Its interesting when you deploy to a foreign country while in the military. You train to fight and plan on doing your job. What you get is eye opening experience that will change a part of you forever. What you get is the full deal.

Bad stuff happened in Iraq, stuff Adam Reuter doesn’t want to talk about. Not with his friends,

not with the line cooks in the burger joint where he worked when he first came home or the tenants in the apartment complex he manages now.
He doesn’t even want to talk about it with his wife, who worried because he was jumping out of bed in the middle of the night.
But when he agrees to talk about the war — really talk about it — he goes right to how the insurgent crumpled after he pulled the trigger. How later, during the firefight, he ended up just a few feet from the corpse. Bullets buzzed by, and he was supposed to keep an eye on the alley, but he couldn’t help but glance over.
"He just lay there," Reuter remembers. His eyes and mouth open. His whiskers a few days old. The bullet had gone in his neck cleanly, just to the right of his Adam’s apple, but had come out ugly from the back of his head. He was maybe 25, a little older than Reuter. And his blood was pooling, thick and almost black in the darkness.
How can you describe what that was like? Who would understand it?
Nobody. So Reuter keeps his mouth shut. His army uniform is packed in a box in the garage. He hasn’t looked at it in months. Instead, he kisses his baby boy every night. He gets on with his life, because that’s what everyone else is doing.
At home in Newnan, Ga., there is no war.
"It doesn’t cross their minds," Reuter said. "To them, everything is fine."
* * *
After three years, there are at least 550,000 veterans of the Iraq war. The Washington Post interviewed 100 of them — many of whom were still in the service, others who weren’t — to hear about what their war was like and how the transition home has been.
Their answers were as varied as their experiences. But a constant theme through the interviews was that the American public is largely unaffected by the war, and, despite round-the-clock television and Internet exposure, doesn’t understand what it’s like.
You can’t understand unless you were there .

By Vladimir Chaloupka

Comments

  1. I haven’t been here in a while…just wanted to say, thank you for your service Major Pain. Thank you for your posts and thank you for keeping us informed. May God bless and keep our service members so that they may come home and have peace in their hearts and minds.

  2. I’m astounded, over and over, at the lack of knowledge or acknowledgement that we are at war! People always seem surprised that I’m so involved in mailing to the troops when they find out I don’t have a family member deployed. For the Xmas mailing I solicit donations from companies, etc and I get a good response alot of times, but so many people just don’t want to take the time to do hands on stuff. I tell them I do it because we don’t have a loved one there, they’ve sent family members, at least I can send ‘stuff’. Can’t send to them all, but we got about 200 covered this Xmas, and we’ll keep sending til they come home.

  3. I entered the Army to avoid the draft. OK, that was not the typical way then to avoid being ‘selected’ for a service you had no interest in, but being typical does not interest me. As a ‘regular’ I really dispised working with most draftees. They generally hated being there and were not at all into the idea of commitment. Because of that I didn’t ever want a draft.
    However, I heard on TV (forget where) that less then 1% of Americans serve in the Military.
    The lights came on immediatly.
    No wonder there is such a disconnect with the situation anywhere the Military is.
    Unless ‘normal’ folks have a personal stake in something, they will never get involved.
    Being ‘normal’ never interested me either 😉

  4. I often wonder how war affects a person since I was not in the military but I want to know. The sacrifices made are huge and life is so precious and can be gone in an instant. The mindset of kill or be killed must be with them daily and they must be strong. I am not in their boots and the decision they make is fine by me and I support them 100%. I pray for their safety, strength and peace of mind. Our Marines and soldiers are the best.

  5. Good points by all. Many times those that have served forget that not everyone knows the fight or flight feeling or realizes that everyone doesn’t feel the drain of a deployment to ones family when a service member goes to combat. I think this is where AnyMarine.com and other “milblogs” play such a huge role in “getting the word out”. We can push the experiences but others have to read and understand them then decide to help. It’s a continuous effort!

