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ruminations of a soldier medic ©2006-2008
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9th-May-2010 01:26 pm - For those stopping by from HCW...
blue eye
Beware: Lots of profanity here. I lot of my time in Iraq was spent being angry and bitter.

I have no clue what exactly I wrote here anymore. I try not to think about it, and I won't go back and read any of it because I will probably be embarrassed!

BUT I will not apologize for any of my emotions/thoughts in this blog, whether they be happiness, anger, bitterness, sadness, insanity, nuttiness, weirdness, whatever.
 
Never apologize for showing feeling.  When you do so, you apologize for the truth.  ~Benjamin Disraeli



Old men declare war. But it is youth who must inherit the tribulation, the sorrow, and the triumphs that are the aftermath of war. -Herbert Hoover



Milblogging.com

11th-Jun-2008 04:04 am - Done
blue eye
I haven't updated in almost a month here. Reason: no motivation. So this is the official end. Maybe one day if motivation strikes I'll start it up again. If you really want to know what's up, shoot me an email.

Peace.
8th-May-2008 10:39 pm - It's been awhile
snoopy
I've been really lazy lately. I have stuff to talk about, although nothing entirely interesting. Maybe I will work on a post sometime this weekend. I also have more pictures to put up. I will work on those too. I just don't feel like sitting down and typing stuff out anymore.
29th-Apr-2008 11:04 am - Found: Hawijah Attack
my soul threw up
Around 3:15 is when the VBIED hits. Around 3:45 is when they started yelling for a medic (me). That is around the time I thought I was done for. Relive my day here: http://lackofcompany.livejournal.com/28972.html.



 
29th-Apr-2008 10:38 am - Quotes From the Soldiers
blue eye
 Sunday, May 14, 2006

 

"You're so glad to have a shower for more than two minutes, but you come home and you're like, now what? Now you've done your thing and you're supposed to just drill. So it's just like uh . . . that was it. I've done it. Went over the hump and now what?"

-- Army Reserve Sgt. Lisa Dunphy

intelligence analyst, November 2004-May 2005

"You know how the World War II vets, they sit on their porch and tell their grandkids, 'I was in a foxhole at Normandy'? I see myself doing that. It's something I'll have for the rest of my life."

-- Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Jeramey "Jay" Lopez

security/maintenance recovery, March-September 2003

"When I left Germany, I just thought, Gosh, I can't stand being in the military. Blah blah blah. I remember older enlisted guys saying, 'Son, when you get out, you're going to miss it, miss it.' I was like, 'No way.' But sure enough. I missed the responsibility. I want people to take responsibility for what they've done. In the civilian world, you don't see that."

-- Army Reserve Sgt. Michael Kelly

Civil affairs, April-October 2003

"On a day-to-day basis, people are not quite as tuned in as they could be. They're like, 'My boy's not over there.' . . . I mean, everyone's real helpful when it comes to wounded vets. But on a day-to-day basis, it's like, 'It's not my kid.' "

-- Army National Guard Sgt. Jared Jalbert

pipeline security, March-September 2004

"I'll treat people nicer. In Iraq, I would meet people, and the next day they wouldn't be there."

-- Army Reserve Maj. Randell Alicea

logistics officer, October 2004-October 2005

"I don't think [other mothers] understand. The first thing they ask is, 'How could you leave your kids?' They are not tuned in to what is going on internationally. They are soccer moms, and the world is the school. I always find myself sitting with the dads."

-- Marine Reserve Maj. M. Naomi Hawkins

public affairs officer, August 2004-March 2005

"You know what was really amazing? The people who said, 'Chris, you know, I don't support the cause, but no matter what the cause, I'm always going to support the troops.' I was just dumbfounded by that. I asked this one guy why you don't support the cause. He said, 'I've been watching the news.' "Well," I said, "that's your problem."

-- Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chris Bain

reconnaissance and chemical weapons specialist, January-April 2004

"We left [Iraq] in February '05 and landed in Landstuhl [Germany] in a blizzard. It was 80 in Iraq. Everyone was going through their duffles looking for something warm. I just stared out the window at snowy Germany buzzing by, trying to figure out what had happened. The married guys were hugging their kids and wives. All of us single soldiers went to an empty barracks with no sheets on the beds. It didn't feel like home; we still felt deployed. I walked out to the shopette, and it was out of beer."

-- Army Spec. Garett Reppenhagen

cavalry scout, February 2004-February 2005

"Sometimes it hurts to know Americans have all but forgotten us. America has totally forgotten about Afghanistan."

