First Draft of essay "To Hell In a Handbasket and Back Again." | mollyb1972's Blog

     I’m thoughtful.  It’s a result of too many beers and of the MP3 player I have recently found.  The one that I listened to when I was “over there”.  It takes me back…to a time where death and misery were part of my everyday life.  While I don’t like death and misery I did like that time.  I liked that time because nothing came easy and it forced me to appreciate how well we all have it over here.  How well I have it.
     Before I deployed to Iraq I thought I was unique.  My experiences made me so.  I was stronger than the average woman.  I had been through more than the average woman.  Therefore, I was above average.  Before I went to Iraq I went through a more-than-nasty divorce that just wouldn’t end.
     I met and married Roy in a whirl-wind romance that turned out to be anything but romantic.  Looking back, that whole situation could be a great plot for a movie on the Lifetime Movie Network.  He tried to kill me twice.  He beat the bejesus out of me a few times.  He assaulted me physically, emotionally, and sexually.  He stalked me.  He threatened me and he threatened my co-workers.  Especially the male ones.  God help the boy who had to answer the phone when he called.  Just a young married kid, Daniel was, but Roy insisted that I must be sleeping with him.  He stole my mail right out of my mail box.  Including the ATM card and checks I ordered when I opened a new bank account because he cleaned out our joint account.  The one that he never put a dime in because he didn’t work.  He stole everything out of my house except anything that had a payment due on it.  But I didn’t have the money to make payments because he stole my money.  He cut up all of my clothes with a police officer standing next to him telling him it was OK because it’s community property.  He even stole things specific to me, with my name on them.  My mom had cross stitched a sampler with the words “Daughter” and “Molly” all over it.  She sent it to me for Christmas after I had left him.  He came right into my house with the spare key he stole and took it right off the wall.
     And Roy got away with it all.  I pressed charges after he assaulted me but he was never even indicted.  The charges were dropped.  That’s another story for another day.  Folks from small town Alabama do not take kindly to outsiders making accusations against one of their own.  Especially Yankee outsiders.
     An opportunity came a’knocking and I jumped at the chance.  “What opportunity?” you ask.  The opportunity to go to Iraq.  I volunteered.  I had to go, for it was the only way I could get away from Roy.  I didn’t have money to just up and move away and this opportunity would not only not cost me anything, I would actually be getting paid!         Deployments like these require intensive planning.  It was three or four months before we left.  By the grace of God, my divorce was final about one month prior to leaving.  While Roy didn’t suddenly change into a nice guy he had calmed down a bit.  It didn’t matter though because I knew he would never leave me alone, he would never set me free, unless I ran away kicking and screaming and fighting.  The time to leave couldn’t have come soon enough for me.
            Before a unit deploys they attend training for a few months.  My adventure and escape started in Fort Dix, New Jersey.  Here I was thrown into a diverse mix of strangers from twenty-two different units from the state of Alabama and even a couple of guys from other states that volunteered to jump on the Iraq-bound train. 
            We were subjected to extreme conditions; cold weather, no sleep, no food half the time, getting used to people you have never met before.  We existed in a mock war zone complete with mock mortars, mock bullets, etc.  In spite of our sub-human conditions and our differences, we strangers emerged into cohesive group of people who figured out how to work past it all and pull together for the mission at hand.  Even though we really didn’t know exactly what that mission was.
            Onward to Iraq.  On the super-crazy long flight over it had occurred to me that I hadn’t thought much of Roy during the last few months of training.  And it also occurred to me that I seemed to lack any real fear about going to war.  In less than a day I’d be dropped into a bullets-flying and bombs-exploding combat zone and I was absolutely OK with it.  I was calm, even.
Thank-you, Roy.  He had terrified me so thoroughly that even going to war didn’t scare me now.  But I could have never guessed how much that series of events, and the events still to come would forever change me.
Our mission turned out to be a high profile mission.  A mission, in fact, that was several missions. We were a slim unit and didn’t have nearly enough people to cover all these missions.  We were to escort and provide security for several Iraqi dignitaries.  Dignitaries such as the president, vice president, prime minister and other-high-profile-high target people.  Where ever they went, we took them.  Each squad was assigned a “primary”, that is to say we were assigned one of these men.  But because our personnel numbers were low that often meant you had to run missions to keep watch over your assigned guy and then turn around and fill in protecting and watching over another guy.  Some of us, me included, were going so hard and so fast that we’d forget to eat and it wouldn’t even bother us.  It was an after thought – “Oh shit, I forgot to eat today.” 
