“My objection to war was not that I had to kill somebody
or be killed senselessly, that hardly mattered.
What I objected to was to be denied the right to sit in a small room and starve
and drink cheap wine and go crazy in my own way and at my own leisure.”
Soldiers train to go to war. We mentally prepare ourselves to die. We don’t want to die of course, but we prepare for it. We learn to shoot weapons to defend ourselves. We create wills just in case. We tell our families we love them. And then, we go off to a foreign country and hope things will be alright.
We adjust to the lack of freedom and the demanding work schedules. We cope with the dangers of intermittent rockets or the unknown dangers on a patrol. We learn to deal with the nonstop worry of the sky falling, because sometimes it literally is.
Don’t get me wrong, I never had it that bad. I was what they call a FOBBIT, a Soldier who pretty much stayed on the Forward Operating Base. I was a unique FOBBIT though. I had opportunities to venture off bases from time to time. I went on some patrols with special forces troops, I met village elders, and I experienced a convoy here and there. But, I was never on the front line, in a fire-fight, or face to face with a known enemy. (So I had it relatively easy compared to our hardcore troops. So I am not here to pretend I was more than I was. I am merely sharing my perspective on my experiences to those who may not understand deployments.)
However, as a Soldier who was deployed to three different countries, I saw and experienced some interesting things. And through those years, I realized just how grateful I should be.
I’ve had to sleep in overcrowded tents, a bug infested plywood hut and an cold HUMVEE. I’ve heard the whistle of a rocket overhead and hit the ground not knowing where it would land. I heard gunfire fill the air and not know which way it was going. I’ve walked on a patrol and got a bit uncertain with some locals around us. I’ve seen the dismal conditions people have had to endure. So, there were times of heightened concern, general discomfort, humble gratitude.
Then…there were times where there was nothing. Sometimes days, weeks and months of nothing. Nothing but work and more work. The same old work and the same old clothes and the same old food in the same old places. Being stuck in a small compound is enough to stress you out.
You get stir crazy in a way. You want to drive your own car, wear your own cloths, make your own schedule. But you can’t. You are stuck there. You feel like a prisoner who has to defend freedom, yet ironically, you have very little of your own.
Your life back home continues. Yet, it continues without you. And that is what nags at you. You miss your freedom. You miss your life. The freedom you had taken for granted is now gone. Your freedom is on hold while you try to regain it for someone else.
It is like that saying, you don’t know what you have until its gone. That is true. Because once you are deployed, you realize, you miss the little things. You miss cooking. You long to wear colors. You want to enjoy a glass of wine. But you can’t. You are a Soldier every day, every second and every moment.
This lack of control over the small luxuries hangs over you. Fore example, back home, you may only drink a handful of times a year. Yet, when you are deployed and not “allowed” to drink, you miss it more. You want it more because that freedom was taken from you.
I longed for a drink when I was deployed. It wasn’t that I really drank that much at home, but I enjoyed the option of having one when I desired. I wished I could kick up my heels and enjoy a glass of wine after a hard day. But I couldn’t. So when I read the Charles Bukowski quote above, I laughed. Yes, I definitely missed my right to sit around and drink cheap wine. I missed the option of making myself view the world with a bit of a colorful blur, if even for one night.
So the above photomontage is a blend of some of the items currently on my wine rack. Sometimes, I don’t touch it for months. Other times, I may have a glass or two in one day. The great thing though is, I can now do it at my leisure. And that freedom is something I will always appreciate.
To read more about Charles Bukowski, click here.