I’ve been carrying on about how this mission is a breeze, that I’m just driving around collecting a pay check, that Iraq has changed and they’ll be ready for a Disney Land soon and so on. And who knows, it could all very well be true, but I will admit a small personal confession regarding my comfort levels while traversing the streets of Baghdad. I am uncomfortable.
Before each mission there is a briefing. One portion of this lecture is dedicated to the coming attractions. The Army calls this a 24-hour roll-up. It is a detailed lay out of all the bad things the enemy has done or tried to do or plans to do along our route. For example, “Along checkpoint whatever, insurgents were using giant brain bugs to suck out key information from leaders while the arachnids fought off the gun trucks.” Only, the threats are real and not some silly antics of an accidental comedy. More like, “We found a billion pounds of a new super-duper explosive agent, rigged to go off by voice activated conversations of baseball, apple pie and Elvis Presley.” Only again, slightly more serious in nature.
I can’t imagine what a person who has never gone through or past or at least near an explosion that was meant to kill them would make of these briefings—and most of my soldiers would fall into that group. But I have gone through all of that nonsense, and my imagination works just fine, if not too well.
So there we were, driving down this street just past that marker, and something from the briefings pops into my head, like, I don’t know, Dinosaur Zombies or something. And I see a goofy pile of trash or rocks or an odd patch of sand on the side of the road. And my ass cheeks pucker in tight and I start leaning my kevlar helmet down to cover my neck, and I’ve suddenly forgotten what my truck mates and I have been talking about until…nothing. Oh, well.
The streets are nothing like back when I remember. Well, they’re still lined with burning garbage and in more need for repair and up-grade than I-95 south of Lauderdale. What I mean to say is, I can so clearly remember a time when the skies were lit up with tracer rounds, and not a day would pass without a patrol being hit by small arms or mortars or IEDs or something. And those attacks must be engraved so deeply somewhere up in my brain that the muscles in my ass trigger out of reflex, even though I’m fairly certain I’m safe. Let’s call it 80%-20%.
- The Exodus