Monday, April 5
Military deployments prove Murphy was right: If anything (at home) can go wrong, it will. In my experience, at least one major appliance, one vehicle, and a frequently used piece of furniture will break, usually within the first third of a deployment. Since Dan left the country, we’ve had a major water leak, which I didn’t discover for almost three months because it was outside in a corner of the yard under a box. The water bill was $681.75, and I could have bought two major appliances for that price. And the car, while it hasn’t broken down yet, has something wrong with the wiring, has an ominous radiator leak which refuses to show itself and be repaired, and is making a strange sound—it’s only a matter of time.
Dan called today, to let me know that his convoy made it safely into Iraq. He says he’s sure now, heart and mind, that deposing Saddam was the right thing to do—now that he’s seen the conditions the Iraqi people are living in, seen them dancing and clapping, smiling and waving at the soldiers as their convoy went past.
Monday, April 19
Despite my best efforts, I can’t entirely avoid the news—bombs in Spain and North Korea, ethnic cleansing in Thailand, and a host of other terribly sad things. This April has seen the most casualties of any month since the war in Iraq began, a year and a month ago. Listening to the swirling political commentary on the war, the pre-election Bush v. Kerry arguments, makes me angry; I think because it makes me afraid. John Kerry changes his position on this war with his socks (voting for war as a Senator, then decrying the President for starting the war as a presidential candidate). His position on the Vietnam War seems to have been politically self-serving (he didn’t exactly lie when he threw his war medals over the White House fence to protest Vietnam, then showed up wearing the same medals years later—he just deliberately misrepresented the facts). What will he do, regarding the Iraq war, if he’s elected? It seems likely he’ll pull our troops out, making our promise of freedom and safety to the Iraqi people a joke, wasting the lives lost to bring that freedom and safety, giving their sacrifice the same taint of pointless horror that surrounds Vietnam. This war isn’t another Vietnam, but the ambivalent foreign policy of a man who seems to make up his mind based on what’s politically expedient sure could make it one.
People expect me to be excited about the possibility of pulling our troops out, because it might mean that Dan would come home earlier. But I’ve thought often, this past month, about a line from a Richard Lovelace poem: “I could not love thee half so well, loved I not honor more.” Whether or not invading Iraq was the right thing to do, we’re there now, and we’ve made a commitment. I am beginning to understand, just a little, why wounded soldiers say in interviews, “I just want to get back to my unit. Let me go back. I’ve got a job to finish.” Giving up and going home would somehow destroy one of the main things making this separation “worth it.”
Monday, April 26
It’s been six weeks since Dan left the country, about four weeks since he left Kuwait, and a week since I talked to him. I’ve received two letters, four phone calls, and six emails, all much too short. It is sobering to remember that military families have relied solely on mail, often with a much slower delivery system, until the last five or ten years, and that the majority still do. Submariners, for example, get to send and receive mail and call home once or twice in a three-month patrol. Infantry soldiers are so mobile, and satellite phones so expensive, that they’re lucky to call home once a month.
Wednesday, April 28
I talked to Dan yesterday morning. He seems to be keeping in pretty good spirits. Everyone is required to be in full gear—DCUs (Desert Camouflage Uniforms), body armor, Kevlar, and M-16s—because the insurgents keep up a random patter of small arms fire and mortar attacks on the compound throughout the day and night. Dan spent most of last week working in the C.A.S.H. (Combat Army Support Hospital—formerly M.A.S.H., just like the TV show), and got to see a lot of what he called “cool to an x-ray tech, but sad, stuff.” They were treating a lot of EPWs (enemy prisoners of war) who will be going to prison when they’re well enough. He finally has his office set up at the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic—or, as they call it, Tylenol Motrin Crutches clinic, because that’s mostly what they hand out) and is shooting x-rays, though his software isn’t working quite right, and his machine isn’t powerful enough to take good chest shots. He wants me to send him a wall-clock and book ends for his office, and lots of non-canned long-lasting food—they’re supposed to be stocking up in preparation for June 30, “just in case.”