It was a near constant close call with death for almost fifteen months. I was convinced I was going to die before the unit would be allowed to go home. I was so utterly convinced of it, that when nothing else could comfort me, the reminder that I was going to die soothed me to sleep. Sometimes I almost resent having survived it. The fire fights, the mortars, the IEDs, controlled detonations, the never-ending sexual assaults, the grabbing, the groping, the demands for kisses or other sexual favors, people dying, all of it was enough to really convince me that I was going to die. Or had already died and was in hell. Through all of that I had my job to do, and that was what held me together for the deployment. If I was going to die, then by God I would be remembered as a soldier who got shit done. It is even in the Army motto:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
You know I hear all the time, you don't seem like a soldier. People definitely wouldn't understand being in Iraq. The truth is I was a soldier, maybe not a very good one. I had problems with authority, given the circumstances I had valid reasons. I don't give a tin shit about being the prime physical specimen, or even getting promoted. One of the reasons people can't see me as a soldier is because I'm a bright girl. I don't know if it is the bright part or the girl part that annoys me more. I have zero tolerance for idiots, and this I picked up in the military. Frankly if I could argue someone higher ranking into a gibbering puddle of confusion, then as far as I was concerned, rank not withstanding, I was the superior soldier. I went on my missions, constantly, sometimes going days without sleep, lugging 80lbs of gear around in 100+ degree heat for dozens of miles a day, and remaining coherent enough to perform my duties. So as far as I was concerned, my performance on my physical fitness tests were entirely moot. Maybe I didn't make a lot of friends in the military (partly because of that zero tolerance for idiots mindset), but I could charm the shit out of people to give me information I needed in order to save American lives, and perform concise and accurate analysis of that information in order to help my unit with their missions. So yeah, I don't seem like a soldier, but so what? I got a few medals, a few awards, saved a few lives. The last part was all that mattered.
At any rate it's all over now, except I can't keep pretending like things didn't happen so I can keep putting one foot in front of the other just to make it through the day.