This post was written on December 22nd, but for some reason my ISP decided to take some time off. Here is the belated post.
Last night a small group of very good friends threw a small get-together for my deployment. It was a quiet gathering. Salad, chili, cake, coffee, and soda. I went to bed thanking God for these friends. While I am going alone, I am not alone. How in the hell I deserve such good people to call me their friend is beyond me. To have a group of people who are so lovely come together to tell me that they want me to be safe, that they support me in this, whether or not they support the Global War on Terror, is indescribably wonderful.
Today was my last day at my civilian job for the next 16 months or so. My co-workers got me a cake with a flag on it, and the words, "Thank you for your service and loyalty." I nearly cried. They are also incredibly supportive. More lovely people.
The deeper I get into this, the more amazed I am that it just seems sort of... normal. It just doesn't seem like that big a deal to me, even though it is. In a way, it feels no different than going to an Army school. I don't know if that is the sense of unreality, or if it is a calm acceptance, or if it is some strange form of denial.
I guess that when I tell my kids, it will become a bit more stressful. I am concerned about their reaction, but I have no choice at this point. I love my kids so very much, and this whole thing has been a balancing act. I believe that this separation has a purpose. I believe that it is honorable. I hope that they are able to find a sense of purpose and a sense of pride and duty in all of this.
I hope that I never lose mine. I pray that I never lose mine.
I also pray that I do not allow hatred to creep into my heart. We (my Tulai, or Afghan company) will almost certainly have to kill. I may very well have to kill by my own hand. I am prepared for that, but I do not want to do it with hatred. Anger, yes. Purpose, yes. Prejudice, yes. Hatred; pure, vile hatred... no. Please, no.
How can a man write that if he has to kill, he wants to kill out of love? I love my children. I love my friends. I love this country, and I love the Constitution. I will come to love the LT, and I will come to love the men of the Afghan Tulai that we are assigned to. We have many differences, but we have some strong similarities. We are Soldiers. We are Soldiers for a reason. If I have to kill, I want to kill for them, not because I hate anyone so deeply.
The Afghans have been described as warrior-poets. I very good friend of mine defined me years ago as a warrior-sage. I think that he was meaning something along the lines of warrior-poet. More common ground. There is a different kind of animal inside of us that cannot be fathomed by those who do not harbor a similar beast. Occasionally, someone will ask a question that is responded to by the warrior spirit, and they glimpse it. It confuses them, because they know that I am a gentleman in my dealings with my fellow civilians. I have seen the realization in their eyes that they are glimpsing something that they didn't know was there. I have seen flashes of something like what you might see when someone suddenly realizes that you're insane, and flashes of other signals of discomfort. The warrior is a conundrum to those who do not have that seed inside. There are lots of those who do, though. Plenty of them are women. Not all of those who have the warrior spirit are able to do anything with it, to exercise the beast. Note that I did not say exorcise. That beast will readily feed on hatred, if you feed it some. The sheepdog can become a wolf.
Hatred is a disease that rots the soul like a flesh-eating bacteria. I will carefully monitor myself to watch for the signs of hatred. How I will counter them if I detect them, I don't know.
As the charges against the four Marines of Haditha demonstrate, Soldiers in combat risk not only the loss of their lives and limbs, but the wounding or loss of their souls as well. Hatred is the bullet that wounds the soul. Hatred is what drives our enemies, and we must fight them with our souls intact. That doesn't mean to fight them lightly or gently. I know that sounds contradictory, but my warfighting needs to be cerebral, focused, and violent as hell when required.
I'm sure there will be casualties. I don't want to be one of them.
I can feel the transition from my daily civilian life to the focus of the warrior. These next two weeks will be a daily movement in that direction, and things will seem even "realer."
Tomorrow will not be one of them. Tomorrow I will Christmas shop and think of my family. Tomorrow I will be a mall-warrior along with my countrymen and women, who will have no idea as I pass among them how different my life will be soon, or what the kids I am buying toys for will go through soon after they open those gifts. I feel like a specter passing among the living, seen but not recognized for what I hold within.
It is as it should be.