When I came back from Iraq a few years ago, I realised that the United States is, without question, a seriously great place. So seriously great, in fact, that I had written a list of things that became apparent upon my return (lists are all the rage, after all).1) Air Quality: You know what I can see here in the US? Everything. Call the airport here in Colorado and they will tell you that the visibility is only impeded by the curvature of the earth. Get that same report in Iraq and they’ll ask if you can see your shoes. If the answer is yes, it’s a good day. One of my soldiers got lost coming back from the shower because he couldn’t find our house.
2) Travel: Moving from point A to point B seems rather simple now. I jumped in my gas-guzzling SUV and drove – all by myself, mind you – 250 miles without even filling out a trip ticket with my blood type and weapon serial numbers. Nor did I have to call in my check-points to command. Even crazier is that I traveled over 35 mph for an extended period of time without wearing a helmet or doing a COMSEC check (shhhh, don’t tell anyone).
3) Food: Well, the one downside to the food here is that it isn’t free anymore (and no, I’m not just talking about the kids I beat up to take their falafels). Having three free meals a day does have its perks, but I have to tell you, food has never tasted as good as it does here. Places like Old Chicago and chilli’s seem like gourmet now. What’s that you say? You use an oven to make pizza? Well, sign me up. And you will bring it to my table? This just gets better and better. Add in a beer and you know what it all tastes like? America being awesome, that’s what.
4) Women: Holy smokes, girls! Everywhere! And they’re not in uniform or wearing a burkha! Don’t get me wrong, I was starting to really dig on the ninja-style fashion of Middle Eastern women, but it is really quite something to see attractive American women dressed… well, like women. And bless their little hearts for doing so. In the Middle East, a woman is measured by her ability to carry a load on her back and drive a donkey cart. While important qualities to be sure, they are still second-tier in comparison.
5) Communication: I wanted to talk to someone today, so you know what I did? I picked up my cell phone and called them. Yeah. Believe it. I didn’t have to stand in line or pay for extra minutes or anything. I just called them and talked until the conversation was over. No one told me my time was up, the line didn’t fail, and I didn’t have to walk home after the call was over. Then I jumped on the internet. How cool is this? I can click on things and things happen. I don’t have to plan other events like reading a book or warming up food around loading a web page. I just click on it and…poof! There it is. I can write an email of nearly any length and I will still be connected to the internet. Fascinating.
6) Movies: Yeah, we watched movies in Iraq, but something weird happened to nearly every guy I know over there — we developed some kind of strange attention deficit problem, so movies have to be either really, really entertaining or we would make our own dialogue. Although I still have the urge to do the same here, I am able to sit and relax and just enjoy the movie. I don’t feel the need to swear violently at the main characters for doing something I don’t like and… Oh who am I kidding; I still feel that way. But that’s just because most movies are really bad. Let’s be honest with ourselves, there just aren’t that many movies out there that don’t make you want to punch the actors in the throat, are there? So, while our movies aren’t that great, they are about 18 billion times better than Middle Eastern movies. And that’s not cultural bias; they will tell you the same thing over there. Have you ever watched an M Night Shamylamayayamayamayn movie? Ok, now watch it sober. Middle Eastern movies are still worse than that. True story.
7) Family (best for last): There is simply no substitute for family and their appreciation of you. Well, unless you have some kind of weird, David Koresh-type thing going on, in which case that’s just wrong and you should probably get out of that situation as soon as you can. There are people out there who can help you. Oh sure, I guess they have “families” in the Middle East. Who knows. I guarantee they’re not as cool as ours. We don’t have to dress mum up in a hijab to get her to make cookies, so right there we are way ahead of their standards.
If you’re deployed right now, remember that what you’re doing is done on behalf of the greatest country on earth. If you are here in the States, then take a look out of your closest window. Do you see that? That is the awesomeness of America – yes, even that guy on the street corner with the twitch. Embrace it.
OK, maybe not the guy with the twitch. I mean, you can embrace him if you want, but it will probably cost you. In more ways than you want to know…
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