Haunted by 40 Months in Iraq

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I don’t feel bored at Pathway, even though there is lots of free time. Makes me wonder how I will feel when I have to go back to work. This is the first time in my adult life when I am not working full-time. I think I have to pay attention to saving money for retirement. How much money I save will determine how long I should live, because after I retire I don’t want to live longer than my savings last.

It is hard to picture myself in the future. I cannot see far enough ahead to plan. I have no interest in any long-term goals. For 40 months in Iraq all I thought about was the mission we were on or our next one. We made plans to take care of our affairs if we died in combat, but other than that there was no planning. Now I am home and I don’t know what I want to do or why I have no interest in the future. I can’t explain why I made it home in one piece or what my purpose in life is now. I feel like I accomplished a lot in Iraq, and I don’t understand what is left in life for me to achieve. Part of me feels like I should have died in Iraq.

A soldier walks to a helicopter
Photo: Robert Whelan/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

We did a lot of good, and our efforts were not all wasted. Just understand that none of us came back the same as when we left.

I want everyone to know that I appreciate all the support our country has given the troops. I received packages in Iraq from schools, Boy and Girl Scout troops, Rotary Clubs and other volunteer groups. I really appreciated all the effort and time that went into trying to make our lives there a little bit better. So for all the problems I have, feeling supported is not one of them and I want to thank you all for your support.

I also want you to know that we did a lot of good over there. We performed professionally and we completed our missions well. When I first got to Iraq in late 2005, the country was a mess. The insurgency was gaining momentum and attacks on U.S. troops continued to increase until they peaked in 2007. By the time I came home in April of 2009 many schools and markets had re-opened. Displaced people were moving back into their homes. The government was holding elections and the Iraqi army and police were in much better shape to provide security.

We got the country back on its feet after we bombed it back into the Stone Age. We did a lot of good, and our efforts were not all wasted.

Just understand that none of us came back the same as when we left.

The author plans to return to his home and job in Southern California after he graduates from the Pathway Home.

(Published December 20, 2009, on New America Media)