Note: These are the thoughts of a gay soldier — a North Carolina
native — who has been deployed to Iraq. Because of the military’s “Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, he must remain anonymous.
By the time you read this, the holiday season will have come and gone.
It’s been a time of reflection for me — thinking about about
new year’s resolutions and starting the year on a good note. My first
holiday season spent in Iraq has been unlike anything I’ve ever experienced
I had a Christmas tree and many wonderful gifts, but it was a day like
any other day in the desert, except we had holiday music and a lot better
chow in the mess hall.
The past few weeks have been extremely stressful. Our security levels have
been heightened from the recent Iraqi elections and extended through the
Christmas and New Year’s holidays. I have seen many things that I
will never forget. From the election day jubilation to a deadly Christmas
week, the tension levels have been high and the possibility of an attack
at any moment has been a continued reality.
Since I came to Iraq I have seen death very graphically and firsthand.
It’s worse than any horror film or car accident I have ever seen.
War is ugly. On the 22nd of December, I witnessed the aftermath of a very
deadly explosion at the south entrance to our camp. The entrance to our
camp is off the infamous Main Support Route (MSR) called MSR Tampa. It
is the lifeline for many cities and forward operating bases (FOBS) into
Baghdad and one of the busiest highways in all of Iraq. A Vehicle Borne
Improvised Explosive Device, otherwise known as a VBIED, exploded and killed
12 Iraqi Army military police officers and injured six more Iraqi national
workers coming into the camp around 10 a.m. that morning.
The chaos that ensued after this incident tested my nerves and all my training.
Radio traffic was at a fever pitch, air ambulances were dispatched to the
scene to airlift any survivors. First aid was not an option for most of
the soldiers involved — they were blown apart. I mean that literally — charred
bodies, limbs and other pieces of flesh scattered through the air like
pollen in the spring. The car carrying these explosives disintegrated into
nothing more than a few pieces of junk metal and a barely recognizable
piece of the frame and axel. The crater from the explosion at ground zero
was at least three-feet deep. The camp was put on lockdown and that gate
was closed for the rest of that day.
I had the honor of serving at that gate just two days later on Christmas
Eve as the officer in charge. I was in a position that was not more than
200 yards from where the explosion occurred. I was a nervous wreck the
entire day; thank God I made it through with just small arms fire off MSR
Tampa and completed the day with no extra holes in my body. I assisted
in completing searches of anyone entering the camp. We found and destroyed
drugs, weapons, cell phones, food and other electronic devices not permitted
on camp. I strictly enforced the rules and probably wasn’t the most
popular person who ran that gate. Only once did I have to draw my 9MM to
get people moving away from my vehicle. I never felt really threatened;
it was more of a statement of move or be moved by other means.
Telling you these things is hard. Reliving them is painful. What makes
me so damn mad is — according to our government — I’m
not a worthy soldier or leader. If the Army knew the truth about me I wouldn’t
be allowed to serve.
I knew that coming into this, so I’m trying to make the best of it.
While I’m here I’m constantly working on things that are being
made doctrine within the new Iraqi Army and government. Somehow it makes
me feel better that I’m leaving an imprint on this country. So I
know I’m making a positive contribution — but I can’t
be who I truly am. That saddens me.
I’m sure there are many more LGBT soldiers like me serving valiantly,
some in much more dangerous situations. Despite the “Don’t
Ask, Don’t Tell” policy we are showing that LGBT soldiers are
capable of serving and risking their lives to make a difference. Please
pray for our community, for our soldiers and for America. Like it or not,
we are here until the mission is complete. There’s a long road ahead
of us, but we are making progress. I see it each day with my own eyes.
Since Christmas Eve, there have been two U.S. soldier deaths here at my
camp. Combined with the Iraqis that were killed on December 22, the tolls
continue to mount. I don’t want this war to be another Vietnam; some
say it will. I hope not, I pray not, and God I can’t wait to be home
with you all in Charlotte late this summer. I look forward to enjoying
good times again, less sorrow from death, and what might seem like a normal
— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte.