Thursday, September 06, 2012

Killing bin Laden matters to me, personally.

When people say that killing bin Laden doesn’t matter I think there is something that those who haven’t served in these wars should understand and I’m going to try and convey that to you in this lil’ story.

In 2003 I was just going to serve my time in the Army Reserves take my college money and get out.

There was no reason for me to go active duty. I had aspirations for a career in TV and radio broadcasting. In January 2003 I signed a contract with ROTC to commission as an officer and go active duty when I graduated from college. This is a decision that took me on quite a journey.

Since 2004 I have lived on 3 continents in 3 countries and 4 states. At one point we moved twice in 6 months once from country to country then to another state.

In 2006, I deployed for my first time to Iraq. Starting my deployment in a comparatively restive northern Iraq and ending it 13 months later in the wild west of Anbar province, Ramadi after a wild and scary adventure. My wife deployed as well. It was a scary year as we waited for the other to be hit by a mortar, or killed by an IED. Imagine waiting for or just accepting as fact that the person you love most in the world is going to get killed. Imagine accepting the fact that you are already dead in order to do your job with some sort of bravery or courage. We suffered that for 13 months then returned home.

Nearly twelve months to the day after coming home we deployed again. This time to Kuwait for 15 months. Again separating ourselves from our son and separating our son from both of his parents. Believe this is not the easiest thing to do. Me in Kuwait and my wife going to Baghdad a few months into the tour…again the psychopathy applied as I just assumed she would be killed, just to take the sting away at that moment when I was taken aside and told, “Your wife was killed…”

So, late one evening, I saw President Obama was going to be announcing something special to the American people. When Obama said those words, “the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” I was relieved and saddened. All that rushed through me is that everything I had worked for, every moment I had spent scared and worried. Every moment I had spent homesick and pretending to be brave. It was worth it because I did my part, however insignificant and however small to make that happen. The people that I knew, that I’ve lost to the toils of war and the hidden and foreign struggles of returning home they were sacrificed on the alter of justice. The sanity and time that I will never get back. The personal friction created by the stress of the deployments and managing careers. All of this collapsed on those words… “that killed Osama bin Laden.” The man behind an event that had shaped my generation and called it to arms was dead. The war was over. Wasn’t it?

You don’t realize, that when I signed up I was afraid I was going to miss this war due to the statements of the leaders at the time. I deployed twice in support of a venture that had nothing to do with getting the guy that killed my fellow Americans on American soil. I thought my service was futile. I thought my deployments were for naught and they were, mostly as it pertains to getting bin Laden. But I still endured that pain…I spilled sweat in sand on a foreign land because that’s where I was told to go.

But when I heard those words…killed Osama bin Laden…all that rage, anger and hope for vengeance that had driven me to a life of military service, and created so much pain and sidetracked so much of my life, it didn’t go away. It collapsed into exhaustive sadness, especially knowing the jobs was done but the wars weren’t over. But if the worst I’ve had to endure is exhaustion, physical and mental pain and anguish for almost a decade, some of that emotional trauma and pain I will endure for the rest of my life, I guess, it’s a comparatively small price to pay for my country; for justice. For vengeance.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you didn’t serve in the military you don’t get why getting OBL is a big deal because all you were told to do after 9-11 was shop, I was called to go get shot at. If the largest sacrifice you made was losing the yellow ribbon magnet off the back of your SUV you probably won’t get it.