It’s Been 20 Years Since We Invaded Iraq. I Am Still in the Desert.
Even though many veterans came home physically from Iraq, we never fully returned home
“I have gone to war and now I can issue my complaint. I can sit on my porch and complain all day. And you must listen. Some of you will say to me: You signed the contract, you crying bitch, and you fought in a war because of your signature, no one held a gun to your head. This is true, but because I signed the contract and fulfilled my obligation to fight one of America’s wars, I am entitled to speak, to say, I belong to a fucked situation.”
— Anthony Swofford, Jarhead
Twenty years ago, I dug a hole at a fever pitch while on a beach in South Padre Island, Texas. It was a shallow hole, but enough to contain vomit full of beer and Lunchables that I’d deposited into the trench. After wiping my mouth and scooping sand over the puke, I stood triumphant and raised a fist to a chorus of cheers. I’d just beer-bonged three Miller Lites on a challenge.
For the uninitiated, beer bonging is when you pour beer into a funnel attached to a long piece of plastic tubing and then consume the alcohol as fast as possible. This process leaves you unbelievably drunk, but it’s a rite of passage among many college students. Granted, I couldn’t keep the liquid down, but the other college co-eds found the feat impressive.
A few months earlier, I’d returned from the military’s Defense Language Institute, where I’d picked up another language. In search of a break from college and military routine, I joined my brother and a group of friends for Spring Break. My brother was the first to greet me post vomit escapade and slapped my increasingly pink shoulder, then handed me an ice-cold beer. I gratefully accepted and rinsed my mouth with the cold liquid.
While swishing the beer around in my mouth, I observed a large rock wall in the distance with men and women strapped into harnesses, trying to climb it. Above the wall, an enormous flag bearing the words “U.S. Army” stretched taught due to the ocean breeze.
I gestured with my beer. “You think they actually get any recruits on spring break?”