I just got back from my 8th tour of duty. After the 3rd, they stop giving you tour guides.
This is Bill. I say “he’s from Boot” and you’d think I mean I met him at Boot Camp, which I did, but also he was from Boot, Arkansas. I said I never knew there was a Boot in Arkansas. He said, “Yeah, we all go around barefeet, and also have no homes.”
One day right before we were supposed to ship out, Bill went CPA, and we never heard from him again.
Susie was my girl. We did our sixth tour together. She was my very own Molly Pitcher, bringin’ me my ammo and nursing my wounds and the other non-combat things we actually let the womenfolk do. It was the saddest day of my life when she got blown to bits by an IED shaped like a ham sandwich. That was the last sandwich she ever brought me.
Renilde was a stand-up guy, liked people, liked to laugh. He was the black guy in our squad and thus came to represent, to us, all black people. He became the amalgamation of a whole race rolled into one, all its good and bad, its courageous and shameful. That was how we saw him. He’d always say to us, “I don’t know any gangsters, I grew up in Iowa,” and we’d laugh and point out that he must have been mistaken because he was black. That was when he would usually get quiet and start polishing his rifle. Oh, those black people and their guns! When will they learn.
I don’t remember where Lyddie went, but before she disappeared, we all had fun putting bags on our heads and making human pyramids with the prisoners. Abu Ghraib was just like that, with prisoners and guards intermingling, sharing jokes, having a poker game, generally kickin’ back and relaxin’. I hear the laid-back attitude got us in the news or something, but politicians will never understand war. They should leave it to us soldiers.