*Retold with permission.
Guys like to talk about how awful it is out here, how much they hate it, or how much they want to go home, but I’m not one of them. Truthfully, I absolutely love it out here. And running missions outside the wire – that’s my happy place. It’s taken me 22 years to find this.
I might be fairly young, but I’ve held almost every job you can think of already, and I wasn’t able to keep any of them for very long. They’re too boring; like you’re trapped in a state of meaninglessness. The Army – specifically the infantry – is perfect for me. I’d gladly do twenty years out here. All I need is ammunition, MREs and water. I’m not suited for a “normal” life, I guess.
I admit that I’m a thrill seeker and an adrenalin junkie. And this, far more than anything else I’ve found in the states (legally), satisfies the cravings. This is awesome, that is when we’re doing something – not just sitting around and waiting. The action is appealing, but so is the purposefulness. You don’t get that with most jobs. Whereas most people do things for money, I do this because I enjoy it. It’s an added benefit that I get paid to do it.
I also acknowledge that this is extremely dangerous. Believe me, hitting an IED the other day was the most terrifying thing I’ve ever been through. The reality is that people here still want us dead, and they’re still going to do whatever they can to accomplish that. Tragically, they may take out some of us along the way. I don’t have a death wish by any means, but I still want to be here.
I think that most people back home are under the impression that we do this for our country or that we’re fierce patriots giving our lives to protect Americans. I don’t believe that’s accurate, or at least not the reason why I’m do it. I’m not here for them, and I’m really not even here for my country. I’m here for my friends and family: they being the guys around me and beside me out here. This unit, like any other good unit, is a family. I think that’s how most of the Soldiers view it: they’re either here to dutifully protect the brothers that go with them, or they’re here to honor the brothers they lost. It’s certainly sacrificial, but not necessarily for America as a whole.
I didn’t volunteer to come fight the war in Iraq or because I particularly care about the Iraqis. Ultimately, this is their country, and very shortly it will be up to them to sort things out. We came here because this is where the US government sent us and gave us a mission to execute. People think we chose this, but we didn’t. We just go where we are ordered. Nobody really wants to be here, except for maybe me, because I’m an adrenalin junkie or something. At any rate, for the time being, the US government wants us here. Eight months after we get back from this tour, they will want us in Afghanistan.
As much as I may like it out here, it’s still not at all what I anticipated. The best part is when I’m actually doing my job: outside the wire, dismounting and patrolling. That’s truly my happy place. Unfortunately, we’re not doing that as often anymore. I was here nearly three months before I did what I was actually trained to do, and I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait before I can do it again. As the operations tempo continues to slow, we’re talking more, driving more, but “doing” less. I consider it a bad day when nothing happens, strange as that may sound.
But still, I like it. I like being outside the wire. This is far more exciting than any of the jobs I worked before I came in, far more purposeful, and admittedly far more dangerous. Maybe that’s the appeal: more adrenalin, more excitement, and great friends. After 22 years of searching, I’ve finally found my niche.
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw, All Rights Reserved