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.
I will be back in Iraq by the time you read this, but I wanted to tell about
some of my experiences while traveling from Iraq to the U.S. for leave. It didn’t
exactly start off the best — it was April 24 and I almost didn’t
get out of my base camp because a massive rain and dust storm was headed our
way. The dust came first and I was having some major anxiety — afraid that
I wasn’t going to get on the next helicopter out. Then I heard that flights
were being cancelled — but I was lucky enough to get a seat on the last
As we flew towards Camp Victory the sights from the helicopter were amazing — an
incredible view of Saddam Hussien’s Water Palace. From there we proceeded
to the military terminal in Baghdad. Initially I was told my leave was for April
28 — so I couldn’t leave until then. By this point I was about to
explode — but I managed to pull some strings and get myself and two of
my soldiers okayed for leave that night. Unfortunately, red tape ended us up
stuck another day before we would finally make the trip to Kuwait.
Coming home I was asked to be a member of a fallen comrades team. I wasn’t
exactly sure what that was, but I decided — what the heck — must
be a memorial service or something. Not the case. As it would turn out — I
ended up escorting a body of a fallen soldier back from Baghdad International
Airport to Kuwait and served as a pallbearer.
The casket sat at the base of my
feet during the two-hour flight. I have to admit — it was a very sobering
experience. I have seen death personally of Iraqi soldiers and local nationals,
but to escort one of our own back home was something that will never leave my
heart or mind. There were prayers and a full salute — it was emotional
and I didn’t even know the guy. I got a lump in my throat and I did shed
a few tears.
By the time I got to Kuwait I had gone nearly 30 hours without sleep. Finally
the information came that I had been waiting so long to hear: flight number and
time for my trip back to the U.S. We flew first through Shannon, Ireland and
then to Atlanta. We got into Hartsfield a little early so I was able to bump
my flight up and get back to Charlotte even earlier. It was good to see my friend
Bert— he picked me up at Douglas International and we shared a few laughs
and hugs curbside.
Finally I was home! There was so much to do — places to go, people to see.
My first priority was my partner — getting in early gave me the chance
to surprise him at work. We went out for lunch and got to spend a little bit
of romantic time together — which was wonderful.
The time we spent together as a couple during my leave has been amazing — seeing
our son, playing with the puppies, going to the Biltmore House in Asheville — it
was much needed. My partner is truly this soldier’s hero.
I want to make mention of this here — my partner is working to start a
support group at the Lesbian and Gay Community Center for veterans and for others
in the community that have people serving overseas or in the military currently.
It will be a social group for soldiers and loved ones that don’t get the
support heterosexual families get from the military. You can get more information
on this by contacting The Center directly.
There were a number of things I got to do while back in Charlotte that left me
feeling really grounded, refreshed and ready to go back and finish up my tour
of duty. I enjoyed a massage at Georgetown Day Spa, The Guess Who’s Coming
to Dinner party for MAP, the AIDS Walk and a handful of other events and dinners,
which allowed me to see many of my extended family here in Charlotte.
As it looks now — I should be out of Iraq for good sometime late in September
or early October. That’s only 145 days at the most — and I’m
hoping it will fly by. Then a few weeks of de-briefings with my unit, work at
the unit here in the states then back to North Carolina in time for Thanksgiving.
I hope I get to go to trick or treating in Charlotte this year.
— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte.