I finished reading David Finkel’s The Good Soldiers earlier this week. I was impacted. I could visualize the battalion commander and the private equally. I felt their pain when they sat in the chapel and paid tribute to their fallen brothers.
I can’t really describe all the emotions this book brought to the surface. I look at the portraits that Finkel created and I can see those men in the faces of soldiers I see around me every day. I look at the battalion commander in the book as more than anything as a man first, a commander second. I can see the dichotomy in the men and women around me
Mr Finkel created a book that impacted me in a way that a non fiction book rarely does. I could not put this book down. I cringed when the bombs exploded. I could feel the commander’s pain when he visited the wounded.
Though I have been a veteran for the last 14 years, this year, I become a combat veteran. I know the sound of incoming mortar fire. I know the fear of sitting in an intersection as an Iraq vehicle comes down the road and the pressure that tightens around my chest in uncertainty. I know the sound of the M4 going off inside the TOC and the absolute, instant grief of thinking you’ve lost a good friend. I have felt the blast of a thousand pound bomb a quarter mile away. The sound of the air weapons team over head is a comfort, not an annoyance. The thunder of the 50 cal in the test fire pit against my ribs is reassuring. The sounds of my soldiers around me is a sign that we are doing what we are meant to do. Protect and defend.
There is a bond between soldiers but the bond I feel toward the soldiers in my company will never diminish. We will sit back and laugh in the next years as we see each other in the PX or at the PT track. This is my company, these are my soldiers. Every soldier in my brigade can call home because of what my soldiers bring to the mission.
The tradition and the history in the army is a source of comfort. I know now why the veterans seek out the Officer’s Club for one more taste of the brotherhood we share. I know I will be back in Iraq again in two years. Or if not here, Afghanistan. I choose to serve because this is what I know, this is what I do and this is what I love. My journey as a writer has been fulfilling and challenging but nothing compares to the feel of firing a 50 cal for the first time or the confidence of knowing I can hit what I aim at.
Each of us volunteered to be in the army. If we stay, we volunteered to continue to serve. My fellow sisters in arms at the Romvets paved the way to allow me to be a signaler, a combat medic, a military police officer. I serve today because they proved I could.
To all the soldiers who came before me, I thank you.