Truth be told, I have no idea how I am supposed to feel now that the Iraq war is “over”. The cynical side refuses to believe it is over. Still, I want it to be over. At the very least I know want my war to end… and that is on a less tangible time table.
The troops leaving Iraq crept up on me. I took note of the announcement to withdraw. I have watched the news a few times, and I really don’t believe the headlines. Then, blam… headlines…
War is over?
The idea of that headline saddens me because it is false. There are still American troops in Afghanistan. There are civilians and military clashing all over the Middle East. The horn of Africa has been embroiled in armed conflict for decades. I would prefer the headline read: U.S. leaves Iraq, but that is not sensational enough. The tagline is a fantastic way to end 2011. As a society, we can neatly close this chapter in Iraq.
War is over…
The Soldier in me breathes a bit of relief. Families of the Armed Forces will reunite. There will be less deployment cycles looming. The human toll on Americans will decline further. Still the war does not feel over. I think many of my comrades will feel the same way. Sometimes it felt like we lived on a different planet in a different time. Other times we are living those moments in a very real way here and now.
I physically left Iraq in the February of 2006. I still visit Iraq weekly in my nightmares.
In the five years since I got out, I have lost track of most of my Soldiers. A handful were taken in Iraq or Afghanistan. One took his life after threatened with a fourth deployment. The memory of each of them helped me through those tough days in Iraq. To this day I have leaned on their examples of strength in my daily life as a civilian. I hope that we can all find closure.
War is over.
I hope that we as Americans will never be so cavalier with our responsibility to the free world as we have been this past decade. I am not saying we withdrawn in isolation. I am not saying we fail to respond to actions against our nation and our allies. I am not saying we stop pursuit. But, we must do so understanding the complete ramifications of each action we take. We are weary as a Nation of armed conflict and rightfully so.
My war, and the war for many Veterans, continues. This proclamation feels like the flip of a switch. War is started. War is over. Getting to the mental state I was in when I left the service in 2006 took time to build and process. Attitudes and feelings were tempered and hardened. In the years since, I have banged away to bend and form to another shape. There are some dents that just will not go away. Others are smoothed with work and time. These proclamations of “War is Over” will add inspirational fuel to the fire, but there is much work to be done.
My cousin has not been able to listen to this song since I deployed to Iraq. We grew up as close as brothers and I love him very dearly. When I was away I mistakenly thought that everyone just plugged happily along. Once I got back and reflected and listened, I learned that I was way off in my assumptions. There is still much work to be done, but hopefully we are moving in the right direction.
War. Is. Over. If you want it.