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What I Miss About Iraq

Now there’s something you don’t read every day. Missing war?

 

soldiers missing war, veterans missing war, dod veterans

The deaths?

 

Friends getting wounded?

 

The threat of attacks?

 

Separation from family?

 

Really?

 

That sentiment is more common than you think. From talking with dozens of my fellow veterans, I can tell you that the majority of us-in some way-miss something about our deployment(s). But it’s not what the media and Hollywood would have you believe.

 

There have been several absolutely horrible movies that have come out of Tinsel Town since I returned from Iraq 14 years ago. They profess to tell the real story about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. At least one, In the Valley of Elah, had actual veterans acting in key roles, supposedly giving the film credibility. You can’t blame an aspiring actor for accepting any role that comes their way. I just wish they hadn’t jumped on that one…

 

I watched that movie twice, just to be sure I was fair in my review. So here it is:

 

Probably the biggest waste of film since Michael Jackson’s wedding photos. But I digress…

 

War hasn’t made us adrenaline junkies. I, for one, don’t seek out danger or engage in risky behavior. I went skydiving a LONG time before I went to Iraq: http://bit.ly/2p7AThZ. The urge to jump out of a perfectly good airplane was put to bed nearly 30 years ago.

 

The takeaway: Don’t believe everything you read, hear, or see.

 

Unless it’s on the Internet: that stuff’s all true.

 

Most veterans miss the friendships forged during deployments, especially if they saw combat, or they and their fellow servicemen and women were under constant threat of attack. Let’s face it: in this type of war, anyone who’s in a combat zone faces that threat. Some face bigger threats than others. Bonds are formed which last a lifetime.

 

We miss serving our country, of being part of something bigger than ourselves, serving in the role of The Protector, of putting our comrades’ safety above our own.

 

One night (like many nights) during my Iraq tour, we heard gunfire and explosions in the distance. The radio in our operations center suddenly came to life. There were frantic calls for help, mixed in with the unmistakable sounds of small arms fire: It was a TIC: Troops in Contact. Some unit was in trouble, they’d been ambushed.

 

Was it someone we knew?

 

Someone we’d worked with rebuilding the schools just outside the base?

 

Was it an Air Force unit from the other side of the airport?

 

Or were they complete strangers who happened to wear the same uniforms as we did?

 

These things didn’t matter to us. And they mattered even less to the soldiers I saw out my window. They threw on their gear, grabbed their weapons, piled into their vehicles and drove to the sound of the guns. Our own troops saddled up; the commander ordered them to stand down.

 

Those kids I saw through my window didn’t have to go: the airport Quick Reaction Force (QRF) was already rolling. But those young people drove headlong into danger anyway. They wanted to help their fellow soldiers, regardless of their race, color, religion, gender, or politics, because they knew that those in trouble would do the same for them. Such dedication and selflessness from young men and women, some of whom were barely out of high school or college.

 

They were-and still are-the very best of America.

 

And I miss being around them.

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