My retirement after Iraq
The rains were pounding hard on the outside with quick successive spurts creating a rhythm you could almost sing along. The Iraqis don’t get much rain I quibbled. It was the March of 2004. Rains came down on the tent with a neatness of harmony that kept reminding me of the war songs of the burning summer months that had gone by. It was already two in the morning and I could not find sleep. But how could I? My belt was still strapped firmly around my pants and the length of my boot still black above my tucked in pants. I panned across the tent and from the side mast next to my bed mound lay my 6.5 caliber and assault riffle. Those two friends, probably my only friends, had saved me countless times in the battle field.
My mind traveled out the tent to three hundred miles south of our current position and three days earlier. We were tailing a caravan of renegade Iraqis who were transporting ammo to ground forces. Our mission was to intercept and disarm. Being the lead captain and sergeant I was to ensure a stealthy and quick operation with zero loses to my team of eleven men. Our intelligence command had confirmed the route they were to take that meandered along the Tigris River and hidden from the plains of Baghdad province. Their caravan was not so well guarded with only two Range Rovers one in front and the other one behind with a lorry in the middle that was carrying ammo. Three kilometers ahead I had positioned five soldiers and we had put a barricade right in the middle of the road as my men hid from view in nearby trees. Another band of four of my men was positioned 30 yards out of view with our range rovers camouflaged with rocket launcher. The other two soldiers stood by me a few yards from a back position once we trapped the caravan. I waited until they were within ten yards of my front men when I gave the signal. My men pelted bullets on the Range Rover in front and as expected the Iraqis descended with full force and without tact firing from every side in an attempt to drive through. The first Range Rover hit a nail dragnet and flipped midair as the other two vehicles came to a screeching halt. I gave the second signal and my second band fired a rocket that made the rear Range Rover airborne for a split second. The driver of the lorry was not about to wait for what was coming. The Iraqis feared the idea of capture more than the bullets we rained upon them. Bang! Bang! Thud! Two gun shots and it was all we heard as we neared the truck. My mission was a success and we reported back to the base.
The rains were getting heavier and I was quickly interrupted by a flash of lightning. I sat up on the bed mound and could not sleep anymore. The war was over. I was starring a life before me that I had not lived for twenty two strong years. This was the second time I had gone back to war after I had been denied my retirement dues. I still remember that sad face with a wandering eye who probably had no idea what it meant to come to terms with your mortality everyday in the battlefield. He categorically informed me that I was not due for retirement and that I had to do two more years to get considered.
This was the eve of the day I was to go home. I starred at the riffles next to me and wondered what a civilian life meant. I guess for the first time in my life I had no idea what really that meant for me. I wondered about a future with a family. A family? What does that even mean? Didn’t I end lives of fathers, sons and brothers? What right to life and love did I have when all I had was hate and duty in my heart? As I sat there and looked at the other soldiers who were fast asleep around me I could not help but feel sorry for the men I had served beside. Some of them newly drafted and you could smell their youthful naivety and blunt belief in the American war dream a mile away. Yes I pondered without reprieve till the breaking dawn fell upon us.