I don't think I have the words to explain the love I hold for this country. If I were to liken America to a Mother, a sister, a lover, all analogies would somehow miss the point, and seeing as I'm in West Virginia would probably open me up to some pretty bad jokes. But the truth is that I have been all over this nation, and I've seen almost all it has to offer, from the "Mainland" or the "Lower 48" to those other two states that aren't connected to us. I have seen so much in my short time on this Earth, and I can tell you that i am so in love with my country that any time away from it feels like a separation.
I had many and varied reasons to join the Army, but when I raised my right hand on the 29th of January 2003, I did it knowing regardless of what happened I would go to war. I was actually upset when I got Hawaii because I thought I might miss the war. Color me ignorant. My attitude changed when I got to Hawaii. To say I like it there would be an understatement. I am grateful to the United States Army, and the 25th Infantry Division for giving me the opportunity to live there. When the time came to deploy with 2nd BCT, I was scared, but I went anyway because I truly believed in my nation, that they would not send me to war for an unjust cause.
Kuwait is a shock. There are no terrain features at Camp Virginia. The sky is grey, or a pale blue that is almost white. Iraq, was a very different kind of Desert than the one I had come to know in the South West. The people are also very different. The Kurds are perhaps the most American-like group I have ever run into (I have not been to Israel yet) from the Middle East, but even there, there were so many differences that even simple ways of thinking were very difficult culturally for them to grasp. There are times that they can't understand the reasons for haste, and other times they can't understand the methodical methodology required for most US Army tactics.
When I got back to the Mainland on my mid tour leave, the first thing I did when I landed in Bangor Maine, was go outside and put my face right into the grass and take a deep breath. It was such a beautiful smell. The welcoming committee that waited for me was a bit surprising, and I liked talking to those old veterans. At DFW, I was absolutely floored by throngs of cheering crowds, most of whome had no idea who I was, cheering me. People in the airport would just stop me and thank me. American Airlines opened up their Admirals Club to me, which I could never afford, and let me take one of the most amazing showers of my life! United upgraded me to first class the second they saw my uniform (Desert Camouflage Uniform). Even as I write this I feel tears welling up in my eyes, because of the welcome I got. I love my country, and my welcome home reminded me that it loves me right back.
I saw Disneyland, I saw Sea World and the very best California has to offer, and it reminded me why I was fighting in Iraq. I couldn't bare the thought of some of the insurgents running amok in my beloved Golden State. Say what you will about the politics of California, it is an absolutely beautiful state, and I know it oh so well. I went back to Iraq, knowing that my country was well, and I was ready to do my job.
Many months later, right before my Birthday, I was angry at the MEDDAC at Fort Hood, because they had screwed up my West Point application (I was a shoe in according to the admissions Major) refused to let me go to a FORCECOM unit, and had putzed around with my re-enlistment options (I wanted Airborne or Flight Medic) and I was getting close to the point I was going to throw up my hands and be done with it. I stopped, though because I knew that 1st Cav was going to need Medics, good ones. I re-enlisted for 3 years, needs of the Army, which is one of the silliest re-up options for a first re-up. I actually Re-upped on my Birthday. I did it because I knew the Army needed me.
I was right. More than ever I missed my home. Rustamayah was not a great place, but I had my battle buddies to keep me company, and keep my head up when times got tough. I will never forget my time in Iraq, and I will never forget the men and women who went with me, even more so the ones that didn't make it back. I still believe we did a good thing despite all the negativity.
My nation is now in trouble. The politics don't really matter the stress is plain and painful to see. Kids are still going to the mall, and young couples are still getting married, so life is going on, but the strain is plain on everyone's face. The thing that bothers me most is that I can't fight an enemy here, or I would. It is heartbreaking to watch partisans divvy us up, and rip us apart, but even more heartbreaking to see our people look hopeless. There is hope. The home I came back to in 2007 was different than the one I left, I was different. The future may not seem bright, but we still hold the flame alive. The United States is not a place it's an idea. As long as I hold that flame alive, and provide light in this dark time, I am never far from the home I love.