On my return flight from Frankfurt I sat next to a guy in civilian garb with a rucksack bearing an Operation Iraqi Freedom patch. We struck up a conversation. I asked him if he was just returning from Iraq. No, he was currently stationed in Germany, but was being sent home to receive further training, and would be shipping out to Iraq probably next summer. For the third time.
This guy was from Ohio, twenty-seven and had been in the Army since age eighteen. 'Not my first choice of life career,' he said. He was out of the service after the first three years, and in college. When he got his new wife pregnant he quit his studies and signed up again. I'm not sure exactly when that was, but he told me he'd been to Iraq in 2003, with the invasion, and again in 2005. I didn't ask what his rank or duties were, but he was heading to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
He said he had to have more training if he is to be given further opportunities for advancement, 'even though going to Iraq stinks.' Without me asking, he then volunteered, 'You know, I don't want to say it's a lost cause, but...you know how it is. Politics.' I asked him what he meant. 'We're doing some good there, but it's a mess, and then over here you got the Communist News Network--CNN. They only show the bad stuff.' For however confused or contradictory were this guy's politics, I could see that his morale wasn't all that high.
I wished him well, and said I hoped we could get him back soon. He seemed to appreciate that. With that, he turned his attention to his video game and iPod.