Monday, February 19, 2007

How Many

I haven't had too many contacts with people who have served in Iraq, though I have met a few. I wrote this bit after chatting with one for about 3 hours at a bar in Grinnell, Iowa in September of 2005. I just read through the comments to the post, noticing that some got my point and some missed it. In any case, it's worth revisiting.

I was in town to give a talk, and went to a bar afterwards with a few people. A guy sat down next to me and started to talk. He needed to talk. He was there with friends, happy to see him but really tired of listening to him. Whatever this guy had been through, and it wasn't all clear, he needed people to understand it. His friends obviously weren't up to dealing with him. I'm not blaming them for that, they were all young (21ish), but the point is that this guy had no one to listen to him.

He'd been in Iraq for awhile. He'd been wounded, and for awhile held hostage, he said. He'd killed a couple of dozen people, including women and children, he said. He was, psychologically, a complete mess. I'm not the most welcoming/empathetic guy on the planet to random people who talk to me - I don't fit the model of the welcoming bartender - but he sat there and chatted with me for 2-3 hours. His friends were thrilled to be rid of him for awhile. When they came over they talked to him like he was a dude returning from college for a bit of spring break fun, not a guy who had been through 14 months of hell.

Don't know his name, don't know what he's up to now. Hope he's ok.