There are too many dates to remember all that I should. There are dates to commemorate nationally all that has been won, and ultimately lost, at war. There are personal dates, where I try to remember those who have been lost to me, to us, forever:
- Men and women gunned down in battle or blown up and bled out on a fly strewn street in Baghdad or at a hospital in Landsthul;
- A friend dead underneath a bridge in Orlando a mile from his parent's house homeless and overdosed on prescription medications;
- The date Lucky 13, before I was their team leader, lost five men and a truck on patrol;
- The Navy guys who were my first casualties as a first responder;
- Shane's death;
- Brian's killing;
- The first suicide of a friend who came home but never left the war.
- The email where I learned one of our close friends and allies in Baghdad, an Iraqi we called Big Country because of his likeness to former NBA player Brian Reeves, was killed and his work with my team was given as motive.
- The day we invaded Iraq.
I was reminded how soon March 19th is coming up when I read an article about a friend I met when I came home and haven't seen for years, and in a few more months, will never have the chance to see again. I was hoping for just another spring day, but it's a tenth year anniversary, its kind of a big deal right?
When you ask yourself if your support of the war, tacit, implicit, vocal, or removed, and the goals of the war, whatever they may be, or how you define them, were worth it four our nation, read this article about my friend. Remove the politics from the piece if you wish and line out the biological functions of what happened. Is it enough to justify the war and a tenth anniversary?
My 12 months in Baghdad has defined my life, both good and bad. Now I am working to define it. I was not in the worst of the fighting, I did not have to go back more than once, but there are parts of me, as there are in most veterans who served and who fought, that never left Iraq or Korea or Afghanistan, Guadalcanal, Japan, Normandy on and on.
I don't know however, perverse as it may sound, if I would've wanted a life without this war.
War is a force that has given me meaning. When I came home, it was war that ultimately forced me back into the mountains and into wilderness. I learned of the joy of an alpine start and a mountain top sunrise. I learned of the tangible things I fought for like public lands, clean air, and clean water, things I have come to see as the foundation of democracy, and for that, and for the brothers and sisters across generations, throughout the country, and even throughout the world in which I can see the occasional glitch in a gaze that marks them as one of us, just like me: I am thankful.
Happy Anniversary America, and for the sake of our veterans and future generations, I hope we never have to go back.