This week we start what I hope will become a new series of guest blogs written by Service Members and military family members aimed at helping those of us who have never served to better understand what military life is like, and what kinds of sacrifices are being made every day on our behalf.
Today's guest blog comes from Active Army Guard Reserve Sergeant Rusty Mewes. Rusty's military service spans 13 years. He has been deployed to Iraq since September 2010, and is currently working in the Force Protection field at the Victory Base Complex in Baghdad.
I asked Rusty what he most wished that civilians understood about what modern military service is like. Here's what he had to say:
That's hard to answer because no matter how I write it down or explain, a non-Veteran civilian will never understand. I will give it a shot, though...
First, even though the Military has declared combat over in Iraq, to me and many others it’s not. As you read in newspapers or watch on the news, many US Soldiers are still dying here from small arms fire, indirect fire, and the numerous forms of IED's. So combat is not over -- just our combat missions.
As I look at this past year, sometimes it is like being in prison, but not as bad. I am confined to within the walls of the base, I don’t get to see my family and friends, I eat cafeteria still food, and wear non-civilian clothes. Activities include weight training, continuing education, writing letters to my wife, work, and worry about dying. In prison you may get stabbed, beat up, or hurt in other ways. Here in Iraq you may get Indirect fire, hit by an IED, or shot.
We live in small trailers around 9'x 18' with 3 people in each room. For the 1st 6 months I had to walk 300 meters just to use a restroom that was not a porta-john, and to take a shower.
Another issue that was tough, and is currently bringing more stress to an already stressful environment is that we as Soldiers almost did not get paid in April of 2011 and would still be fighting over here while our families struggle to feed themselves back home. This may happen again here in August. If my boss when I worked for restaurants decided not to pay me I would stop working and go find another job. Being in the military, and in a war zone, you do not get that choice.
I know I have not given you much on what I wish civilians knew. But honestly, for me being in Iraq in 2011, I think no one needs to understand what we go through. Because no matter what we have experienced here unless you were here you will not understand. The only time someone needs to understand is if it is a Soldier that needs help with issues he gained from being here. I guess I wish they understood more the sacrifices each service member gives up to be in the military, whether deployed to a combat zone or not.