Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Legacy of 2-16 (My Reaction to "Thank You For Your Service" Trailer)

Washington Post writer David Finkle wrote two books about my unit during the Iraq Surge. One, "the Good Soldiers" was during the deployment. It took me a long time to even attempt to read it. Even then, I got as far as the chapter that Harrelson's death is described and got no further.  I have the rather odd distinction of being the only person I know that is quoted in a book about historical events, and actually reading something that I said, and remembering why I said it was sureal, and gave me many sleepless nights.

If you haven't read it, or "The Surge: My Journey With David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War" I highly recommend that you do, it really does help people understand what happened during the Iraq War. Understanding is sadly lacking, especially with the rise of ISIS, and the current state of affairs in Afghanistan. 

David's second book, "Thank You For Your Service," was if anything even harder to read and often left me in tears. Danny Holmes was a good guy, and I was shocked when I heard he had hung himself. The last time we talked was when his daughter was born. Reading how he did it. . . It left me so despondent that I became deeply depressed.  Talking to Amanda Doster, and hearing how SFC Doster's loss has ruined her life was harder still. I can close my eyes and see the wound, the pale skin, the desperate efforts of the medical team on Rusty. I knew he would die. I told SFC Mays as much when I left. Then there's Aieti. Reading about how his life fell apart after the deployment. . . I felt like I had personally let him down by not being there for him. He was one of my guys. 

Now there's a movie. I feel 20 different types of emotions about it. From the outset the trailer makes it seem like Aieti and Schuman were in the same platoon, which makes me wonder what other things were changed for the sake of the script. I also really REALLY hope this isn't a war movie with some stupid ass message. I am so sick to death of Hollywood trying to impart messages or depict every soldier as either broken or retards that love America so much they use a flag to beat off. It's pretty hard to tell a complex story in an hour and twenty minutes, I get that. 

I don't know how I feel about this. Should I be angry at a studio cashing in on our experiences? Should I be hopeful that people will acknowledge the high price that is being paid to secure America from the kind of mentality that is ripping apart Aleppo? Should I acknowledge my own pain and give license to express it? What about a simple joy that we are not forgotten?

Still to this day I feel protective of my platoon.  The lengths I would go to to help them can not be understated.  They are my guys and I'd have done anything for them to get them back alive and whole.  More than that I know what they faced, I know what they went through.  A lot of these guys really do deserve a happily ever after.  I still kick myself for missing Aieti's broken fibula in my assessment of the casualties of 2-2's destruction on 17 July 2007.  I completely missed that and many other things.

I have not done well since I got out. I can freely admit that. I am barely getting by, but I am functioning which is a lot more than I can say for other folks. Still, as bad as the WTB was for me, it was a lot worse for other folks. As bad as the war was for me, for guys like Emory, or Schuman, or Aieti, it was worse. To this day I still can't listen to Sweet Home Alabama without being reminded of Harrelson's death, or the utter sense of failure I felt afterwards. As much as the war has colored my relationships with friends, lovers, and family, I know I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. 

I don't know if I'll watch this movie. If I do, I can almost guarantee that tears will flow. That I will not sleep for at least a day afterwards. I don't know if this will help heal old wounds or make them worse. Either way it has been made, and it will soon be here, so I'll have to deal with it. 


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