Friday, September 24, 2004

Conflicted - Inside and Out

September 24, 2004

With all that is happening around me, I am in surprisingly good spirits. Perhaps it’s because I know I will be home around this time in two months. I cannot tell you what a feeling of relief that is. I can almost taste the Starbucks. I can feel the cool California breeze on my neck. I can see the reunions with my friends and family in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and New York. I anticipate many days of doing nothing but spending time with those I love.

As the end of my tour draws nearer, I often wonder how I will process all that has happened to me, around me, and because of me. I wonder if I will go about my life in the states, basking in the warm hugs of those who are so grateful I am home. I wonder if I will forget the smell of the air, the heat of the sun, the crying eyes of the children, and the pain of the injured or dead. I wonder if I will miss this life – a life that has taught me more about myself than I dared to imagine. A life I love and a life I hate, where fear, death, religion, and politics consume every minute of my day.

Every day I wake up hoping to accomplish three goals: to make life a little more enjoyable for the soldiers fighting this war on the front lines; to do something that will improve the quality of life for the Iraqis, whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a simple smile; to come home alive.

I spend the majority of my day in a small, broken room on the top floor of the Baghdad Convention Center. I spend hours talking in to a microphone, listening to music, and laughing with my friend Abbey. I have the unique pleasure of reaching an entire country – a country that is overwhelmed daily with reports of car bombings and mass casualties. I cannot begin to understand what the citizens of Iraq are dealing with. I can only sympathize, and hope that in some small way, I am helping to change it.

At the top of every hour, we listen to news from the Associated Press. Those five-minute reports fill us in on the violence that surrounds us – a scary reminder of our reality. “Two Americans beheaded in two days, a Brit’s fate not known, three soldiers killed in a mortar attack, and 11 Iraqis killed by a suicide car bomber in downtown Baghdad.” This is what we hear every single hour, yet we bravely put on a happy face as we remind troops and civilians alike that there is more to the story – that there is a reason and a purpose behind our mission. Some call it propaganda. I call it necessary.

It’s incredibly unnerving to know the people we hear about on the news could very easily be one of us. To know theirs is a fate reliant on chance and opportunity; to know that fear brings them to their knees; to know their death is shown in all its horror on the internet; to know it could be us. Yet, a part of us wonders why it is not.

The closer I get to coming home, the more I miss the idea of home. My return to normalcy and safety is within my grasp, and I am finally able to say ‘my time is short.’ There are times, however, when I want time to slowly tick away so I can absorb what is happening here. This is my one chance to be here. I can never get this opportunity back. Yes, I will miss it.

I will miss knowing it takes only a smile and simple hello to remind Iraqis that Americans are here to improve their lives. I will miss measuring the size of a child’s foot on my combat boot to insure they get comfortable sneakers. I will miss feeling proud because a child in America is responsible for improving the life of a child in Iraq – with a simple pair of shoes.

Nothing about my experience in Iraq over the last year is simple, as is evident in my letters. My emotions and feelings volley back and forth more than a tennis ball during the US Open. I cannot imagine how I will process all of this, how I will reflect, or how I will change. I guess that’s why it’s called a conflict.

With Love,
Addie


4 Comments:

Anonymous Steve Waters said...

Addie, and to all my fellow Americans...I love you all. I believe very strongly in my country, not always in the government, but in the American people always, especially those who sacrafice for our nation. We may not always be perfect, but at the end of the day we try to do it right. To all of those who serve this nation in uniform, which I have not, thank you from the deepest part of my soul. You are an inspiration to me. Some of you joined the military because you had nothing, but what you have given is pricesless. You, in serving your country, have gained everything. War and service does not always give fond memories to you, I'm sure. What you have done is earned my fondness and respect. And to the families who have paid the ultimate sacrafice, my thoughts and prayers are always with you. I feel so small compared to the sacrafice of your fallen loved one. We all lose when they fall, but we rise in their honor. Thanks again Addie, I saw you on the Dennis Miller show and will send shoes. My heart goes out to the children everywhere, especially in Iraq. I pray that they will one day feel secure and enjoy the liberty that I take for granted too often. Thanks to all my fellow countrymen for being American, we don't all have to agree but only to come together in time of need. I support this effort, and our young heroes serving, sometimes it takes faith and time to understand what is going on. I believe in what you are doing, and I am with each of you in harms way in prayer and respect for your duty. I love you all.

9:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the men and women in uniform, you represent the best of us. Thank you!

9:37 PM  
Anonymous yooper(Packerfan) said...

just got home awhile ago myself-I was out of Camp Snake(Anaconda) and i miss listening to you and Abbie telling me to drink my F..... water and i Hate water but when in hell it was necessary.
Must be nice to be in Hollywood with a good job.

8:03 PM  
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10:29 AM  

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