In contrast to the fairly positive reportng by Sichuan Online on overseas Chinese serving in US military, this article titled “Who Am I Fighting For” exposes a different view of life in the American military.
“Who Am I Fighting For” appeared in November 2008 issue of Siwen Times Digest, chronicled a Chinese graduate student’s entry into the Iraq war, and the deaths he witnessed on and off the battlefield:
Who Am I Fighting For – A Chinese American Soldier’s Diary
I Enlisted For Tuition
It’s been a month since I arrived in New York. Everything is fine – except not making money. It’s depressing to stay at home reading books and cooking dinner, especially in such a materialistic city where credit card and consumption is everywhere. For the jobless, it’s like we can’t stand up straight.
I studied the poster in the subway I’ve been walking by everyday, especially the two recruiting ads – “We don’t accept application, only commitment. US Marine, we need you to serve you country.” Two super cool soldiers looking at you with their steel resolve – just like in the movies, full of masculinity. I’ve heard US military’s compensation is pretty good, with good salary and lots of benefits. They also pay your tuition, Since my 30-40k MBA tuition remains elusive, why not give enlistment a try?
So I went to military.com, filled in application for Marines, Army, and Army reserve. Promptly received information on enlisting and benefits. Upon arrival at the recruitment center, every officers in the room treated me like family, attentive, worried I might change my mind, and giving me a lot of little presents. A beautiful female officer picked me up and droped me off every day. I am a little shocked. Suddnely I’m in.
If You Don’t Feel Good, Fire
After arriving at the US military base in Baghdad, we slept in modified container 4 to a box. All around you is endless desert; there’s sand, and more sand. No building, no trees, no roads, no water, no family. It’s like we’re on sufeace of the Moon, not even a name for the place.
Today we were assigned to a new area for duty. The word is this is armed insurgent territory, bombs are burried in every road, sniper in every condemned building, rocket launcher comes out from every direction… My job is to drive the Stryker armor vehicle, and wait for my comrads who is clearing houses. But these few days, because some soldier is on leave, I’m assigned to infantry battle group. We are to patrol the main roads, shoot any target we feel should be shot. After a short distance, we found a house. After explosive experts made sure there are no bombs, we occupied the building and established temporary post.
Around 4pm there was a sudden loud sound. I ran up stairs, where fire is being exchanged. “Meathead” also ran upstairs. We can see flashes of lights from a building across the street; that’s armed insurgents firing at us. There were also sniper firing from another building in front of us. I’m careful not to expose myself. As a string of sound pierce my ear, there are two Apache helicoptor above me conducting ground suppression. Unfortunately the enemy are all inside, and after a while they started returning fire again. Our lieutenant suddenly told everyone to get down as a Stryker gets in position, ready to deliver a giant fire cracker. After two huge bangs those insurgents were silenced.
These insurgents may not know, at these places where CNN reporters get nervous, our orders from above were: if you think you should fire, you fire; if you have a little doubt, fire; if someone is on the cell phone pointing at you, fire; if someone is letting out pegions, fire; if someone is digging a hole, fire. My understand is: if you don’t feel good, you can fire. After taking care of these people and escorted the explosive exsperts back to their base, we went back to our base to rest. The next day we found out 10 bodies were idefied, while some bodies were shot up like swiss cheese. This is a collective success, and some medals are on the way.
A Comrad Name “Lucky”
The desert bacame drier as we entered winter. AC stopped in the trucks and heater started. During patrol I’m often stuck in the vehicle 8,9 hours, my nose would start to bleed. Today is the last time I would patrol this bad neighborhood, as usual I napped while waiting for troops to return. I hear “Lucky” on top of the vehicle talking about marriage, children, additional benefit. When “Lucky” was stationed in Germany he dated a 17 year old Philipino girl, and have plan to marry her during leave. But she got pregnant before the wedding, and the father is another Texan. But “Lucky” didn’t care, he just want to marry this girl, get family pay, and save her from the 3rd world. Not to mention getting a son, kill 3 birds with one stone.
“Lucky” seems less concerned, or or don’t care, about this. His father married 3 times, and he’s got over 10 step brothers and sisters. Even he can’t remember which is which. His father died from car crash couple months ago, he was only 38. You get dizzy thinking about how he manage to have over 10 children at the age of 38. We have many people like “Lucky” in our battalion. Some never met their father, some with divorced parents. Some go with Dad, Dad remarries, then step mother remarries after father passes away. They end up with people of no relations. When we were okayed for cell phones, they didn’t buy one. Because no one cared, and they have no one to call.
The 100th Suicide
In 4 years of Iraq war, everyday on every base someone dies, gets injured, go crazy, go AWOL, suicide. Who has high morale, fighting spirit, is the oddball. Everyone is a dragon on the battle field, once back in the tent all lay down like a crab. Low morale, sighing, complaining, anxiousely counting the day. Some 18 year olds just out of high school, arrived in Iraq after 4 months training, cries in the tent every day. This night and day from the Hollywood war movies I’ve seen as a child. Two days ago, a soldier killed himself on the base. Command immediately shut the phones and Internet, and forbade cell phone calls, else face confiscation. Suprised to see US military does that same thing like the Shanshi coal mine incident. Other suicide didn’t attraction too much attention, but this one was a little different.
Maybe it’s because he’s the 100th suicide. This brother was almost ready to retire, so I have to say it: Iraq is like the doorstep of hell; one foot out the tent, next step may not bring you back. You had 100,000 chances to die in 15 months, choosing to off yourself is almost unnecessary. Why can’t you be a little patient, next time during a fire fight just stand an inch taller so the snipers can see you… That way everything is done, want fame you got it, want puprle heart got it, We’ll all attend your memorial, carry you to your grave. Army even gives your family 500,000 dollars of battle pension. One miscalculation everything is gong, why are you so stupid? Can’t wait for an opportunity? Aren’t we all hanging on, counting days? News of suicide is worse than battle field casualty. A live person suddenly falls down and he’s your bunk mate. That kind of feeling is like walking in darkness and suddenly come up to an abyss, and Death is calling you from down thre.
I was supposed to retire in 8/08. Thought I could see the Olympics in Beijing. But thre’s a recruitment shortage, so the Army no longer retire on schedule. Everyone must serve 15 months, unless severely injured or dead. My new retirement is pushed to 11/15/08. I’m counting how many days have I left. It’s late, sleeping in the desert, looking at the open sky, hellish wind blowing, body full of sores. I thought about my classmates in China without jobs, being house boys, play video games, eat KFC, fighting with parents. Why did I come here by myself? Who am I fighting for?
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