American Soldier, “All I Want Is Out”

by James Glaser
August 2, 2006

I spotted him sitting at a table in the back of the restaurant, and I knew right away he was in the service. First off he was sitting ram rod straight in his chair, he had a "high and tight" hair cut, and he looked healthy. Being in the Army or the Marines can be a hard job, but they do keep you in shape.

I struck up a conversation with him, and found out he had returned from his second tour in Iraq this last May. I asked him if I could ask him some questions. After I told him about my service, he became less wary about talking about his.

I was honest, and told him I was anti-war. And not just about Iraq, but any foreign war Washington gets us into. He said that now he is too. He said he has twelve months and a week left to discharge, and even though he has ten plus years in, all he wants now is out. He also said there are many in the Army who feel the same as him. They were going to make it a career, but now all they can do is count the days to discharge. The big money the Pentagon offers to keep troops signed up works for some, but this soldier said they didn't have enough money to keep him interested.

I asked about Iraq and how the Iraqis felt about our troops. This soldier said he had no idea. Yes kids do smile and so do their parents, but he never picked up enough of the language to understand what they were saying. He was sure many of the Iraqis could speak English, but wouldn't in front of Americans.

This guy drove a truck, he never worked on building a school or hospital, nor did he ever meet any American who had. All he saw was rubble, burned out cars and trucks, and insane drivers on every road. He never hit a roadside bomb, but he came upon American troops who had. On his second tour he had a truck with all the armor he thought he needed, but then again, he said he was never hit.

He said there are some really rich Iraqis, who have houses with guards, and nice cars, but most are dirt poor. Small villages he drove through looked like they could have been from the 1700s. No, electrical power, no running water, but a community well at one end or the other.

I asked him what turned him off about the Army, and he said he thought he was being used, that he wasn't defending his country or his family, and that we had really destroyed Iraq. He felt guilty for what he had done. We talked some more and I gave him some pointers, like getting any complaints about his physical and mental health into his medical chart, and told him to see if he couldn't get a copy of the same before he got out. Then we talked about women, going to school, women, and kids, and then it was time to go.

I felt good about this man being in our military. He was physically in shape, he was intelligent, and he cared about his family and his country. It is a shame that George Bush's way of running a war is pushing this man and others like him out of the military. I think if a real war broke out right now, we would be hard pressed to field the best, because we are burning out our troops with repeated tours in the combat zone.

I don't care how gung-ho you are, or how patriotic you might be, you only have so many tours in you, and after doing your duty, going back into combat again is pretty tough. Washington is using up our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I sure hope we don't need them to defend America any time soon.

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