as my third deployment winds down, i have begun to reflect upon the impact iraq has had on my life. this is supposedly the birthplace of civilization, and as history-rich as it may be i haven't been able to enjoy it much from a tourist's perspective. there have been a few things that have really made me pause and think about the differences between the U.S. and iraq, though. everyone who has watched TV or been on the internet in the last 7 years has a decent idea of what the terrain is like here, and how baghdad looks at night as it gets hit by missles and bombs. thinking back, that is very little of what i will remember about it.
the night sky in iraq circa 2003 was the most incredible thing i have ever seen. it would literally keep me breathless on a nightly basis as i watched shooting stars and attempted to grasp the enormity of the milky way (which looks like a long, thin cloud). the viewing was aided greatly by a total lack of electricity in the area along with the fact that i slept outside for 90% of the year i was there. some of the happiest and most peaceful times i had in 03 were lying on the dirt with alkaline trio on my CD player, looking up at the stars wondering if anyone at home was looking up also.
through the first month of my first tour, we 'showered' in streams and rivers that we came across. it was always amazing that an irrigation ditch in the middle of the desert allowed plants to grow on the banks. we would jump in in full uniform and use bars of soap to clean our uniforms and strip down as we cleaned until we were actually cleaning ourselves. we had two bradley fighting vehicles providing security for the swimmers so that no one snuck up on us mid-bath.
in 2005, i would stand on top of our building on the banks of the tigris river in Samarra and look out across the city. you could see the spiral minaret and golden mosque illuminated and if you time it right, you could actually see the locals bouncing tracer rounds off of them, and occasionally firing RPGs at them this always mystified me because both of these landmarks are centuries older than our country, and they were treated with apparent disregard for their historical value. hey, at least i appreciated them, right?
this past year has been much less beautiful and interesting. i have, however, been completely immersed in iraqi culture. on a given day, i deal with about 100 or so detained iraqis. they are big into kissing each other, speaking arabic, and not showering. 98% of them smell worse than any person youve ever had near you. in case you weren't aware, it is their culture to wipe their ass with their left hand (no toilet paper for them) and then rinse their hands with ... water. that's it. i'm sure this contributes greatly to the stench, and it isnt something i will soon forget.
there a myriad of other things that i will remember about my time here, but these stuck out in my mind the most. i can't write a tourism guide or anything, but i could probably drive from kuwait to tikrit without asking for directions.