But even as I smirk and muse about some of messes I've made, bemoaning the life I live about some of the others, I find myself on the tail end of this deployment, heavily considering my dirt and the portions of my conscience that I'd like to clean, given the opportunity to do so. Trust me, when I say there is much to be considered. Even those who know me well don't know me well enough.
Afghanistan. Literally the dirtiest place I've ever been in my life. I write this knowing that I will never be the same for having been here, not even sure that I'd want to be. I write this knowing that life goes on without me back in the real world, with folks on the same bullshit they were on before I left, and some fertilizing their minds with an even more pungent load of crap. I am forever compromised by what I've done, and said, where I've been and where I am, what I've heard and what I've seen.
I'm thinking of the young, young soldiers who come to my office on the day-to-day, their eyes just a little dimmer lately than they were a few months ago, many compromised by what their eyes have seen. One who came back from a mission speaking frankly of how he thought he was going to die out there. "I thought I was gonna die," he said.
Another one, even younger than the first, I distinctly remember kicking boxes at Christmas time because he was sick of being inside the wire, missing a taste of what his peers were getting, what he'd come here to do. Last week, all he wanted to do was get out of this country as quickly as possible to hold his baby daughter in his arms again. I see his edginess all but gone, his toughness faded for the fascade it was, his genuine appreciation for the relative safety back inside the wire that he resented so much 7 months ago, and his smile at random blasts of marshmallows from the pump shotgun of a grumpy S1 NCO. It's a beautiful thing. Yes, I have a marshmallow shotgun, and I sometimes, shoot customers with it. Damn that Amazon.com.
And I'm thinking of another who won't make it home. At only twenty-six, still a baby in my eyes, who will never see his own baby again. He'd only been here six weeks. I gotta tell y'all my heart is breaking off in little pieces at a time with every day that goes by.
God knows I wanna go home and shake it off. I'm tired and I don't sleep. If you know me, picture me screaming. It's a different kind of dirt. And it sticks.