Journey of a National Guard Soldier going Active

Monday, October 24, 2005

Dénouement



How does one sum up a year of such a unique experience filled with such wide extremes of emotions and events? The friendships made, the bonds forged, unlike any other. The relationship formed on the battle field is unlike anything else in the world. From the camaraderie of the old and young, to the diverse races of the world coming together for a common cause, for the liberty and freedom for Americans and Iraqis both.

I had the fortunate experience to serve my country with another unit for the first half of my deployment; The 518th Gun Truck Company. When I joined the unit, I remember getting off that bus at Camp Navistar, doing a 360 degree look of the place and thought to myself: “I’m really doing this.” I remember that we were greeted by 1st LT McCormick, an Ex-NCO turned officer through OCS. I remember him telling us that this was no joke, that in order to succeed as well as stay alive, we must revert to our training. The one thing I won’t forget is him telling us one specific clash with insurgents. One was where he was shot in the IBA, how, when the bullet struck him in the chest, it sent him down into the turret hole, everything was black for a second or so, till he regained awareness and got back in the turret and continued to return fire. “THAT” He said “Is what matters, getting back up in the turret.” At that point, I realized that this is what I truly wanted to do. I was where I belonged.

I was hit 3 times while with the 518th, one of which almost determined my mortality. From the turret of my Humvee, I was humbled by the interactions with the local populous, giving out food and water to local while we were stopped. Showing non-threatening actions; showing the Iraqis that we were good “people”, not just soldiers. At the same time, when we were attacked I found out once and for all how I would react. One can always “assume” how one will do in combat, but you never know until it happens, and I’m content on knowing that I react as well, if not better than what my training taught me.

The bonds forged in the 518th will be everlasting. We volunteered to perform a job that most were too afraid to take on. In that, we found pride as well as sense of solace in each other. No matter what anyone said about us, we all knew what it meant to be part of the 518th Gun Truck Company, and no one outside of the unit will ever be able to understand it.

When I came back to the ****th, I was told that I was going to be driving 915’s rather than be in the gun truck platoon. I felt personally insulted because of that decision. But I drove on; I performed up to standard and was finally promoted to PFC. But I truly didn’t feel like I belonged. My close friends were all in the gun truck platoon, and I never saw them. I had a few close bonds with certain soldiers in my platoon. But I was put in a squad in which I knew none of the soldiers well, a squad where my Squad Leader and Team Leader only know OF me, knew of my argumentative personality, knew of my tendency to lose my bearing; but they didn’t know me. The whole squad had half a deployment to bond; I had 2 days. I went on missions and went with the flow, but it was hard. I became more and more negative, no one really to talk to; to express my fears, my joys, my doubts.

Then one day, I was pulled into 1SG’s office; they had found out about my blog. I’ve kept a personal account of my life while deployed; dating as far back as Mob Station at Ft. Lewis. It was at first started as a light-hearted way of keeping family informed, till it turned into a forum for me to vent my joys and problems of life as a soldier. I decided to keep it anonymous; that way I could’ve written freely, but in a sense, people back home can get a real perspective of life here, rather than believe the crap on CNN and FOXNEWS. But from that point on I had to watch what I wrote. I felt like my rights had been treaded upon; an eerie resemblance of Orwell’s “1984”. I still wrote up until the point I got into an anticipated shutdown of my blog due to a flaky violation of UCMJ.

Around that time was when the saddest point of my deployment occurred. A good friend of mine died in what turned out to be an avoidable accident. He was so damn close to the mission being over. Makes you take a step back and ask why? He turned 21 the day before, I can only imagine that he talked with his parents the day before, and they wished him a happy birthday, and how it would be only a few more months till he came home for good, but now, they’ll never see him again. I never experience a death where I knew the person as close as Tony was. It was all too surreal. Like a bad joke. You could have almost pretended that he was just on the road, but in the end it would hit you. It hit me when I was at the Memorial Service for him; when the 1SG went ahead with the heartbreaking observance of the Final Roll Call.

So here we are now, merely days away from the “re-integration” back into society. My best friend asked me: “How do you feel about coming back?” I really had to take a moment, and sincerely reflect upon that question. After a few minutes I answered her truthfully; “I don’t know, it seems like there’s such a wide array of emotions that are balled up and ended up numbing me, I’m afraid, nervous, happy, saddened, curious, angered, disappointed, and satisfied. Yet, I couldn’t pin-point one emotion.

Soldiers in this unit can take back the many good and bad experiences during this deployment and learn from them. I, myself, am glad to have served my country honorably; I have gone through few painless days and scores of hard times. I have, in the end, been able to have learned and matured through many of my mistakes and successes; and for that, I am forever grateful, and humbled for my deployment with the ****th Transportation Company.

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