No Saints in a Foxhole

My soldier is home now, on the heels of a gunnery conference that begins today at Fort Rucker.  I really haven’t a clue what a gunnery conference is and I don’t feel much like caring today.  The bullshit in my life couldn’t have been made any more obvious than it became last night.  We were together last night and we were all together as well in the summer of 2001 in South Korea.

I lost my first grandmother in February of 2001.  That spring my mother’s sisters came to my home and gave me an envelope, in it was a modest sum that my grandmother had left to me.  My husband was in the middle of serving a year tour in Korea.  It was a tough year because our son was born disabled and wasn’t even a year old when he left so I took my gift from my grandmother and hauled the kids down for passport photos and we flew to Korea for the summer.

It was a wonderful summer too.  The housing on the post that my husband was sent to was all condemned so all the soldiers and families lived in the Ville as they call it with the citizens of South Korea.  We all ate Korean cuisine and our teenagers all got on a bus together and went to Lotte World and my husband took me to the world pottery expo there because I am a potter and potters love nothing more than looking at and buying other people’s pots.  I bought a whole set of dishes from a Korean potter.  They are beautiful.

I got to know my husband’s best friend a lot better that summer.  He does command sponsored tours to Korea as often as possible because he is there for two years plus at a time and his family goes with him.  His wife is Korean and they have two sons who have spent as much time with their Korean grandparents as they have with their American grandparents.

I also met Mel and Amanda that summer who lived a block from us and they had two sons then too but have three now.  Amanda was a fitness instructor.  Mel had been a Ranger before becoming an Apache pilot.  He is one of the few that in 1993 went into Mogadishu on a mission that didn’t go so well and survived.  In Korea he didn’t seem to be that comfortable being a soldier anymore and he was getting out.  I was sure that he had long ago moved on in life and was sitting on some beach some place sipping umbrella drinks until he showed up last night.  When a U.S. soldier “gets out” he is still in the reserves for awhile and Mel got to go to Iraq as a reservist and fly the hand me down airframes that the reserves get and got paid the no bonuses pay that the reservists get paid and that won’t happen to him again.  The guy who I met that summer is gone now.  The guy who survived Mogadishu and felt inspired to do something finer and more life affirming with his life than soldier has left us and in his place sits a grim faced father discussing last night with my husband and my husband’s best friend where the best bonuses are.  He’s signing up for active duty again so at least his wife can get decent wages for his combat time and he doesn’t have to fly crap in a war.

My husband’s best friend had a brother fly in just to spend the day with him yesterday because he is hard to nail down since 9/11. He did almost a total of three years in Iraq then went to Korea with his family as soon as he could because in Korea he won’t be flying combat missions and his wife can sleep.  I asked him how his wife is doing and he told me she was very happy right now because when he’s in Korea he stays in Korea but his laughter is gone from his voice now and when laughter shows up it is bitter now like mine is.  He used to be so genuinely happy and now his happiness is brittle and qualified.  On the drive home from the dinner we all shared my husband told me that his best friend is having a hard time not bouncing off the walls now since Iraq.  He tries not to drink because when he wakes up he is afraid of what he may have done.  He used to be my husband’s calming force.  They were a good team and used to fanagle their way into each other’s units and attempt to serve at the same posts with each other.  They may not be that yin yang team anymore but my husband says that they are family and it is a different family than I am, I can tell by his voice.  I get tired of having tears in my eyes and I turn away and look out the window and think to myself that these are pilots, these aren’t even the soldiers fighting on the ground.  How are those soldiers doing when it comes to bouncing and walls?

I get tired of the online debate about who voted for the war and who didn’t because enabling this war has been every bit as devastating to all involved.  There are no saints running for the Democratic nomination.  And I miss Chris Dodd because he fought for what needed to be done after the deed WAS DONE.  I picked up my pilot from the airport and he didn’t come home all clean and shiny.  HE GOT SOME ON HIM!  THEY ALL GOT SOME ON THEM!  There are no messiahs out there to save us.  Only pretty candidates that did a lot to attempt to not get any on them and what is wrong with my country that we have a hard time voting for real people to do real jobs?  We want something surreal, something without stain or blemish to save us when only we can save ourselves.

