Castles in the sand

One of my favorite memories from the invasion of Iraq takes place when my company was on the plains of Ur, near An-Nasiriyah.  We had moved out from the Kuwaiti border 24 hours after our infantry units crossed Breach Point West.  We left in the middle of the night, in a fantastic sand storm.  We had no idea what that sand would do to our trip and our weapons, but I suppose that the command figured that moving in cover was the safest bet.  I guess so, because we made it to where we going to build our Logistics Support Area (LSA).  I remember that those first few days were hot, dirty, and long.  We literally built our base from nothing in the middle of a hot, barren, wind-swept plain.  The first time that I was able to walk around and take stock of the landscape I realized that I could not see anything…no mountains, no cities, no trees.  The curvature of the horizon was occasionally able to be glimpsed, when the mirage effect was not distorting the vantage.  Not that we spent much time looking around.  We were THE maintenance and supply hub for the invasion.  If we weren’t working on vehicles, we were building facilities, and when we weren’t doing that we were on watch or sleeping.  My MOS during this time was Heavy Equipment mechanic and my job was Corporal of the Guard.  This meant that I had to set and relieve the watch every 2 hours, while doing my maintenance duties.  To make finding me easier, I was given permission to move my tent from the tent cluster to the area near the maintenance shop entrance.  This way, the constant coming and going by other Marines doing their watch duties would not interfere with the rest needed by everyone else.  In making this “guard shack” I was able to build my own berms and salvaged enough materials to completely cover my tent and the common area with camouflage netting.  My favorite memory came a few weeks after my little castle was complete.  In the midst of this hot, and barren sand pile, a little bird made a nest under the rain fly of my tent.  I was able to hear the little guy chirp all night long, and during the day it would flit about under the netting catching flies out of the air.  The bird, which I think is a common chiffchaff, had some yellow coloring within the sandy brown.  I took some photos of that little bird, but they didn’t make it through the deployment.  All I have now is the memories of my little friend.  It did such a good job of keeping the flies away that I often welcomed guests with “you scare my bird away and I’ll kill you.”  I don’t know what happened to that little bird, but I imagine that it moved along as soon as we began the tear-down and move out farther up into Iraq…but the weeks that it spent with me will always be a fond memory in a time of not very fond remembrances.




Flip a switch

Several weeks ago I began a therapy called EMDR.  I don’t know much about it other than it has something to do with retraining the way that the brain processes emotions and memories.  What I can say for it is that I already feel the benefit far more than I ever did with medications.  I’m not saying that I don’t have a long way to go, but I do get the sense that I have rounded a corner.  A switch in my brain feels like it has been flipped into a new direction.  Over the past weeks I have felt more calm and happier than I have in quite awhile.  My wife says that she has noticed a difference and her comments started about the same time I began EMDR, so it feels like a connection.  It might not seem like a big thing but I went to church with my family today.  We went for a morning drive afterward and just have had more real family moments where I have felt present.  I bought the kids a vintage Battleship game and just enjoyed watching them play it, I even played a little myself with my youngest.  I know that I have a ways to go yet, but it feels nice to be among the living again – with a hope that there can be a real lasting change in how and why I feel what I do.

I don’t know if anyone out there will be swayed by the recommendation of a former Marine grunt/Army Soldier, but if nothing else is working, give EMDR a chance.

Peace out,