  6. Marty – you are far from “normal” – and you can take that both ways!! Ha Ha. Superhero to all us Church Ladies !!
    I agree the draft is not the answer. I don’t know how we facilitate interaction between military families and Joe Public. I think the awareness and connections that existed in prior generations have been lost for a number of reasons – our communities have changed (American Legions, Granges, Boy & Girl Scouts – they used to be the primary community gathering places, and fostered a sense of purpose and service); our schools have changed (Pledge controversy, lack of civics curriculum, focus on our diversities instead of our melting pot; our families have changed; and we live in a “gotcha” political/media climate where no well-intentioned initiative is given enough time or support before it is deemed a failure to further self-interests.
    Despite all the negative reflections I just wrote, I am optimistic that we will continue to move back to a more responsible, practical, aware citizenry. Why? Because of our current military families. These men and women volunteered to serve a cause greater than themselves. In record numbers they have shown commitment, courage, sacrifice, and deep love for our country. They are raising a generation of teens and young children who will grow up with a value system that seemed lost in the freewheeling ’90s. As all the 20-40 year olds who currently serve in the military leave and move into “normal” society, and as their children grow and do the same, we will have a force multiplier for the kind of values “normal” society has lost.
    That is what I believe, and I give thanks every day for every military family because they are the foundation of this great nation.

  7. I’m grateful for the milblogs and AnySoldier.com Grateful for the fighters and flyers, organizers and support services. For the one’s in theater who write back, and for the one’s who never will. Grateful for those who’ve served ahead, and the kids (oh the kids) just coming up. Just a civilian here, just one who doesn’t (really) know, but I am grateful.

  8. Reading this post, I couldn’t help but think of Jack Nicholson saying “You want me on that wall. You NEED me on that wall!”
    Warriors like Adam Reuter may never know just how grateful most Americans are for the time he spent on that wall. Were it not for the commitment of that 1% who join the military to brave the madness and evil of war on foreign shores, we would all be facing it here at home.
    I wish I had a magic wand to make the nightmares go away.
    Semper Gratus!

  9. Church Lady Melissa and I had dinner last night, and spent a good amount of time talking about PTSD and how to get the guys to talk about it in an arena they feel comfortable with.
    My Dad never talks about Vietnam, like so many others. My Grandpa never talks about WWII. Sometimes I talk about my experiences with Red Cross, but not a lot.
    If you weren’t there, you just don’t get it and it’s hard to explain what it’s like. It’s not that you don’t trust people you’re talking to, they just don’t get it, which makes it feel more like telling a sob story.
    Getting our men and women to talk about their experiences to each other, in a safe environment, would be so very helpful. But how do we do it? How do we get them to show up?

  10. 1%… it explains a lot doesn’t it? If you include familiy members of those who have served you can probably stretch that to 5-6% of the population that realize what is going on. Everyone else is in their “Starbucks Daze” and doesn’t want to wake up. Hmm, makes volunteering to help our veterans and military all the more important for those of us who realize the significance. It makes everyone’s blog who talks about these things much more significant,,, even if it’s just “granny talking off the top of her head.” She’s still getting the word out. Even at a couple million people, the military and their supporters are a small group within the US. Okay everyone, scream a little louder and don’t stop loving Major Pain, Marty or the Taco, Jarhead John and all the rest. Visit the blogs, send Marty money when you can, send Wounded Warriors money when you can, stand outside of Walter Reed when you can, write letters to the troops and the politicians, write a blog if you can… every little bit helps. Recruit some more readers if you can….Ohhh, I’m jazzed.
    Don’t forget to buzz by Taco’s and say Happy B-Day.
    Sam
    .
    .

  11. Major, thanks for posting this. I try, but can never truly know what our warriors have been through. I’m with Gunnutt about that magic wand wish. Probably so many people in Newnan, GA do care, but may have a hard time knowing how to show the support.
    Sometimes I pray to God that He will bless my clueless, fumbling, good intentions.

  12. Just today I picked up a box of letters written by children in a k – 12 charter school, to be included in packages to Marines. Wish every serviceman/woman could read them all. Those kids do seem to understand that great sacrifices are being made for their safety. One little girl said she’s never afraid of terrorists when she goes to bed at night because she knows the Marines are protecting her. Most all of them mentioned that their families pray every day for all in the service. I was impressed by their sincerity, knowledge and gratefulness.

