BLUF. When I compare my first deployment to Afghanistan with my second deployment to Iraq, one thought remains lodged in my cerebellum: I didn't deserve my combat pay.
My first deployment, to eastern Afghanistan in 2007, sent me as part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to Korengal Valley, which Vanity Fair dubbed the "valley of death." Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, a soldier in my battalion, last year became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam. Twenty-four of our battalion's soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice.
We slept on cots. I roomed with eight other people. In the winter, snowmelt leaked through our roof. In the summer, temperatures routinely passed 100 degrees and our AC units would crash. It took several minutes to get hot water in the shower, if it came. Food consisted of two warm trays of heated .Ã¢â¬â°.Ã¢â¬â°. stuff, if we didn't eat MREs. A snowstorm could knock out the satellite television feed and the Internet, as one did on Super Bowl Sunday.
Much more at The Washington Post.