My first encounter with you was in March 2003, though I had heard of you as early as November or December 2002. I knew our destinies would intertwine at some point, but I wasn’t sure of how consequential it would eventually be. And now, as our relationship has taken a new meaning, I am finding myself overcome with so many different feelings. I guess it is over. Forever over, changed; I don’t know how else to describe it other than over. There will never be a going back now.
I feel like I spent a lot of time preparing for our union. I read the books and went to the classes. I tried to prepare myself, but when it came down to actually meeting you head on, I was scared. I felt like that 5 year old waiting to open the door to the classroom that very first day of class. I didn’t know what to expect. I assumed we would have our brief encounter and then I could move on and carry on with my life. I never knew how much you would affect my life. And now, as I read about how we are over, I am sad and I am mourning, and yet, I am also proud to say I was one whose life was touched by you.
In January 2003 I deployed right outside of Iraq. I was so nervous about what was about to be happening. We all knew what was going to happen as far as another war breaking out. I felt proud to have been selected to join the first wave of the war. I remember vividly sitting to dinner in the chow hall watching on the local TV (not in english obviously!) the first bombings on Baghdad. I felt a little conflicted. I looked around at the third country nationals who worked at the chow hall to see their reactions. I was concerned about them and how they would be looking at us. I assume that some had families over there since we were so close to the border. I remember watching the days leading up to the “shock and awe” and the interviews we saw on BBC of the Iraqi people who doubted that they would be bombed. I felt a pang of hurt in my chest knowing that there were probably a lot of families greatly affected by the events I was watching. We sat in disbelief that March evening.
My relationship with the war in Iraq has been draining. I left my little white house in Georgia as a 22 year old woman, and some how, I left something behind on each deployment. I left some of the innocence I see in other women my age. I came back home with the realization that anyone, and everyone, has a capacity to be cruel, hurtful, spiteful, cold, callus, and completely void of characteristics which make us decent humans. I have witnessed otherwise faithful men throw out their sacred vows, I have felt the wrath of an otherwise decent person. I have heard the slurs that most wouldn’t dare let pass their lips. I feel like I have seen true hate and true evil.
Now, here I am 9 years later, a 31 year old woman. I am bitter and angry. I am emotionally numb to almost everyone (my children get what little love I have inside to share). I have a hard time feeling the pain of others. I feel both owed, and undeserving. I destroy relationships, including the one with myself. I have nightmares, I scream in my sleep. I wake up almost every morning trying to recover from my night. Whenever you see me out, I could tell you all the ways we could die in that location. I know what it is like to write your last letter home because you are pretty sure you are going to die soon (right before our communications black out at the start). To say I am changed is an understatement. I am gone. I am lost. I am alone.
Watching the recent news about the war being over has brought up so many feelings and emotions in me. If the war is over then why are so many people (my brother included) still deployed? I realize this “war is over” business is just a way to make the American people feel better. Give them nice warm fuzzy feelings. It doesn’t actually mean anything. You don’t honestly think we are completely out do you? And this also brings up my question, what has changed in these 9 years that can justify all those who didn’t make it home? Maybe things are better for the people there, I don’t know, but what was the cost to us?
So I guess, like with all relationships, there comes a time when one changes. I suppose that this is the big change. What do I do now? It’s so weird and twisted to grieve over the end of a war that has caused so much pain and heartache for those who were touched by it.