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.
Man is it hot here. We haven’t seen a day under 115 for a few weeks.
It feels like a blow dryer on high constantly aimed right at you. The ongoing
barrage of heat leaves me drenched in sweat and frequently on the verge
of exhaustion. It’s not hard to remember to drink lots of water to
avoid dehydration. Believe me — I can’t wait for some cold
Since the last time I wrote to you there have been two very close calls
for me — one closer than anything ever.
On both occasions it was indirect enemy mortar fire — the closest
being two pieces of shrapnel over 13 inches long and three inches wide,
which flew over my head not more than three feet away. If I had not done
the drills for this sort of thing that I learned earlier on, I could have
been hit and killed. I can still remember my heart racing both times it
When you hear a mortar hit the first thing you do is drop to the ground,
cover your head and face and lay as flat as possible. Even now I can hear
the sound of the steel flying through the air from the 120 mortars that
That’s one of the most knuckle-whitening things that’s happened
since I’ve been back here — and trust me, I’m not downplaying
Physically I’m okay, but mentally it takes a toll. Training pays
off when you do things right but I’m still keeping a lower profile
and staying inside buildings a lot more.
I feel like the prayers and support from home have built a wall of protection
around me — one that I hope will continue to keep me protected during
the time I’m here.
Most of the time the days are pretty routine. I normally get up around
5 a.m. It’s cooler then and better for my morning run. That’s
usually five days a week and we generally run somewhere between four to
six miles a day.
After a run like that about all you could hope for is a nice cold shower.
Not in Iraq! Our water tanks sit outside in the heat all day — so
all you get is hot water. Breakfast is at 7 a.m. every morning, generally
followed by a few hours of work with my Iraqi counterparts. Later in the
morning — 10:30 — I have a chance to go back to my room. We
usually have electricity around this time, so I’m able to relax,
read emails and follow up on paperwork. By 11:30 it’s time to eat
lunch so I head over to the U.S. side of the base and grab a quick bite.
If I’m lucky, after lunch I might have some time to squeeze in a
visit to the gym or a swim in the pool. Like all the water here, it’s
hot. But it still feels good.
By the time the afternoon rolls around, I follow up again on the Iraqis,
go to the office and make sure things are working and that no issues have
come up. This can be the longest part of the day, because something always
goes wrong and the generators always fail because of the heat, so we have
no electricity and the work productivity goes way down. By 5 p.m. things
are winding down as it’s time for the Iraqi’s afternoon prayers.
Dinnertime for the U.S. soldiers and officers is around six. By 7 p.m.
it’s time for my nightly meeting with the Iraqi Staff. When 9 p.m.
rolls around, I’m already showered and ready for bed — maybe
watch a movie or send a few emails.
I’m now less than 100 days from being done with this tour of duty.
It’s been a great experience getting to know so many Iraqi Army officers,
soldiers and interpreters. I have learned many things about Arabic and
Iraqi culture — from bits of their language and the kinds of food
they eat to their preferred style of clothing and their religious beliefs.
I’ve made some great friends that I will definitely miss when I’m
home for good.
On another note, I wanted to let you know about an upcoming event in Charlotte.
My partner, with the assistance of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Community
Center, has started a support group for those who are LGBT veterans, service
members currently, or loved ones who support an LGBT service member. Of
course, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is always
in order. The group is open to anyone who would like to come and you can
call the Center for more details on meetings or making a donation.
Any money collected will be used for care packages to send overseas and
gatherings for LGBT veterans and service members. We think this will be
a great opportunity for the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines to come
together in a safe environment to discuss the issues they had while serving
or trade war stories.
When I return from my deployment I hope to help manage this campaign with
the assistance of the Center’s Executive Director Laura Witkowski
and my partner.
In the meantime, if you get the opportunity, the next planned meeting is
set for June 22, and another will be scheduled for sometime in July.
Thanks for reading again. I wish you all the best — until next time!
— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte