Opinion: Please send me back to Iraq

Jake Hughes
May 01, 2018 - 8:56 am

(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Margaret Taylor, 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/RELEASED)

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I hate the corporate world.

A few months ago we did some restructuring here at Connecting Vets. Part of that was the creation of the Gaming, Guns, & Gear section, which I was informally placed in charged of due to my passion for video games. So I went about doing it the way I've seen other websites, like IGN and Gamespot do it: video reviews, Let's Plays, and the like. However, I was told that because of the murky interpretation of “Fair Use,” not only can I not do Let’s Plays, I also can’t use any originally gathered footage of video games.

And now? I'm just spinning my wheels. As I spent the greater part of last night, even into the early morning, trying to find a workaround and dealing with endless legalese, I found myself at least once an hour muttering the phrase, "Ugh, can I please go back to Iraq now?"

As I interact with the veteran community more, I find that is not an uncommon sentiment. What most veterans feel when they first get out, after the elation of no more morning formations and barracks inspections, is a sense of isolation, a sense of loneliness.

You come to realize you took for granted that sense of brotherhood. That feeling that no matter what, someone has your back, someone is looking out for you, whether that's a screaming NCO or a battle buddy. It's a comforting feeling, knowing that people will go to bat for you.

I experienced that comfort during my first cycle as a Drill Sergeant. The morning it started, when we were about to go "welcome" the privates off the bus, our CO and 1SG took all us Drills into a bay for a little talk. It amounted to, "Do what you need to do to create quality soldiers you would want watching your back in a foxhole. As long as you're in the right, we will fight tooth and nail for you." And they did. I saw a Captain and a First Sergeant stand before a full-bird Colonel and a Command Sergeant Major and say, "No, sir, you're wrong, my Drill is right." That is what the Army calls "Personal Courage."

And that feeling is never more clearly defined than when you're down range. When you're deployed, life is simple. Oh sure, you may have to do complex things, like maintaining vehicles, writing monthly counseling statements and end of tour awards… less than a month into the tour (thank you very much, 3d ACR).

But at the end of the day, your life boiled down to four things: clean your weapon, drink water, don't get killed and don't get your battle buddy killed. That was it, man. That was your day, by and large. Through endless patrols, door-kicking, fire fights and mind-numbingly boring guard shifts, all you had to focus on were those four things.

You had a team, squad, section, platoon, whatever, of similarly minded people who, no matter their rank or position, were trying to do the same.

You just don't get that in the corporate world. When all is said and done, you are just a lone cog in a very big machine, and that machine doesn't give a damn about you, it only cares about the bottom line. It's a world where every decision feels like a trap, and you never know who has your back or for how long.

There's a lot of moral cowardice in the business world. Back-stabbing, in-fighting, wheeling and dealing and climbing over others. To a veteran, it can seem despicable, just because we spent years having not to deal with that. Sure, the argument can be made that in the military you are also a cog in a machine, but you're surrounded by other cogs like you, and the machine actually cares about your well-being.

I'm having a hard time coming up with an overall point beyond, "corporate America sucks." But I want to show other veterans that you're not alone when you sometimes wish you were back in “Iraqistan.” But you don't need to re-enlist to get that feeling. Join a local VSO like the American Legion or the VFW. Find other vets and meet up somewhere (If, only there were some kind of website meant to “Connect vets”).

And if you ever find yourself in a similar situation to what I described above, do what I'm doing now— employ the single most useful skill the military ever taught you: take an undesirable situation and make it work. Fake it till you make it. Burn someone's house down with combustible lemons, if you have to, but make it work. I can, and I know you can.

As always, be kind to each other, and have a blessed day.