What do I miss from Iraq?
Be not a slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with a new power, with an advanced experience that shall overlook and explain the old. –Emerson, On Nature
Control- it’s not the killing, the war, or the violence. It is the absolute respect, authority, responsibility and accountability that I was afforded and bestowed by the nation. In Iraq, my bosses gave me their confidence to execute my mission.
In Iraq, I was Captain Few, Alpha Six, and Shadow Six. You’ve seen this from meeting my men. If I said that night was day, then so it was. I commanded 100 paratroopers and 200 Iraqi soldiers, and we were responsible for governing 125,000 people.
Even the al Qaeda sheik who was trying to kill me respected me.
Perhaps, that is what we’re all struggling with? It’s not really the war; it’s just being the average Mike Few or Joe Smith when we come home? The shepherd with no sheep to herd?
We come home to a nation that not only does not acknowledge our war, but dismisses who we are by immediately portraying us as victims and wounded warriors.
I am neither a victim nor a warrior. I am a professional soldier. As an officer, I took a sworn oath to defend the Constitution.
The garrison Army cannot even get the name right for those soldiers and marines wounded in battle. The term warrior is the most disrespectful label. Simply put, as LTC Robert Bateman states,
“Unfortunately, and I cannot nail down when this started, a trend started to take hold in the Army and the Marine Corps which blurred that distinction. Sometime in the mid-90s we started to hear senior officers (defined in my head as "Colonels and Up") calling us "warriors." At first the appellation was rare enough. Now and then you might hear it creep into a speech at a Change of Command ceremony, or perhaps at a Dining In (a formal dinner for the officers of a battalion or brigade). But slowly the term began to come into more common usage, even as it leaked into print in professional journals and in speeches coming from Air Force officers. This is a bad sign, and it does not seems to be stopping. I wish it would, because calling us warriors is not only inaccurate, it displays an ignorance about what a warrior is all about. The bottom line is that a real "warrior" is really just about himself. Indeed, the key difference between a Soldier (or a Marine, or an Airman) and a "warrior" is almost that simple. A serviceman does his job as a part of a complex human system, he does so with discipline and selflessness as his hallmarks. Courage also matters, of course, but it is but one of several values that are needed. The serviceman is the product of a Western society which, while it values individualism intrinsically, values subordination in pursuit of a collective objective as well. A warrior, on the other hand, is the product of a culture or subculture which is essentially purely honor-driven. That is not a good thing.”
I fought not for profit or personal gain; I fought for my men and my mission. I was not a mercenary. And so, this is the world that we live in. I accept that, but I will find my own control in this world. As it is, I refuse to go back into that other world and relive battles that I already won. I refuse to feel sorry for the poor souls who chose hate and anger and death over living.
As Emerson told me, I grieve that neither grief nor fear will teach me nothing.
I’m tired of grieving. I am going to live. I am going to lead. I am going to empower those around me; we are going to find our own way. The way ahead is simply listening and building relationships- overcoming the Us-Them and becoming the We without the use of force.
It is time.