A fellow Tumblr blogger, Logically Positive, suggested that I write my recollection of Iraq. I suggested that I would begin by republishing some of my firsthand accounts while I was deployed there. Below is one of the emails I sent to my stepfather while stationed at Combat Outpost Rawah in the Al Anbar province in Iraq. And yes, I am aware it is filled with various typographical errors.

Musings from the Desert

October 4, 2006

I am not really sure what the date is today. I think it is the 4th of October and Wednesday, but I could be wrong.

You might have questions what is it I am currently doing in Iraq. Well, my unit is in charge of this base’s security. We man the defensive positions around the base’s perimeter as well as go on frequent patrols to make sure that the enemy is not setting up positions amid the many sand dunes and hills that surround this miniscule base. Dangers to this base is limited, but of course not exclusive, to infrequent mortar and RPG attacks. Infrequent, because patrols done by previous units in charge of security have done a successful job of neutralizing enemy positions that do crop up around the base. It is now up to my unit to keep that up.

Now, for the area itself. The base is located a few miles south of a city of 30,000 people near the Euphrates river. This is a true desert if I ever seen one. I thought the Mojave Desert is a desert, but they are nothing compared to this. The Mojave Desert at least is teeming with life. Joshua trees, bushes, cactuses, and wildlife of all kinds. This desert seems to be a barren wasteland, devoid of life. Just sand and bare rock as far as the eyes can see…

But I was wrong. While it is not as blatantly obvious as it is in the Mojave Desert, life does survive in spite of the harshness of this clime. When we went on patrol yesterday, we were to familiarize ourselves to the terrain. That means I have to observe everything, to take in the details, to learn what is “normal” in this terrain. That is when I discovered that this desert was not in fact a barren wasteland that I thought and heard it was, but rather the opposite of that. Everywhere I looked where signs of life succeeding amid the shifting sands. The most inspiring of which was a bird with a plume of shocking red feathers. I will admit, it was a bit unnerving to see such a defiant display of color in the middle of this apparent wasteland. It was the opposite of what I was doing. Me, in my desert digital, my tactical tan gear. I was trying to be part of the desert, to blend, to disappear into the endless desert background. But here is a native to this land who, instead of going with its life quietly, invisibly, chose to shatter the eerie silence of the desert with its song; and with its bright red plume, defy the overwhelming conformity the desert seems to demand (and got from me).

I do not yet hate this place. The conditions we are living under, while not desperate (we do have three meals a day, a place to sleep under, a cot to sleep on, things to entertain us, showers, Internet, free laundry service, 80-dollar Army whore…), have made a great many to despise the desert and everything and everyone in it. I do not know if it is possible for me to hate a place where the stars are allowed to shine.