I use the term “our” war with a very specific intent. I could say my war or perhaps your war. But this thing has been going on so long just about all of us have had a chance to dip our sticks in the sands of ancient Mesopotamia. Birthplace of civilization and home to the saga which shaped us all, 14 years ago today our war began. Now, the beginning of this war means a little bit something different for each who served. For myself, I was sitting at the Taco Bell on 29 Palms Marine Base watching the bombs kick off the show. It would be another month before Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 23rd Marines would get into the action. Kudos to those who got to the cross the line of departure this very evening 14 years ago, but apparently General Mattis didn’t think having a reserve infantry battalion emerging from a long decade of peacetime military was best suited to spearhead the charge. But what’s remarkable to consider is that for the 18-year-old Marine fighting in Iraq today, it likely meant learning to write his name and count to 100 because the dude was literally 5 years old. In the case of these Marines, it was entirely possible they were actually eating crayons when the war began. But let’s take a journey down the path that is our war, Operation Iraqi Freedom parts deux thru 14.
George W. Bush’s War
I like George W. Bush and likely always will because he was my wartime President. But with the advantage of being a little older, wiser, fatter, and having seen how this saga has played out I’m am unafraid to admit that I think the decision to invade was a mistake. Fourteen years ago a coalition geared up to cross the border and while we kicked butt, I simply can’t help but wonder if the world would have better off had everyone stood down and just played another game of spades. It’s hard to look at the picture now and see an outcome worth the blood and treasure we spent as much as I will always adore my war experience.
But 20 something year old Jeff was all for it in 2003. I was convinced we were taking the fight to the enemy and more interestingly, the naïve part of me thought we had in fact accomplished the mission. I can remember standing on a roof top just thinking about how Iraq was going to spend all their oil money and turn that place into a pillar of democracy. The children who ran about us on patrol yelling, “George Bush good, Saddam Donkey” clearly had a bright future ahead of them thanks to our efforts.
I had notions of coming back to Iraq a few decades later and walking about the city as we toured our old stomping grounds. What I never envisioned was that kindergartners back home would be fighting for that same territory some 14 years later. Look, I’m not trying to get political with this as it’s more a nostalgic post. Think what you want of our war be it a mistake or brilliant move yet to pay off. But let none of us pretend we knew what the next 14 years had in store for us and our children in the land of our war.
Oh the Memories
For better or worse, it seems that those who fought this war remember much of it fondly. Perhaps is the clear singular purpose we felt when we exited the wire. Come back alive, bring your friends back alive, and kill anyone who would prevent the prior two. There were no bills, mortgages, or paperwork. Just the odd simplicity war brings. I did come back with a Combat Action Ribbon, but nothing of which to make a Hollywood movie. I assure you if a movie was made of my beloved 2nd Platoon it would be a comedy long before it would ever be an action movie.
Granted there were the burn pits and doses of melafloquine that are rearing their ghastly effects on many of us today, but I do remember my war experience fondly. When you land in country you really don’t know what to expect, but sooner or later as you adjust to life in country you learn to “hack” your war. Most of us gave up on underwear because the sweat just soaked your jimmies into a hot nasty sauna. Green PT shorts would do as free balling became the package carrying method of choice.
We developed make shift gyms to pass the time and I read more classic books during one deployment to Iraq than I ever did in College. I once again came to appreciate the beautiful art of letter writing. This may surprise the kids fighting today, but in 2003 internet was remarkably hard to come by and mostly gifted to POGs. Mail call was a such a sweet time of the week. To see those large yellow bags arrive was joy, but to not here your name called was sadness. And by war’s end we even got used to these things below.
As I have said before, if you can poop on a plank of wood next 3 other Marines over a smoldering diesel smelling mountain of feces as the flights do the dance of doo doo on your scrotum you can poop anywhere. It’s a skill I’ve taken with me to the civilian sector and it’s paid off well.
A Toast to Our War Gentlemen, and yes Ladies
We didn’t pick our war, but those who have graced those lands earned their titles well. We did our part and while the current outcome is disheartening, It will forever by our war regardless of when you served. I’ve actually got a fiction book in the works that tells this story with the power of fiction and the same Unprecedentedly Mediocre humor you have come to enjoy. Don’t worry, I’m going hire like a legit editor and commas will be properly displayed. Bea Arthur’s panties even makes an appearance.
But enough of that. A toast to our war gentlemen and it’s time for an epic photo dump. I’ve shared my pictures with you and now it’s your turn via the Facebook comments. Show the world your chapter to our war whenever that might be. Grunt, POG, and even Army pics welcome I guess! It’s our war, so let us share a toast. Raise a glass to our war gentlemen, for it began this day 14 years. To those who were sitting in MOPP gear this very minute, I have to just remind you how much that must have sucked!
A toast to you, a toast to me, a toast the story of we! It’s our war gentlemen, we earned it! Raise a glass and let’s see those pics.
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