  13. “One little girl said she’s never afraid of terrorists when she goes to bed at night because she knows the Marines are protecting her.”
    America! Are you listening??!

  14. AF SISTER I HAVE BEEN RATED 100% WITH P.T.S.D AND THERE IS A PLACE TO LET IT OUT ,I GO TO THE CT. VET CENTER ,YOU CANT LET IT BUILD UP IN YOU, YOU HAVE LET IT OUT BEFORE YOU EXPLODE. I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER WHEN I LEAVE THERE ON MY WAY HOME.
    I ONLY WISH OUR TROOPS WOULD SIGN UP WITH THEIR LOCAL V.A. JUST TO GET INTO THE SYSTEM,THEY MAY NOT NEED IT NOW BUT DOWN THE ROAD IS WHEN IT CAN REALLY HIT YOU.TOOK ME THIRTY YEARS WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY. BUT P.T.S.D. DOES NOT MEAN YOU’RE CRAZY
    P.T.S.D.IS THE NORMAL REACTION OF A NORMAL PERSON TO ABNORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

  15. AF SISTER I HAVE BEEN RATED 100% WITH P.T.S.D AND THERE IS A PLACE TO LET IT OUT ,I GO TO THE CT. VET CENTER ,YOU CANT LET IT BUILD UP IN YOU, YOU HAVE LET IT OUT BEFORE YOU EXPLODE. I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER WHEN I LEAVE THERE ON MY WAY HOME.
    I ONLY WISH OUR TROOPS WOULD SIGN UP WITH THEIR LOCAL V.A. JUST TO GET INTO THE SYSTEM,THEY MAY NOT NEED IT NOW BUT DOWN THE ROAD IS WHEN IT CAN REALLY HIT YOU.TOOK ME THIRTY YEARS WHEN I THOUGHT I WAS CRAZY. BUT P.T.S.D. DOES NOT MEAN YOU’RE CRAZY
    P.T.S.D.IS THE NORMAL REACTION OF A NORMAL PERSON TO ABNORMAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

  16. Half-century on the planet, and I’m (still) a girl who knows the Marines (are protecting me). And, one out here at a VAMC who echos’ warrior Ironfield’s comments about PTSD: come into the local VA: come to visit, come to register, come to show support.

  17. People/the media talk about the “mistakes” made waging this war. A noted journalist a few years back wrote that, in his opinion, the biggest mistake was not engaging the American public in a sense of shared sacrifice. He sited the rationing during WWII; some of which was actually unnecessary. FDR felt that it would include the general public in the sacrifice of the military and their families. Genius. I wish that the President and officials/personalities who have the public ear, like Barack Obama, John McCain or even Oprah Winfrey, would stand up and call for a program to have each American family “adopt” a military member. Spend fifteen minutes of your Sabbath day writing a letter to that person. Send a package now and then if you can afford it. If a national leader would put some focus on this, it could happen. The disconnect between the general public and the military is cause for concern. Many wonderful celebrities love the military and are generous in entertaining the troops, etc. The great benefit of taking it one step further, and engaging the general public in that concern for the military’s wellbeing, would benefit our country greatly.

  18. Marty Horn started my mission to support the troops and patiently answered questions like -what are shower shoes? My nephew returned okay as far as I can tell from his second deployment to Iraq last week but as others pointed out, people returning don’t talk about their experiences especially with their aunt. My dad said zip about the Navy except for baking the admiral’s birthday cake.So most of what I know is from AnySoldier and a few well-chosen, mostly Marine blogs.Support needs to continue after the troops come home and some who act the worst may need it the most.Thanks to all our troops and their families and friends, to those who have returned and especially to those who haven’t.

  19. I’m still trying my best to support the troops. A lot of the guys and gals over there just need to hear from someone back home. Some just need to have a place to vent their anger or frustrations, or just get their mind off of their day. I have talked to guys through email and IMing who are in Iraq and many have said that it helped to just hear from me and have a place to chat. I plan to do this as long as they need me and I’m currently planning to be a volunteer counselor for military personal after I graduate.

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