Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sent on a Fools Mission

By John R. Bomar

Imagine being on foot patrol half a world away in a land where no one understands your language and everyone is by necessity a suspicious character capable of killing you. Are they friendly Shia or hostile? Insurgent Sunni or friendly Kurd? Worst of all, are they fanatical Al Qaeda with a chest full of explosives, bolts and nails strapped on trying to get close enough to hit the button.

Imagine being sent on such a mission having been told you are there to rid the world of a powerful and evil dictator holding terrible weapons that he wants to use against your country, then finding out it was all just a foolish mistake, a terrible joke, a complete sham. Or, you learn, perhaps it was an underhanded series of lies and exaggerations told by your commander in chief because of his personal vendetta against a weak tin-pot dictator who had tried to assassinate his father.

Imagine watching your buddies blown to pieces, their body parts strewn here and there in bloody rags, like bleeding toy dolls torn to shreds by a Rotweiller, or hearing them screaming in agony at the searing hot shards that just riddled their body -- while on the radio your leaders tell you how great things are and of the progress being made. And the fighting drags on day after dreary day with no end in sight and the surrounding unfriendliness just grows. The dirt, sand and grit gets everywhere and rubs red-raw spots under your shoulder straps, inside your crotch and under your armpits and the fifty pounds of armor and equipment you wear makes you feel like a lumbering Frankenstein inside a sauna cabinet instead of the nimble Ninja warrior you want to be.

Imagine seeing your best friend in the world die horribly while crying for his girlfriend or mother, or be terribly maimed for the rest of his life so you can take a village or town, all the while knowing that when you eventually leave it will once again harbor the bad guys; the ones who feel justified in slitting your throat while praising God in the middle of the night just because you are foreign in their land. Imagine.

Imagine running on adrenaline until it is all used up, then keeping on anyway, bone tired and weary, without enough sleep or a shower, to be awakened in the middle of the night for yet another patrol. Or worse, think of being so exhausted you can’t sleep because of the closed loop tape that keeps playing in your head: gruesome pictures of spurting blood, oozing gore, blackened guts and the blank-eyed stares of the dead, while you hear the sounds of the screaming voices and sirens, the thunka-thunka-thunka of helicopter blades overhead, the moans and pleadings for help, the wailing kids caught up in the middle of it all. The high pitch sounds of incoming mortar rounds and the whoosh of an RPG followed by explosions and shock waves get all mixed up with the whizzing bee sounds of bullets seeking their target and the rat-tat-tat and flat thud of rounds driven and squashed into mud brick walls. It gets all jumbled up in the churning washtub of your mind in the middle of the night, afterwards. Where’s the “Ooh – Ra” now?

Imagine seeing all your sacrifice completely unappreciated in the dark faces you meet every day – the stern, hard glances hitting you between the eyes like a dart, and kids who once waved and smiled now throw rocks that bounce off your Humvee. Hatred and burning resentment toward you become routine and you try and ignore it as you drive by and sense the inner rage at just your presence. Another night patrol at three in the morning to break into people’s houses in mostly vain searches for the bad guys only multiplies the haters. And you know it and you can’t help but feel, “maybe I’m gonna’ die for this f****** shit?”

Most terrible of all, imagine, with seven months left on your tour -- 213 days (and nights) to mark off on your short-timers calendar, you wake up on a steaming hot, quarter-moon night bathed a cold sweat to the realization that….you’ve been sent on a fool’s mission to this God-forsaken-hell-hole because of the ego stupidity, arrogance and obsession of the idiots in charge.

John R. Bomar
Arkadelphia, AR

Listen to a special audio reading of this article by The Era.

*This article was originally published on February 22nd


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