with me via Facebook or email. As a Vietnam vet, you may also find that soldiersheart.net will resonate with you. They specifically work with Vietnam vets and have for more than 25 years.

  134. I am one of those from the Vietnam War. My son-in-law fought in the desert. I never dreamed he’d be in my shoes 40 years after me. It hurts to watch a country you fought to save be taken over by those you fought. Thank you for expressing my thoughts so well.

  135. Fallujah Iraq 04-05(new dawn) has taken so much of my spirit that I didnt know how to express myself or find the words for it untill now, but the memorys remain. The old me just wants to let go and fade away but the Marine in me doesn’t know how to. Thank you
    SEMPER FI.

  136. You are so welcome, Michael. I am so glad it helped put into words what you (and so many) feel. Feel free to connect to me on Facebook or email. I’d be happy to walk with you on your journey.

  137. I was trying to explain what you had posted to people but it was hard to find the right words or even how to put you feelings and what it might to me. But you had put it in the right prospective for what I wanted to say. Thanks I am currently at wounded warriors and gettin medical retired from my deployments. Thanks Semper Fi

  138. Wow. Thank you. Your response has moved me to tears and left me, well, speechless. I had no idea writing that article would touch so many (more than 5,000 have read it so far) and spread so widely. But it is for guys like you that I write this stuff, and your brothers who are still here and who went Home. It seems we are down to one thing now (and maybe that’s all it’s ever truly been): the love you have for each other. Hold on to that. It’s what matters.

  139. Gonna be honest here…I’m actually in 29 palms right now and have spotty signal at best I got an email from my girl back home, who weathered two deployments with me and stuck around.

    I was in Al Anbar in 2007 and Helmand in 2011. I’ve seen some pretty shitty stuff. She told me that Iraq was falling apart, and I stood on the roof of my truck in the morning and kind of fell into a mental black hole thinking of it.

    Anyone who has been to either of these shitholes can empathize with your post. Most can put a face on the loss and actually name brothers that died there. I can’t really see the why or what for anymore, and the only reason I am still in uniform is the fear that some moron will take my guys over there.

    I just wanted to thank you for putting to words how literally a whole generation of us feel. I’ll go where I’m needed, but I don’t forsee the big wigs in DC lifting a finger to make sure any of our sacrifice is worth it.

    I’ll hold on to the memory of my brothers. I’ll leave the philosophy to lesser men.

    Good luck,

    Semper Fidelis.

  140. I have cousins from WWII who came home and one of them sought solace in a bottle to get over the pain of what he saw + did. No one knew PTS Syndrome then. One family member fought in ‘Nam. Died of exposure to Agent Orange. He was denied medical benefits until shortly before he died – of the exposure. My husband died of Alzheimers. He was in Korea and there were places he was restricted entry to due to illness of the patients. He later was diagnosed with an auto immune disease. Treated at the VA, but while his doctor allowed that there were illness he could have been exposed to during his service it would have been hard to prove his disease was service connected.
    Our servicemen and women have a long history of an uncaring reception on returning home from the wars, both mental and physical by those who should be grateful for their service and those tasked to render medical care. We need to do better!

  141. This is a great article. . It explains exactly why I am glued to the news currently, but people around me don’t understand why. Then while watching it I slowly start to get very angry inside as I watch people dismiss this event as it’s nothing. To some of us it everything. It like a championship ring being stripped from us who fought so hard to where proudly. As crazy as this sounds and I know many agree if my phone rang just this second and said suit up!! I’d be half dressed on the way out the door before the phone hung up.. Semper Fi!!#

  142. Time doesn’t matter when it comes to the pain and grief of war. It’s always there and real. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a healing path, and it’s never too late to do so. Reach out and connect, I can hook you up with some caring resources that specifically work with Vietnam vets. Particularly, soldiersheart.net.

  143. Craig, thank you. My name is Britta Reque-Dragicevic, I wrote it and I’m the author of this site, lifeafterwar.org. Please feel free to connect if I can be of any support to you.

  144. I know how you feel i spent 28 months in two combat zones back to back 16 months in south korea during the publo ship cruises then went for por training with 1st sp force air bore on yhe rock then went straight to Vietnam didn,t get a leave at all.Tell this day i still remmber that war.and when use went to war hurt me a useless war

  145. You’ve used the same words in your second paragraph that I’ve been using to describe myself for the last 9 years. You must be me my brother. I salute you.

    Taji 05-06
    BIAP 07-08 “surge”
    Salerno 09-10

Comment here or email me at brittareque@gmail.com