-- Air Force Senior Airman Marie Binney

airborne missions system specialist, March-September 2003

"I got more thank-yous and pats on the back than I ever got in my life. Even today, when I say I was over there. I did have one old man tell me he didn't appreciate us over there, but that's his opinion. He's entitled to it as an American."

-- Army National Guard Sgt. Cliff Kazarian

mechanic, February 2004-January 2005

"You watch TV at night. There's nothing on the news hardly ever. The only people it's affecting are the people wearing the uniform and their families. It's just not fair that this small population has to bear the burden."

-- Army Sgt. Dustin Conover

medic, August 2004-January 2005

"I get mad a lot. . . . There have been lots of times when I've almost gotten into a fight. I feel like fighting. Even if someone looks like he could beat me up, I don't care."

-- Marine CPL. Jose Rosales

infantry squad leader, March-June 2003

"I'm happier. I know I'm alive and I'm home. There's no reason to be mad."

-- Army National Guard Spec. Michael Gillis

automated logistical specialist, March 2004-March 2005

"I think the most common misperception about war in general is people think it's glamorous and glorious and wonderful, and it isn't."

-- Army Sgt. Kevin Benderman

mechanic, March-August 2003

Benderman filed for conscientious objector status after his Iraq tour but was denied. He was convicted of intentionally "missing movement" for not boarding a plane for Iraq when his unit was redeployed in January 2005. He is serving 15 months at Fort Lewis, Wash.

"Gosh, there are so many people here who don't know what it is like to wear the uniform and serve your country overseas. I'm really grateful."

-- Army Reserve Sgt. Magda Khalifa

civil affairs, February-October 2004; April 2006-present

"I talk to a lot of the guys, and it's hard for us to adapt. The noises scare us. The nightmares we have problems with. We have anger issues. For me, it's hard to hold a job. It's hard on your family. My dad says he can look into a GI's eyes, and he can tell who's been over there."

-- Army Reserve Sgt. Casey Christensen

transportation specialist, March 2004-January 2005

"When they came back, a lot of people said they got PTSD. Yeah, right. Get over it. I saw more and done more than half of them anyway, and I'm not bothered. So what's the problem?"

-- Army National Guard Spec. Eric Gainey

gunner, March 2003-May 2004

"Some people didn't say anything, and it just grew and grew inside of them. I wanted to let it out. Even now that I'm back home, and I look at the pictures of the guys, it's hard to keep from crying."

-- Army National Guard Sgt. Sinque Swales

combat engineer, March 2004-March 2005

"The first week back, I was the best man in a wedding, and I had a Vietnam War veteran come up to me, and he handed me $50 and said, 'Take your wife out to dinner. I appreciate what you did. We didn't get the welcome we deserved when we got back, and I don't want that to happen to you; I want you to go out and enjoy yourself.'"

-- Navy Corpsman Jim Weller

hospital corpsman, January-November 2004

"It was good to see some trees. Something other than the sand. To get here with some fresh air, without oil burning in the air."

-- Army Sgt. 1st Class Darrin Jones

field artillery, February 2004-February 2005

"It's hard to look at Americans and not say, 'You are fat, lazy and have no idea what you have.' The very first time I go into McDonald's and hear someone complaining that there isn't enough ice in their Coke, I'm going to punch them in the face."

-- Army Spec. Ernesto Haibi

medic, November 2003-October 2004

"It was tough being here and watching the news, knowing that those guys I went with were going back. Seeing Marines every day dying on TV made me want to go back. I got out and took a job working security for 13 bucks an hour, and it didn't mean anything. Luckily, I got this job at the fire department, got the therapy -- even if I have nightmares or flashbacks, now it's just an experience I had. Some guys get out, and they hang themselves."

-- Marine CPL. Daniel Finn

infantry, March-July 2003

"I felt a little undeserving because of all the thanks I received. I felt like I was just doing my job."

-- Marine Capt. Robert Washington

artillery, March-June 2003

28th-Apr-2008 09:18 am - I found this at the Washington Post
eyes wide open
While some of this I can't relate to, I think that for the most part, this is all fairly accurate... Little has changed.  (This article is from a few years ago.)


Veterans' Voices On Iraq
Voices of 100 Veterans: The War in Their Words 
Sunday, March 19, 2006


The heat, which is like living under a french-fry lamp, like standing in front of the world's biggest hair dryer, like sitting in a sealed car on the hottest summer day in Washington with the heater blasting and someone throwing sand in your face.

The mud, which follows the hot season, cold, slimy, sticky mud that makes you wish it would turn hot again.

