Being in the Army has its perks- free food, housing, travel- the list goes on. However, when you are deployed in wartime situations, sometimes a soldier may not feel that way. I have had the pleasure of being deployed on numerous occasions, some of which only lasted a few days and others lasted almost a year. My second tour in Iraq had to be the most memorable and here is why…
The second time around, I had the pleasure of being attached to the 172nd Stryker Brigade. We were there to help improve the overall quality of life for the Iraqi’s but also the other soldier’s there. Our unit was a combat unit but the military’s sole responsibility was to help Iraq free itself from tyranny and breakdown terrorism at the same time and that is exactly what we planned to do.
The summer there was blistering hot. I was born in Ireland and lived in North Carolina so the hottest temperature I seen had to be around 98 or 99 degrees. Iraq’s excruciating heat was averaging around 138 degrees so you can imagine my need for a constant air conditioner. What made things worse is the fact that I felt bad for the first-timers. I had been here before but they looked flat out miserable and they were dropping like flies due to heat exhaustion.
The unit had been “in-country” for a couple of weeks already and some Iraqi families had moved into a few tents across from the one that I was staying in. Of course, it wasn’t very long before we started to converse and pick up on the reason they were even there. They had actually helped the Army a couple of weeks before we had arrived and the family had been afraid of the repercussions. The military decided that the best thing would be to put them up in tents until a better solution was found. There were other families there due to other reasons. We had at least a dozen kids running around and it made me feel a little homesick but it felt great. In fact, they would come over all the time asking for snacks. I would give in and make sure they had plenty to eat and drink and I tried teaching them as much English as I could muster up. The kids loved to learn.
It seemed like months went by in a matter of weeks and the families became a fixture in my everyday life. They learned English rapidly and it was great having them around. It was nice knowing that we were changing a few lives even though we were half way across the world, away from our loved ones. A few months went by and we were moved into solid buildings and the families had the pleasure of coming with us. They were so happy to be living indoors. I had never seen a child so excited to see a 20 inch television before. Our unit supplied everything else the families needed and the look on the faces of the families was priceless.
It is great to know that I can put my life on the line for something special. I know that America will always be my second home. I was born in Ireland but I have lived in the U.S. for over 25 years and I cannot think of any other military that I would rather serve with. I have lost some very good friends and served with plenty more and the U.S. should be very proud of their men and women. It doesn’t matter whether you support the wars overseas or not; you should still find yourself standing behind or beside the military.