Saturday, August 25, 2007

Things I can't tolerate

One thing I have realized I have a hard time tolerating are people who are curious about the way things are in battle and then roll their eyes or scoff as you try to describe it. There were many times when I was with friends, family and strangers that the war came up and though that was the last thing I wanted to talk about, I often did.

The heat usually started the topic as many people were complaining about the heat wave while I was home. It was often 98-101 degrees and they were saying how it was too hot to do anything. I would chuckle and mention that I loved the “cool” weather and smile. They’d usually ask and I would mention it was 145 degrees the day we left Kuwait and often in the 150’s at our base in Iraq. I would go on to say that it is too hot to do anything without air conditioning, but sometimes the AC breaks down and you have to press on. Sometimes you drive all night and get to a tent with no working air conditioning like on the mission I went on. It was 130 degrees inside the tent which made it hard to sleep. “That’s bull!” or “It’s a dry heat, it’s not the same.” would be the reply.

I love to eat and was looking forward to gaining 15-20 pounds while I was home. I ate a lot. I ate good food and I loved it. While laughing, I would say it’s better than eating from a bag all the time and that sometimes, long hours, location or the mission keeps you out of the kitchen for a bit and bags of food are all you have. “That’s bull!” would be the response. “The Army has to provide you at least one hot meal a day!” or “Hell, the MRE’s you guys eat are gourmet now days, compared to the ones I had to eat!”

When talking about how much fun I had on my trip to the space center in Alabama with my kids, and that the trip was only 7 hours; I heard how that was a terribly long drive. I laughed and commented that comparatively speaking it is a short trip and I didn’t even get bombed one time. I went on to explain that some of our guys are on the road for 8-15 hours without much of a break depending on where they have to go. “That’s bull! “or “The Army has to give you a half hour break every 4 hours! They can’t make you drive that long without a break!” would be the rebuttal.

So, here you go. If you are just going to roll your eyes, scoff or call me a liar, quit asking what it’s like over here. Unless you have been here, you can’t even fathom what I am talking about anyway. Peacetime veterans are often the worst! I know, because up until seven months ago, I was one. Like them, I had no idea what the conditions were like and tried to relate it to my peacetime experiences. Summertime is hot in Iraq. Dry heat be damned; 150 degrees feels like your face is burning off.

One hot meal a day? It is 150 degrees; that IS a hot meal! Even if it wasn’t, we are in the middle of the damn desert in a place where people are trying to kill us. We can’t say, “Hey guys it is lunch time. Who wants Mickey D’s for our hot meal today?” Gourmet? Just because we get melted M&M’s and Chicken Alfredo, which is better than the meatloaf you ate in 1976, doesn’t make it gourmet!

A half hour break for every four hours of driving? Again people, we are in the middle of the desert, conducting missions that run along some of the most dangerous roads in the world, where bad guys are trying to kill us. The only break our guys get is when they find a bomb, get blown up by a bomb, break down or get attacked!

If you can’t open your mind a little bit and try to comprehend that there is a huge difference between serving in peacetime and serving in combat, then so be it. Try to understand that the conditions on the battlefield change almost daily and that the conditions we have now are even better than the ones the soldiers had on the initial invasion, but just because your arrogance, ignorance or bull-headedness can’t relate the two, doesn’t make me a liar! I make no misconceptions that I have the most dangerous job, the longest hours or the most combat experience in our unit. I do, however, know the guys that do. They are my friends and my brothers.

They suffer extreme hardships, adapt and overcome them. If you can’t realize that conditions in combat today aren’t even able to be compared to you hanging out in garrison back in 1989, then grab your rifle, strap up your boots and come see “how easy we have it now days!”