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Notes from a gay soldier
Iraq during the holidays

Click here to see a complete listing of our soldier's adventures in Iraq.

Editor’s 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 before.

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 life.

— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte.

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