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A soldier’s story
Joy and pain

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.

In the shadow of the “Mohammed Cartoon-Gate and the recent blowing up of the ancient Shia Mosque, things in Central Iraq have been really uneasy. My feelings of nervousness and apprehension change minute by minute as new reports come to us from the intelligence officer. My emotions and strength lately have been like the tides, they go and come based on the events around the camp. You just never know what to expect, one minute you’re laughing and enjoying a cup of coffee — the next you’re diving into a bunker to avoid indirect fire, mortars or rockets coming into the base.

Sad occurrences are becoming a daily thing for me. Recently, one of my interpreters’ lost his father. He was kidnapped and shot in the head — all in the name of religion. I find it confusing sometimes —Islam teaches peace and kindness. Not many people are following those teachings it seems.

I can tell you there isn’t much peace here currently and we are in the midst of what I feel is civil war.

In another section where I work insurgents broke into one of our interpreters houses. The family was interrogated and threatened and told they should not be working with the Iraqi army and the coalition forces.

It is very dangerous for the interpreters and the soldiers to admit publicly they’re working with the new government or with the coalition — it’s a death sentence if someone finds out.

I’m also sad that I’m losing two of my best buddies, who are at the end of their deployment. I have grown very close to them over the past five months.

The relationships that form in this environment are so much different than those you make at home on a normal basis. I put my life in these peoples’ hands as they do me. To have that trust is amazing. We have all become family and to see someone go is very hard, a part of you is missing. A part of me will struggle for a while not having those two very meaningful and special people here to work with.

Onto better thoughts: I received a Joint Task Force Commanders coin, given by a General Officer, for service and dedication to the mission we are assigned. To get a commanders coin is very hard, and I will treasure it for the rest of my military career. In addition, I have received the Joint Service Commendation Medal, which is awarded to a service member who distinguishes himself by meritorious service or achievement. This is one of the highest awards, behind the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Bronze and Silver Star Medals and the Medal of Honor. In addition I just received one of my best evaluations ever in my many years of military career.

These are a few of my positive and negative experiences that have occurred since we last talked. I will tell you, this country is in dire need of someone in the government to step up and take control. There is serious infighting that will cause only more trouble if the Iraqi people and government don’t come together.

It’s almost like these people want to have civil war. They want to deteriorate the government’s authority and go back to a nation state that is run by segments of the population — with little or no order at all.

I don’t like saying this — but the United States military needs to stay. If we pulled out, all hell would break loose. The government would fall apart and religious leaders in the community would be running things. There would be little hope ever for a democratic society.

The people here will give their life for a religion that asks them not to kill, fight or cause havoc among its people. I get the impression — and this is no slander against anyone who is Muslim — that some of the people here use their religion as a tool of convenience, to suit what is best at that particular moment. I hope and pray things get better — but I worry that may not be the case.

Small arms fire is on the increase again — so are the mortar attacks. I just can’t wait to do my time and get back to you all.

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

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