Having thought I would never be called to embark on such a great adventure, and wondering on the first few days nearly a year ago how I would ever get through it, I'm surprised that my time in Iraq is quickly coming to a close, and that I have learned and grown so much. It has been worth it.
First I want to give you a list of the things that I won't miss about the experience, and then I let you know what will be hard to leave behind.
What I won't miss:
Porta-Potties. This one is at the top of the "won't miss" list for a reason. In the middle of the night when I was on leave I wanted to kiss the carpet because I didn't have to put on my boots and walk two hundred yards to use the bathroom. Then I got back off leave and summer came. If hell is anything like the heat baked chemical reaction of ammonia and sulfur inside a port-a-john on a 120-degree day, I beg Jesus to forgive me of all my sins and hereby swear that I will never commit another.
Military Food. You know it really isn't that bad, now that they have civilians taking care of it. Wednesday night is even fish night. But at my base they didn't have a McDonald's, let alone an Applebees or a McGrath's Fish House.
Military protocol and disorganization. I have developed a stronger belief in guardian angels when I see how successful the military is after realizing how disorganized we sometimes are. I do not like protocols, such as senseless duty assignments, rules that make no sense, nor how often a perfectly inconceived plan falls to crap the minute it is implemented. But what do you expect from an organization whose main goals are (1) to kill people, and (2) to break things? It's good that human nature is human nature the world over and that other organizations have to suffer from the same disorganization that we do. Our advantage is that we're disorganized on a much higher level than they are.
What I will miss:
My Buddies. We made a lot of memories, we had a lot of laughs, and we played a lot of basketball. I almost grew to love them as much as my own family, but not quite!!! Serving in a dangerous environment with casual friends turns them into something much dearer.
Being able to serve. Some of my fondest memories were when we were able to get stranded motorists back on the road, when we were able to protect Iraqi army personnel through the use of field artillery, when we were able to hand out toys and school supplies to the children, and when the people expressed their gratitude that we would leave our families for over a year to try and help them establish liberty in their country. Although it takes some soldiers and makes them harder, the experience mellowed and matured nearly everyone I came to know, especially including myself.
My newly-found friends. I've made several friends while I've been here, mostly from Iraq, but others from various countries across the globe. When will I ever get another chance such as this? My only regret is that I didn't take more opportunities to make friends and get to know better more of the ones I came to know. Some of these friends are the kind that last a lifetime. I hope that as the years progress we don't have to rely simply on e-mail; it would be nice to see them again, maybe when they come to America, or maybe when I take my family to Iraq in future, more peaceful times.In the balance, the good far outweighed the bad. I prefer the friendly confines of my mother country, the United States, mainly because my family is there. But now that I have served here, the great country of Iraq will always hold a place in my heart. And I will always feel like I have a stake in--and pray for--her success.
May God bless the United States of America, the beacon on the hill. And may God equally bless the nation of Iraq.