The green that erupts after a spring rain and astounds you the first time you see it. The blue of the timeless sky above and beyond all the troubles. The black of the inky desert night, thickly dusted with stars and galaxies.

The eyes of the children.

These are some of the things they remember from their service in Iraq.

Over the past year, The Washington Post conducted in-depth interviews with 100 of the more than 500,000 veterans of the war. They included men and women, officers and enlisted, active-duty and reserves, combat and support troops. The questions were open-ended. The intent was to hear from them, in their own words, what the experience was like.

They remembered the camel spiders, big, fast and scary-looking. The sand flies, scorpions, mosquitoes and flying crickets. The long, hard days -- 12-hour shifts that easily turn into 20-hour shifts when they don't turn into round-the-clock marathons.

They remembered the roaring metal of System of a Down and Adema, the throbbing rap of Public Enemy and 50 Cent, the soldier-celebrating anthems of Toby Keith:

And I can't call in sick on Mondays/When the weekend's been too strong/I just work straight through the holidays/And sometimes all night long. . . .

Stringing Xbox cables from bunk to bunk to play Madden football or Tony Hawk skateboarding games in the two-man residential trailers known as "cans." Visiting the "hadji marts," clusters of enterprising Iraqis who sell everything from bootleg DVDs to rotgut alcohol on the roadside just beyond the wire of nearly every camp. Watching an entire season of "The Simpsons" or "CSI" or "Saved by the Bell" on your laptop. Watching your baby grow up via e-mail and webcam.

Wondering how honest to be with the folks back home. You don't want them to worry. So you try to sound cheerfully vague and remind them to send gummy candies, which don't melt, rather than chocolates, which do. But all that loving deception ends in a whoosh if a mortar hits during a telephone call to Mom.

Iraq was bad, nearly all of them agreed. "Not knowing day to day what was going to happen." "Hard to figure out who the enemy was." "Never being able to relax." "The rules are that there are no rules."

But it was not bad in the ways they see covered in the media -- the majority also agreed on this. What they experienced was more complex than the war they saw on television and in print. It was dangerous and confused, yes, but most of the vets also recalled enemies routed, buildings built and children befriended, against long odds in a poor and demoralized country. "We feel like we're doing something, and then we look at the news and you feel like you're getting bashed." "It seems to me the media had a predetermined script." The vibe of the coverage is just "so, so, so negative."

No two sets of memories were identical. This almost goes without saying, but not quite, because it underscores a point made by many of the veterans. Some of the deepest impressions left over from Iraq were not the externals -- the sights, sounds, smells, scenes -- but the internal marks. In Iraq, they saw, did and endured things they hadn't seen, done or imagined before, and this affected each one uniquely.

"Each individual over there has his own little war he is fighting," Army medic Joe Drennan explained. "No two people are going to have the same experiences." These personal wars add up to the war they share.

* * * A lot depended on when they were over there.

The invasion -- three years ago today -- was a blur, pulsing with excitement and wired on Adderall. Invasion vets remembered villages of blank-faced Iraqis lining the roads as the armor sped past, and ranks of empty Iraqi tanks bombed out in the desert, and busloads of men in civilian clothes suddenly opening fire, and a sandstorm so thick they could hardly see their hands in front of their faces.

Arriving in Baghdad, "I had an Iraqi citizen come up to me," said Lance Cpl. Daniel Finn, a Marine infantryman. "She was a female. She opened her mouth and she had no tongue. She was pointing at the statue" of Saddam Hussein. "There were people with no fingers, waving at the statue of Saddam, telling us he tortured them. People were showing us the scars on their backs."

After the initial victory came lean months when the war had too much death and not enough infrastructure. Troops slept in their armored trucks -- if their trucks were armored. They ate cold chow and drank hot water and dug pit toilets where they suffered "Saddam's revenge." They scraped the grime from their skin with baby wipes mailed from home. No one had planned for so many Americans to live in Iraq for so long.

Little by little, the cans arrived with their cushioned bunks and air conditioning. Showers and restrooms were built. Apart from the improvised explosive devices, the ambushes, the suicide bombers and the mortar attacks, life became sort of bearable. Rec centers opened with large-screen TVs and air-hockey tables. Dining halls began serving hot food and icy sodas.

Once-a-week phone calls home gave way to broadband Internet connections. Movie theaters and coffee bars opened. Gyms were built on most bases.

"The great stress reliever was exercise" -- veterans reported this again and again. Opportunities for sex apparently varied from one part of the country to another, and drinking was forbidden. A few veterans admitted that they had a swig, or more, of bootlegged or smuggled booze. But the most common way to vent the tension was to pump iron and work the cardio machines for an hour or two at the end of a long day.

