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So I spent a year in Iraq, during which I read, posted, or diaried on DailyKos several times a week, if not several times a day, depending on my work schedule.  I took a month off when I got home and that included political discourse.  I will post a diary this week about my experience (with pictures), but since May is over now I've been drawn back into the fray.  This isn't a policy driven diary, I just want to make a few seemingly obvious points about military service that are not discussed on a regular basis.

The most noted hardships associated with being deployed revolve around violence or the potential for violence.  While those are certainly the worst aspects of living in a war zone, the most pervasive and persistent negative was the lack of freedom.  I was stationed at three different locations of varying size and at the biggest base I was allowed maybe two miles of discretionary wandering.  As an inherant wanderer the song "Don't Fence Me In" felt quite prescient.  What with the razor wire perimeter and guard towers it isn't too much of a stretch to call a military post a prison.  The only difference is that we volunteered to be there, we got paid a lot better than dudes making license plates, and we wouldn't get shot on sight if we tried to leave (but they certainly would come after us).

Add to the geographical limiations the fact that being deployed means you are at work every second of everyday.  We had a "work" schedule that adhered to the traditional eight hour workday, but in war you are always on the clock.  Imagine getting personally woken up in the morning by your boss, working all day, and then coming home at night to socialize with your boss because you live with your boss.  I had great people on my team, superiors that I would follow in a heartbeat, but the concept of "the weekend" where you have your own life and don't have to deal with people from work does not exist in war.

So I was restricted in my movements and, much of the time, living with my supervisors.  Given the situation, beer would seem to be a good answer to the problem.  And the army provided all the beer I could drink.  Provided it was non-alcoholic, of course.  During the first five months of my deployment, until I came home on leave, I had booze on the mind.  Especially in the late afternoon/early evening, when the scheduled workday was finished, I would dream of cracking open a beer (just like I'm doing right now, oh delicious beer), sitting back, and playing my video games.  And after I went home for leave and got drunk everyday for two weeks I didn't think about alcohol as much when I returned, but it was still something that I missed (it didn't help that a late add-on to our team was constantly commenting on the great beer drinking weather during the Iraqi winter).

Restricted movements, constant supervision, and no beer.

Say what you will about the Pentagon and the military, my transition has been frigging great.  For active duty guys it might not be as easy, but I don't have to go to drill until September and I have more money in the bank right now than I usually make in a year, so going to work is an option for me, more of a time killer than a necessity.

With my newly acquired freedom and temporary financial freedom I have taken the month of May for myself.  I've spent a week in the NYC area, caught two Mets games, went down to Atlantic City for a night, spent Memorial Day weekend in the Adirondacks camping, and generally prowling around my hometown basking in the glow of a city coming out of a prolonged winter slumber.  And all the while I've been comparing my current state to what I would be doing in Iraq.  I don't have to put on a really heavy vest, a helmet, and carry an assault rifle to walk about town.  More importantly, I can jump in a car and drive thousands of miles away if I want without anyone stopping me (unless I'm speeding of course, then the cop will find out that I have a suspended liscense and I'll get in a lot of trouble, but that's beside the point).  But most importantly, I can do it all with anonymity.  No uniform, no suspicion, no fear, no differentiation.  Once again, I'm just another guy.

Originally posted to slothlax on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:02 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips? (32+ / 0-)

    I'm going to get cigarettes, be back in half an hour.

    "What we really expect out of the Democrats is for them to treat us as they would liked to have been treated." --John Boehner

    by slothlax on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:01:42 AM PDT

    •  So what's your take on "defunding" the war? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      YetiMonk, begone

      Dudehisattva... <div style="color: #0000a0;">"Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"&l

      by Dood Abides on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:15:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm still on the fence (7+ / 0-)

        I like what the Democrats in Congress have been doing so far and I think events will continue to give them momentum.  High politics is a tricky game and I have patcience.

        "What we really expect out of the Democrats is for them to treat us as they would liked to have been treated." --John Boehner

        by slothlax on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:59:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  not many here with that attitude anymore (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dood Abides, slothlax

          I've all but given up trying to get that across, that politics is not a straightforward process.

          Welcome home, Sloth.

          "Here they come, marching into American sunlight." – Don Delillo, Mao II

          by subtropolis on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 08:06:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm getting that... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KiaRioGrl79, govib

            But I think there is something more involved too... a real concern about what this administration will do next.  We've lost all trust in 'normalcy' now.  We've long since abandoned the idea that logic prevails in the White House, unless it is some sinister logic that will lead to more power (for them.)

            In my case at least, I wouldn't put anything at all past them (not talking about the war now, but the Constitution, democracy in general.)  Some of us - history buffs, in my case - have a nagging feeling that we've seen this before, as though a script is being followed.  This leads us to wonder if we have as much time as we think (or would like.)  

