"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

27 March 2010

Seven Years

“For all his attention to my historical education, my father had neglected to tell me that history’s terrible moments were real. I understand now, decades later, that he could have never told me. Only history itself can convince you of the truth. And once you’ve seen the truth — really seen it — you can’t look away.” from The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova pg. 37

Recently, the 7th year of the war in Iraq passed, with some, but little reflection. I have been thinking about it since then.

I have been thinking about how long seven years really is. About how long 9 years in Afghanistan is. I have been thinking about all the things I have done in those years and all the ways I have grown and changed. It occurs to me that we are creeping up on something that is rather disturbing. My country has been at war almost half of my life.

Some people say that our war, the GWOT or OEF/OIF, whatever you want to call it, isn't like past wars. We have a voluntary military and a smaller percentage of people serve. It is true that people perhaps have less of a connection to the military and its actions than in the past. It is true that we, the protected, do not ration our gasoline or produce. It is easier to forget about what is going on far away, if you want to.

But what has struck me the past few weeks is just how much a part of our lives the war has become. Among my peers, it has become woven into the fabric of our lives. Maybe that is abnormal. Perhaps it is more a reflection on small-to-medium town USA. But at least for some, it is the truth.

I was at work when a moment of powerful recognition hit me. I was standing around with my coworkers, most of whom are close to my age. I work with a former high school classmate of mine and we were talking about mutual acquaintances. We started talking about someone we both knew who is serving in Afghanistan. That led to updates on other people we know who are in the service, and where they are and what they are doing. I have a friend in Ramadi and my coworker remarked that they knew someone who spent some time there. About six or seven of our other coworkers wandered into the conversation and we all compared notes on friends and family, high school buddies, and friends of friends who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. We talked about those we knew of who had been wounded and those from our hometown who had been killed. Someone mentioned that we needed a memorial for our war, like there is downtown for Vietnam.

Then the conversation drifted to other things like new movies, music, and if the economy would ever get better so we could find better jobs.

The moment of recognition came before that though. It came when we noticed we had an audience. Five of our coworkers, including our two supervisors, had stopped what they were doing, gathered together, and were listening to us talk. They were all older and grew up after Vietnam and before 9/11. They were staring at us kind of funny. One finally said, "You guys say that like it is so normal. You say, M spent some time there, like Iraq is Florida or something. You just transitioned from Iraq and Afghanistan to a show at the place and the merits of the newest Twilight movie without pause. Like it is just another part of your day to discuss which of your friends are over there."

I guess we did. We transitioned from updating each other on friends and family at war to the other general topics you discuss with people you work with. It was just another thing, just another part our lives, to have friends fighting a war someplace sandy. After all, my best friend is on round two-Afghan Style. By now, so many people I know have joined the service, gone overseas, come home, gone back, come home, gone back, come home, got out or reupped that it is kind of normal.

The war is something we have learned to live with.

The idea that some people, somewhere, wish us harm is something that has almost become normal.

There is something sad about that.

There is that old saying, I think it is a curse, "May you live in interesting times." It seems my peers and I do live in interesting times. We have seen life changing moments of history and been changed by them. Some of us have had the course of our lives changed by them.

Sometimes you don't realize the significance of your own history and the realities of what those historical moments have wrought until something happens to make you reflect.

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