Friday, September 7, 2007

The Current Took Me to Iraq

The current of my heart brought me to Iraq. I always swim with the current. The current finds me and away we go on a new adventure to expand my world and open my heart. This time it was to war.

On this adventure I realized that to go to war is to choose to live in two worlds simultaneously. In the first world I find myself looking for hope, constantly searching for meaning in all the death and destruction. In the second world I only see hopelessness and despair.

I naturally look for the beauty in every situation and this daily conflict between hope and hopeless-ness tore me up at times but nonetheless I stood as a witness to all of it while attempting to steer clear of judgments and failing daily.

I witnessed the unexplainable horrors of our Marines being killed and maimed by roadside bombs, mortar attacks and sniper fire. All of them seemed so impersonal and random. Why that particular vehicle and why did they wait to detonate the bomb at that particular point? Why did the sniper aim in on that particular Soldier rather than the one next to him? Why did shrapnel from that one mortar bounce up and impel him and not the civilian next to him?

On one day the reports of the slaughter of innocent Iraqis praying in mosques, playing soccer or just walking to school were overwhelming. None of it made sense.

On another day, I began to build a Cairn outside my barracks, adding a rock to honor each death, U.S. and Iraqi. Some officer kicked it over a few days later – scattering the sacred act into hopeless-ness. I built it again. He destroyed it again. Some days I spent hours looking into the eyes of each deceased Marine, Soldier and Sailor’s photo and silently and tearfully thanking them for their sacrifice.

I witnessed humanity at its highest where brotherly bonds were created between Marines that looked death in the face together. I also heard about Sunnis risking their lives to rescue a Shiite family from gunmen. In this world of hopefull-ness Sheiks rise above their fears and fight Al Qaida out of their neighborhoods and districts. An Iraqi woman puts a rug out on the wall to serve as a warning to oncoming convoys when a roadside bomb is present in front of her house. In this world of hope and meaning, Iraqi women show up to tell me their stories and their solutions while I listen with a hungry ear, tears in my eyes and an open heart. They leave me with hugs, multiple cheek kisses and hope in their hearts.

One day a Marine’s life is saved when a sniper bullet makes only an indent in his chest due to the illegal Playboy magazine tucked under his vest. But then that evening a pregnant Iraqi woman ready to deliver her baby is rushed to the hospital by her husband and relatives when all the passengers are killed by a Lance Corporal manning his checkpoint who is ordered to stop the speeding vehicle erratically approaching and ignoring all the warning signals. The Marine is required to treat the vehicle as suicide bomber and now he will live with that for the rest of his life . . . and so will they.

The constant mixture of horror and honor swirls around in the century old human game of war.

I lived in both of these worlds daily for an entire year – we all did. Each event cracked open my heart a little more with the intent to grow wider and more expansive. I was a witness to the sacrifice, the honor, the horror and the expansive human spirit. This is why I believe the current took me to war – to be a witness and to come back and tell about it.

Courageously Sharing,


1 comment:

Heather said...

Soooooo courageous. I am so grateful that you listen first and foremost to your inner compass that always seems so grounded in Love, Karen. Thank you on behalf of all women from all nations. Keep dancing Sister!