            I know that if I could shake that nagging feeling, I'd have my usual patience -- normally I'm extremely patient and logical.  Maybe much of my problem stems from having grown up during Watergate.  Same thing, different day... but outcome not necessarily guaranteed.  I'd hate to see us deliberately attacking Iran, or suddenly finding ourselves (at home) living under martial law, while we were waiting for politics to play out.  That said, not sure what else we can do but grit our teeth and let it all play out.

            We got here very quickly, in the scheme of things:  seven years ago, the entire world was happily celebrating the Millennium (remember that night?)  Suddenly there was that weird 2000 election, then 9/11, then we were in Iraq, and then Katrina demonstrated how severely FEMA has been dismantled (thank God for the Coast Guard.)  

            Now we're facing a resurgence of Cold war with Russia (thank you, Cheney... Reagan must be rolling in his grave;) China is expanding its own military at a rapid pace, while poisoning our food supply (demonstrating how severely our FDA has been dismantled,) our fleet is hanging out in the Gulf, intimidating Iran and risking yet another front, and climate change seems to be speeding up much faster than anticipated (thanks in part to the severe dismantling of our EPA.)  I think its healthy to be concerned.  Means we're paying attention.  

            Its a game of high stakes poker now.  Waxman, Leahy, Conyers... vs. Bush, Cheney and Rove.  I confess:  I'm starting to bite my nails a bit.

            To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men. - Abraham Lincoln

            by feduphoosier on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 09:41:54 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I've been back 9 months... (10+ / 0-)

      Good to see other OIF vets on here:).

      Brought to you by Carl's Jr.

      by djtyg on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:24:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  May you have some really great pasgetti (4+ / 0-)

    soon

    and some damn good beer.

    It is never too late to be what you might have been...George Eliot.

    by begone on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 04:21:50 AM PDT

  •  WB. You're 1 of the lucky guys. (4+ / 0-)

    I'm sure you know that, however.
    I was an S.P. in A.F. so know about feeling like a prisoner.  It's a strange feeling to sit behind Concertina wire in an outhouse with windows.  But, as you say, the beer, afterward, was very good.  What's this about non-alcoholic beer after work?  That's not the military I know and it needs to be corrected.
    Enjoy your month, or more, off.  Don't spend all of that money, though.  It's good to have savings, as well.  But, you're wrong about being anonymous or free.  Granted, you're more free than you were in Iraq but things have changed here in America.  No doubt it's better than Iraq but you're only as free as the government (who knows exactly who you are and, if you use a Credit Card, where you are) allows you to be. That's very different than being free.  Freedom of movement, and choice, is good for our economy so you continue to have this illusion.  Step out of line, however, in a way that really bothers them, and you could disappear today.  It happens, believe it or not.

    "The angels left this nation, Salvation, caught the last train out tonight. He lost one Hell of a fight." - Bon Jovi.

    by rainmanjr on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 06:10:03 AM PDT

  •  Welcome home Sloth! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    begone, slothlax

    Its been a long time.

    If you can find a good place that imports beer from across the states, try a Shiner Bock (from Texas)- we used to drink those at UT all the time, haven't had one in years as they don't seem to import them to Sweden.  

  •  I am now going to get a beer from (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    begone, slothlax

    the fridge and open it and raise it to you and drink it.

    He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. Douglas Adams

    by Boru on Sun Jun 03, 2007 at 08:42:33 AM PDT

  •  Slothlax, if you get a chance, (0+ / 0-)

    please shoot me an email.  I have an Army question for you.

    AR

  •  you...will...pay, one day, for that license (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    govib

    If you don't care of it.  As sure as the sun rose this morning, it will happen.  Please trust me on this, it will come back to you one day.

    Just handle that license issue.  Today would be good.  You've invested far too much to fuck yourself like this, and yes it's traffic, but you've still pissed off the judge, and if at that point you still give him the finger things will sprial out of control very quickly, and it will traffic no more.

    Don't even let that scenario present itself.  Handle it, home.  It's total bullshit but the alternative is far worse, you're trapped.  Handle it.

  •  Glad you're home (0+ / 0-)

    Didn't get a chance to recommend the diary.

    Appreciate your nuance on Iraq, and wish more here at DailyKos were able to see more sides of the equation.

    In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. ...Thomas Jefferson

    by ivorybill on Mon Jun 04, 2007 at 08:39:56 AM PDT

  •  It is the ennui that takes its toll (0+ / 0-)

    As a Viet era Navy vet who appreciates your service and who has spent his share of time deployed, many of your comments sound quite familiar and are part of the deployed lifestyle.

    For me, the point you made about being at work 24x7 and living in close proximity with your boss and the absence of even beer are things I remember to this day.

    After I got out, when co-workers asked me how living on a ship was like, I would just tell them to imagine living and sleeping in their office cubicle, taking your meals in the office cafeteria, manning the security desk on an 8 hr on, 16 hr off schedule AND taking care of your job when not on watch.

    And all the time worrying about running into another building.

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