            Things went fast.  I was promoted and before I knew it I was the Sarge in charge of the lead truck during our missions.  My squad leader sat in the back in the last truck with his eyes forward and with trust and respect following me and my truck where ever I went.  I had the lives of not only the 14 other men in my squad in my hands, but also the lives of my primary and his personal security detail in my hands.  Twenty four souls plus my own.  That is a lot of responsibility for a thirty-something year old little girl who had only months before been running for her life or hiding locked up in her house with all the lights off, doors locked and revolver loaded and ready to go. From fearful to fearless.  What had happened to me? 
            Everyone hears the stories of what soldiers have to go through.  But there are so many other things that don’t really get talked about but affect your life none-the-less.  Forever will I tell the story of how I overcame my poo-phobia because I had no choice.  Talk about facing your fears.  What I don’t include in the story is how that single event changed the way I viewed – well, everything.
            We had been out for over a week and I hadn’t used the restroom properly.  Oh I had gone to the bathroom peeing in bottles or squatting here or there because that is just what you had to do.  But going number two that’s another thing entirely.  I could not even use a public bathroom up to this point to do number two.  I didn’t want anyone to hear me doing my business and I certainly didn’t want to hear anyone else doing their business. But my body didn’t care about my phobia because after a week of eating nothing but MRE’s and local cuisine it cursed my phobia up one side and down the other and let me know I had no choice but to swallow my pride and do what I had to do.
            This isn’t about me walking into a bathroom and taking care of what needed to be taken care of.  Where we were there were no bathrooms to use.  My squad knew how horrible an event this was for me even though to them this sort of thing is no big deal.  They kept the jokes and puns to themselves.  That was a first!  But I’m a lady and ladies don’t even fluff  in public.  How could I possibly make this work? 
            There it was in Sadr City, Iraq where my squad full of men formed a solid circle, respectfully facing outward with weapons aimed and at the ready, and stood guard while I took care of my business with bullets popping off only a block or so away and with locals staring curiously at the circle of American Soldiers.  It was then that I realized that all the things in the world I had thought were such a huge deal were really just huge because I made them huge.  Or someone close to me made them huge and that manifested into me making them huge.  It was there in Sadr City, Iraq squatting in a circle of my brothers and battle buddies for life that I realized how stupid my poo-phobia was.  How comical.  And it made wonder how many other things in my life did I turn into mountains when they were really just molehills.
            I’ve done things most women will never do.  I’ve aimed more than one weapon and I’ve pulled triggers.  I’ll let you figure out what that means.  I’ve been responsible for bringing home  husbands, sons, and fathers.  I’ve had the weight of  life and death on my shoulders and I didn’t bat an eye. I didn’t once question my choices or decisions.  I earned the respect of my squad, I earned the respect of a very important man in Iraq, and I earned the respect of the British SAS, Navy Seals, and Army Special Forces soldiers that served as his personal security detail.  I did that all by myself.  You’re damn right, I’m proud of all of it.
            I came home and struggled just like most war-vet’s do.  I still hear the pop-smack-crunch of the bullet proof glass as it stopped the bullet that would have been in my temple otherwise.  I still hear the wish-swish of the windshield wipers as they worked to wash away the remains of the two year old little girl who blew up from a bomb I’m sure was meant for my convoy.  I struggle every day with wanting to go back and give my life to save that little girl.  At the time I didn’t bat an eye and we just drove on and through it.  Because that is what we were supposed to do.  Protecting these men meant you didn’t stop, ever.  For anything.  Not even for a dead little girl whose remains were all over your Humvee. 
            As much as I struggle with it I know I can’t change that day no matter how much I want to.  I know that everything happens for a reason.  And I know now what my mom meant when she said “Count your blessings, young lady!”  No matter what I face in any given day I go to sleep each night knowing that tomorrow is a new day.  With that new day are endless possibilities.  I know to never, ever, sweat the small stuff again.  Life is far too short to worry about silly little poo-phobias.

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