I wrote this in a letter to the Mrs. last February, right after I arrived in country.
I had an interesting day. I went on another patrol, but this one got pretty interesting right off the bat. We were walking through a palm grove—just looking around—and I looked about 3 feet to my right and saw a land mine. It's called a vs1.6—you can see it here:
So I see this mine. And immediately look at my feet. (Not making the connection that if I already stepped on a mine, I'd not have any feet). I pointed it out it to my driver. I said "Hey, isn't that a mine?"
Well, we cordoned off the area and swept for more mines as some of the boys
prepped it for demolition. About 30 minutes later, I'm 50 yards away
talking to one of my platoon sergeants, and I find ANOTHER mine. Same kind, but this one is about 15 feet away, under a piece of cinderblock. It's been positioned near the road we're patrolling on, where a BFV had been sitting a few days ago. Since Americans tend to be lazy and visit the same spot, Haji will put mines there for the next time we come.
Again, I look at my feet before saying "Hey, isn't that a mine?" We blew them both up and went about our business. The weird thing about all this was how normal it all seemed. I didn't get excited, just went about doing my job. I guess it'll all end up as part of my PTSD later.
Lately, life’s been a lot more interesting than the fact that I ate breakfast and took my 1000 a.m. portajon visit.
How was your drive to work?
Top and I were talking about it. He said to look at it like this: At least it makes the day go by fast. One minute you're on a 4-hour patrol, the next thing you know it’s almost dark and you're rolling back to the FOB. At this rate I'll be home in no time.
Believe it or not, a large part of my day involves visiting towns and villages, talking to people and politicians, and generally being curious. The area I am in is pretty rural, mostly date palm groves, citrus orchards, and farms (some really skinny cows) lots of sheep and goats, and of course, the smells that come with them.
As I drive through these villages, little kids come out of the woodwork to stand by the side of the road and wave. Most of the villages in my sector (especially the very poor ones) really like us. I have been invited into homes already to share meals and the Chai Tea (make 1/4 cup of Lipton using about 6 bags of tea, add a tablespoon of sugar. It isn't exactly tasty but it wakes you up! These are homes
that are often single room structures, made of mud bricks and thatched palm roofs. These people truly have NOTHING. Nothing except kids. I was talking to one of the villagers today as I was watched by her 7 kids, ranging from 2-14, and as I looked at the youngest of them, a little girl about my daughter’s age, I saw a dirty face and a big toothy grin. She hid by grandma's Abayya (the black robe) and just kept staring and smiling. I waved and smiled as she ran off to play with
her siblings. She was wearing sandals and a tee shirt, and a 7th generation hand me down pair of pants. Here I was, standing around wearing my desert uniform, wool socks, coat, body armor, and all my gear, and I was a little chilly. These kids are dressed like we dress in the summer. It's not a matter of acclimation; they simply have no other choice. I just wanted to give that little girl a pair of shoes and a warm smile and tell her that people in
I came over here thinking we should just bomb this place into a parking lot. I now think that as alien as this culture is, it may actually be worth saving, if we can show them that we are all just people who care about each other.
It's amazing the abject poverty these people live in. I figure that if I am going to have to find mines, get shot at, and get blown up by IEDs, I might try to do some good here too. God Knows I'm way low on Karma points.
An hour later, a little kid throws a rock at my truck, it bounces off the gunner’s turret, hits him in the wiley-x’s, shatters the lens ad gives him one hell of a shiner. So much for the shoes. I showed him something else: Love—Parental American Style. I chased him on foot through the town, pulled his pants down in front of all his little buddies, and spanked his bare ass right there on the street. If it’s good enough for my kids, it’s good enough for him.