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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, November 11, 2005

Eggs Rolled in Sand

I wondered if I could write a Veterans’ Day entry without mentioning the war in Iraq. Then I wondered if I could do it without delving into politics. I’m going to try.

I’m involved in an online writing community where there happens to be a political board. The other day, my friend Bruno posted a message that sparked something for me, about the current war, and why we were there. Because this isn’t about politics, I’ll end it there. Here's where we get to the nonpolitical part of it. That I think we should have gone all the way in '91 has nothing to do with politics, practicality, ethics, or anything other than my own feelings.

When I started writing, I made one rule: I would not write about my military experiences. I didn't want to exploit them. Somehow, by doing that, I would betray those experiences and the people I served with.

But it was like trying to not write about the olive-drab elephant that had pitched a GP large tent in my living room. Besides, some images haunted me, not necessarily horrific ones, but things I couldn't shake from my mind.

I remember clutching an egg fresh from the boiling pot of water in the field mess, warming my fingers against the shell, because for a time, the Saudi Arabian desert was the coldest place on earth.

I remember trying to explain the all-volunteer U.S. Military to a native Kuwaiti linguist assigned to our unit. He didn't understand why I (as a woman) was standing with him on the murky sands between Saudi Arabia and Iraq when there were plenty of able-bodied men (in his opinion) home in America.

I remember how the war ended, not with fanfare, but with scratchy radio exchanges between men with stars on their collars. How old they sounded, and tired, and yet, hopeful.

And I remember thinking then that I was glad we stopped in Kuwait, pitched tents, and watched the oil well fires burn. It was better than the alternative, or so I thought.

With the first bombs dropped on Afghanistan, I felt something deep inside unhinge. When the war started in Iraq, the news knocked a hole in my heart. Not only was there guilt for not being there, but I felt responsible--here these young men and women were cleaning up a mess I helped make. I've taken to writing as a way to exorcise these images, the ones in my mind and the ones on the television set.

My heart hurts for those serving today, but that's not my reality. I write about the Berlin Wall crumbling, how it tastes to eat hardboiled eggs sprinkled with sand, how it feels to watch your husband of less than two weeks deploy to Somalia. Sometimes I think it's a way to assuage that guilt. I can write. I can tell my story, and if only one person understands, then perhaps I've done my job.

I can turn off CNN, but that doesn't stop the images, not mine, not those of today. I turn to my writing, but find what I've tried to banish holds onto me tighter. I can't let it go, even on those days I wish I could. And on this day, more than any other, I realize that you can take the girl out of the Army.

But you can't always take the Army out of the girl.


At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said, "When I started writing, I made one rule: I would not write about my military experiences. I didn't want to exploit them."

I'm glad to see you've changed your mind. What you've written here is a powerful piece precisely because it's so personal. Thank you for sharing your unique experience.

Dennis Phillips

At 11:24 AM, Blogger Marianne Arkins said...


My husband fought in the first Gulf War... and with every new soldier I "adopt" overseas now, he tells me to tell them that he's sorry for not getting the job done the first time.

When this war began, he gave serious thought to re-enlisting and would have, I think, if not for our daughter. He still feels guilty, every day, for not being over there.

I think I'll have him read your blog today.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Charity, what a touching post. And how appropriate that you had today's blog date. Thanks for the time you gave to the military.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Thanks, Charity, for a non-political perspective on the war.


At 6:02 PM, Blogger darcy said...

How many times over the years have I asked you to explain what makes a soldier? And how many times have you patiently tried to put into words I can understand?
It's through your stories, your novels, and your living example that I get close. Being a soldier is principle and honor and sacrifice. Thank you for all of it.


At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Jen said...

Hi Charity,
I think this is a wonderful way to honor our Vets. And of all your military writing that sticks with me, the egg scene from IC still gives me more of a feel of the war experience than any other. It's the familiar in the face of the unknown, ungodly and just plain weird. Does that make any sense?
Anyway, thanks for writing this. And thanks for making me think about war and armies in a different light - over the past few years, through all of your powerful writing.
Hugs, Jen

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

Oh, honey. You can't take on responsibility for the world.

My impression is that the military makes a lot of things palatable by painting the world in shades of black and white. Those are bad guys. Kill them. These are good guys. Obey them. But it's not a black and white world, and when soldiers realize that, I think they sometimes feel guilty and/or betrayed. Soldiers are essentially tools. You can't blame a soldier for leaving a mess anymore than you can blame a hammer if the floor isn't plumb. The world is just too complicated.


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