I left that Korean summer behind and flew back to the United States with the kids on September 9, 2001.  We squeaked in under the wire and September 11, 2001 was our daughter’s first day of that school year.  I hadn’t even unpacked yet and maybe I still haven’t.  I keep waiting for us to all return to that time but we won’t and I must grow up now.


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    • Edger on January 23, 2008 at 17:21

    do more growing up than most people can even conceive of themselves doing, Tracy….

    Great essay.

    “what is wrong… that we have a hard time voting for real people to do real jobs?”, indeed.  

    • Alma on January 23, 2008 at 18:16

    I’m sorry.  So many lives have been destroyed and f**ked up by this unnecessary war.  You stated so eloquently a few of them.

  1. Your words, and those from others like you, should be on every nightly newscast and the front page of newspapers, so more people can see the effects of this war and the administration’s policies. Too many people are looking the other way or expecting the magic beans to sprout and make all the bad stuff go away.  


    We want something surreal, something without stain or blemish to save us when only we can save ourselves.  

    Great job!

    • kj on January 23, 2008 at 18:50

    shit girl, you’ve got me crying and i don’t cry.

    i am angry and i’m just a civilian.  “The Watcher” in you is awake.  i know that Watcher.  i met him when i was 16 years old.  once activated, he never goes off duty.

    i want all of us to go to the Gulf Coast and help rebuild and have all the guard and reservists and regular troops join us and tell us their stories.  and i want the candidates to be shamed into leaving their pointless ‘campaigns’ and join in. and if corporate media ignores that, well, we have our own cameras.

    • Edger on January 23, 2008 at 19:59

    Back in the days of shock and awe

    We came to liberate them all

    History was the cruel judge of overconfidence

    Back in the days of shock and awe

    Back in the days of “mission accomplished”

    Our chief was landing on the deck

    The sun was setting on a golden photo op

    Back in the days of “mission accomplished”

    Thousands of bodies in the ground

    Brought home in boxes to a trumpet’s sound

    No one sees them coming home that way

    Thousands buried in the ground

    Thousands of children scarred for life

    Millions of tears for a soldier’s wife

    Both sides are losing now

    Heaven takes them in

    Thousands of children scarred for life

    We had a chance to change our mind

    But somehow wisdom was hard to find

    We went with what we knew and now we can’t go back

    But we had a chance to change our mind.

    –Neil Young

    • Pluto on January 23, 2008 at 20:31

    Sancho Press — a blog friend of Docudharma, and a nice place for you to crosspost your terrific writing.

    • Edger on January 23, 2008 at 20:32

    With this explanation…….

    My mom made this to remember lives lost;the lives of the American soldiers who have died in Iraq. The photos are from dover/ and the music is excerpted from Roger and Out, from Neil Young’s Living with War cd.

  2. I see now where you have been. Jeez MT, you have always for me crossed the divide I felt from the military, my own delusion: not my problem I’m a pacifist bullshit. My heart goes out to the military and your personal struggles with the nightmare we all own. Do not grow up to leave your soul behind. How hard for the military to be handed the job of those that seek to profit from war. Handed down from on high by those regardless of party who look on war as only a strategy for dominance and profit.

    On a personal level I can not help but can only say you have moved me to feeling that the military while necessary suffers, only more intensively at the mercy of a system which seeks to ensnare us all in power plays absurd , surreal and ultimately a misuse of our military. I miss your voice and we all go though the effects personally of this giant seemingly impossible unmoveable nightmare. God bless you!    

  3. Missing Dodd this morning, recoginzing Dodd this evening.

    • MO Blue on January 24, 2008 at 08:12
  4. …Can’t believe I never visited before…gosh, all these kossaks I haven’t seen in a while…I wondered where you all went.

  5. Just wanted to say Hi & Thanks for letting us know how things are going.  I empathize with your bitterness – which is quite  understandable.  It’s great that your hubby is home though.  I hope he’s doing all right and readjusting to being home.   Stay strong!  I sincerely wish for happier days ahead for you and your family and friends.        

  6. My heart aches for you. At the same time, I admire your courage. And I’m so glad you’re still writing. Your voice is needed.

    If it’s true that what we see out there in the world around us is just a reflection of ourselves, what is it about our national character that creates such horrific evil as Bush and Cheney? I do wish I knew the answer, if there is one.


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