With a few exceptions, the veterans described a highly professional, almost spartan force, characterized by resilient morale and good discipline. "I didn't touch a girl or alcohol for seven months, and that was tough," said Sgt. Christopher Johnson of the Marine Reserve. Many said they were ready to return to Iraq.

* * * In some ways, they talked about a war much like all wars for all troops in all times. It was a test, personal and elemental. To understand it, you must go through it; no words could entirely convey the experience to those who were not there. Many veterans described a moment, different for each person, when the test boiled down to a single yes-or-no question -- again, slightly different for each person.

Would you fight or flee? Would you crack under pressure? Would you shoot or freeze? Was it better to know that you hit your target, or not to know?

Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Day spoke of wondering "what I would do when I start getting shot at. Will I fire back or curl in a ball? And sure enough, I fired back right away."

The reason he fired back was also timeless. "It was not so much for myself, but for the guys beside me," Day said. "I was shooting and trying to kill the people that were trying to kill my friends."

He used the word "friends." Others preferred family terms. GIs talked about their "brothers." Officers spoke of their "kids." The intense bonds they formed had little to do with like-mindedness and everything to do with shared risk and mutual dependence.

"Soldiers are nonpartisan," explained Staff Sgt. Larry Gill of the National Guard. "We could give a rat's heehaw about same-sex marriage or other issues. We're given a job to do, and you go out and do your job. Because if you don't, someone's going to get hurt or die."

The officers are often gung-ho. "We are professionals," said Capt. Tyler McIntyre of the Army headquarters staff. "If you just step back, give us some breathing space, let us do our job, we'll get it done."

The enlisted troops, sometimes less so. You "meet a lot of active-duty hoorah guys and then some of us who were National Guardsmen who weren't so sure why we were there," said Spec. Amy Capistran, a mechanic with the Virginia National Guard. In other ways, it has been a war like no other.

Civilian contractors performed many of the support roles that would have been handled by GIs in past wars. Some of these were menial jobs few would have wanted. Other contractors did security work. To many troops, it didn't seem fair that these mercenaries earned big salaries and could party after work.

Technology shaped the war experience in ways both good and bad. The distance between troops and their families was closed by e-mail and satellites and instant messages and blogs. But officers worried constantly that families might discover bad news inadvertently. The bad news as of this weekend was 2,313 killed and 17,124 wounded.

The presence of women in a wider variety of roles also sets the Iraq war apart. Commanders have struggled, in some cases, to know how to manage a coed military. 1st Lt. Tanya Lawrence-Riggins of the Army National Guard said she and the other women in her unit had to bathe outdoors, screened by parked trucks, because an active-duty commanding officer didn't want them in the showers.

Other women complained that every friendship they formed with a male soldier was grist for gossip. "The rumor mill was horrific," said National Guard Lt. Connie Woodyard, whose husband served at another base in Iraq. "I was just like, 'I'm not getting that much sex! If I were, I'd like war a whole lot more.' "

* * * The difference between a hot day and a cold day in Iraq is more than 100 degrees. The historical sites are among the oldest in the world -- the ruins of Babylon, Nineveh and Ur. The poverty in some places is appalling. Iraq is an extreme land, where American troops must cope with extremity.

Extremes of doubt: "It was hard to figure out who the enemy was. Everyone practically looks the same and dresses the same. You didn't know who was a terrorist and who was not," said Spec. Greg Seely, a Virginia National Guardsman.

Extremes of emotion: "The bombs were everywhere," said Army Staff Sgt. John Thomas. "You feel like you are in a movie. You drive through the town, you see the women out in the fields, and children and other people are on the roofs watching. They are waiting on the roofs to see you get blown up."

Extremes of angst: "It's a lot harder than what a lot of people think, especially if you have a family," said Navy Corpsman Nathanial Slenker. "You're worried about your family. About the friends that you're there with. You worry about yourself and your ability to keep handling situations. You're constantly worrying." 

22nd-Apr-2008 06:16 pm - Well, I finally did it
blue eye
I have signed up for the third time, and I expect to take my first official college class this summer. They say the third time is a charm, so let's hope it all works out this time.

Somehow the army always gets in the way. I signed up for classes as a senior in high school. I then had to drop those classes because I was on my way to basic training. I signed up for classes again in April of 2006. I later had to drop them when I found out I was being deployed to Iraq.

So here we are, the third time around. I hope the army doesn't get in the way again.

In the meantime, I will be trying to figure out just how exactly I will pay for school since the Army has no education benefits for those who transfer to the IRR. Go figure. But, that is just a small bump in the road. I don't need the army. I'll figure it out on my own.
damage is done
Mental health injuries scar 300,000 troops
Only half of vets have sought help for depression, post-traumatic stress
The Associated Press
updated 11:26 a.m. ET, Thurs., April. 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - Some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries, a new study estimates.

Only about half have sought treatment, said the study released Thursday by the RAND Corporation.

“There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at the nonprofit RAND.

“Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The 500-page study is the first large-scale, private assessment of its kind — including a survey of 1,965 service members across the country, from all branches of the armed forces and including those still in the military as well veterans who have left the services.

Its results appear consistent with a number of mental health reports from within the government, though the Defense Department has not released the number of people it has diagnosed or who are being treated for mental problems. The Department of Veterans Affairs said this month that its records show about 120,000 who served in the two wars and are no longer in the military have been diagnosed with mental health problems. Of the 120,000, approximately 60,000 are suffering from PTSD, the VA said.

Veterans Affairs is responsible for care of service members after they have left the service, while the Defense Department covers active-duty and reservist needs. The lack of information from the Pentagon was one motivation for the RAND study, Tanielian said.

Problems affect more than 18 percent of troops
The most prominent and detailed military study on mental health that is released is the Army’s survey of soldiers at the warfront. Officials said last month that its most recent one, done last fall, found 18.2 percent of soldiers suffered a mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or acute stress in 2007 compared with 20.5 percent the previous year.

The Rand study, completed in January, put the percentage of PTSD and depression at 18.5 percent, calculating that approximately 300,000 current and former service members were suffering from those problems at the time of its survey, which was completed in January.

The figure is based on Pentagon data showing over 1.6 million military personnel have deployed to the conflicts since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001.

RAND researchers also found:

About 19 percent — or some 320,000 services members — reported that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed. In wars where blasts from roadside bombs are prevalent, the injuries can range from mild concussions to severe head wounds.
About 7 percent reported both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.
Only 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for their head injuries.
Only 53 percent of service members with PTSD or depression sought help over the past year.
They gave various reasons for not getting help, including that they worried about the side effects of medication; believe family and friends could help them with the problem; or that they feared seeking care might damage their careers.
Rates of PTSD and major depression were highest among women and reservists.

The report is titled “Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery.” It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by 25 researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division, which does work under contracts with the Pentagon and other defense agencies as well as allied foreign governments and foundations.
19th-Apr-2008 12:37 pm - Finally
sometimes we just need out
So I went to my appointment at the VA yesterday. My doctor was Dr. Ahmed. And he was middle eastern. The irony did not escape me as I followed him back to his office. I am not that closed minded or judgemental about people of middle eastern descent. However I wondered how people who have come from Iraq or Afghanistan feel about having him as a doctor.

I was fine driving to the office. But getting out of my car I suddenly got really scared. I can remember years ago having my whole family go talk to this psychologist that I just absolutely hated. I hated being forced to go talk to someone about my "problems" when the problem in our family was my mom.

I got in to the office and just kept getting more and more anxious while I was waiting in the waiting room. Dr. Ahmed finally peeked his head out the door and called my name. He asked me tons of questions about my family, the year in Iraq and my time since I got home. I answered them all. The one question I had the most difficulty with was answering the questions about if anyone I knew died while we were in Iraq. It was like the wind was sucked out of me. It took me a while to say it. I had the words on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't say them. For me the hardest part is vocalizing Rachael's death. I can go days without thinking about it and be fine. But thinking about it inevitably ends with a painful lump in my throat and the threat of tears. Talking about it is something I really have difficulty saying.

I told Dr. Ahmed how I watched the video the terrorists put online of her accident. I told him how no one would show it to me and I finally begged until I got what I wanted. And I told him how I would watch the video four, five, sometimes six times in a row. Youtube finally took it down and I had to quit. I told him about the arabic writing and the creepy music and the singing in the background. I told him I knew I shouldn't have watched it because ever since, I make up in my mind the events inside that truck after it was blown up. I don't know the details of the end of the story, so I make them up in my head and can't escape them. I wonder if he felt any guilt about the video I explained to him. I wonder if he was ashamed to be lumped in to the same group as those other hajjis.

He told me he was giving me an antidepressant and an anxiety medication. I wish I had them right now. Rick's son is such a trigger for me. He made me so mad today that I picked a glass up off the table and threw it at the wall. It busted in to a million pieces and made a really satisfying crashing-crunching sound when it hit the wall. But it didn't make me feel any better. I am just as mad now, three hours later, as I was then.

I have never done something like that before.
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