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The journal of an American soldier.
January 13, 2005 9:36 AM   Subscribe

The journal of an American soldier. Although it's typically my policy not to reveal the identity of people I know in Iraq, I am making an exception in this case. The journal above belongs to Michael Smith, a LiveJournal friend of mine who died in Iraq on Tuesday when an RPG hit his Humvee. Mike was 24 years old and leaves behind family, friends, and a newlywed wife, who he married in Korea shortly before he deployed to Iraq. As is tradition on LiveJournal, his last journal entry has become a memorial of sorts.
posted by insomnia_lj (75 comments total)

 
How very sad to read his last published and public thoughts. And even sadder that a tradition has had to spring up following the death of another LiveJournal blogger.

He seems like a nice guy caught in a pretty crappy situation. I'm sorry for him, his friends and his newly widowed bride.

Thanks for the sobriety this morning, insomnia_lj.
posted by fenriq at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2005


Sad waste of a human life, and what an awful way to die. Who can count the cost of even one young man torn away from his wife, his family, his friends, to be fed into the machine?
posted by planetkyoto at 9:54 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by guruguy9 at 9:59 AM on January 13, 2005


Thank you for sharing this.

One story. Multiply it by at least 1,357. Or 1,517. Or 15,289. (Or 100,000?)
posted by thirdparty at 10:02 AM on January 13, 2005


My condolances. Pissed me off enough that (FWIW) I forwarded this thread to president@whitehouse.gov.
Subject: "The journal of an American soldier."

Thought I'd forward this as a not-particularly-unique example of the effects your unilateral military action are having. Good luck with your intelligence task force.
posted by esoterica at 10:04 AM on January 13, 2005


wow. heavy - and sad. wasn't there another way to do whatever it is we are doing in iraq? without so much violence and destruction - was this war really the absolute last resort? were all other options exhausted before young guys like this one had to pay the ultimate price?

f*ck bush. g*ddamn him to hell.
posted by specialk420 at 10:05 AM on January 13, 2005


fuck war
posted by mudpuppie at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2005


What IS it that we are doing in Iraq? The White House has admitted that there were no WMDs, yet that was one of the reasons we went in there...

specialk420, you've got it right.
posted by aldus_manutius at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2005


.

and what specialk said--if there's any justice in this world or the next, Bush will be made to pay for this senseless waste of young lives. He'll already be dancing on their graves during his inaugural galas.
posted by amberglow at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2005


Most haunting words:

I think I made a mistake
posted by Miko at 10:23 AM on January 13, 2005


"War is a crime. Ask the infantry. Ask the dead."
-- somebody famous
posted by bukvich at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by menace303 at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2005


Tears.
posted by digaman at 10:31 AM on January 13, 2005


Sorry for your loss, insomnia. I wish there was more public awareness about this. Each one of the 1300+ is a story that should be heard. Instead we have plastic yellow ribbons.

Cheezy avatars really cheapen the conversations. I'm glad Metafilter sticks to something simple.
posted by knave at 10:32 AM on January 13, 2005


I was reading through that journal this morning and crying.

There's another fallen soldier here named Adam Estep.

It's a very somber day for me.
posted by frecklefaerie at 10:40 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by Juicylicious at 10:41 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by unreason at 10:45 AM on January 13, 2005


.

I (and I think many others) really appreciate your posts. It's good to hear from people who know first hand what's going on.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 10:47 AM on January 13, 2005


After reading further into this journal I am now pissed off knowing that they now stopped looking for WMDs. It seemed like everyone but the administration knew that there probably wasn't any. I feel bad for this guy, his family, wife, and his unit. This guy didn't die to protect us and that pisses me off.

(Just for the record, it would piss me off if he died to protect us, but the enemy is much different ... it is almost as if our administration is as much if not more of an enemy than Iraq could ever have been to me, you and anyone else we know.)
posted by jasonspaceman at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by eriko at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by cmyk at 10:51 AM on January 13, 2005


The tears really started to flow when I found his journal entry from 5/21/04

"i just realized something...

i spent my 23rd birthday in korea
i'll spend my 24th birthday in iraq

who knows where i'll be @ 25"

posted by Gooney at 10:52 AM on January 13, 2005


I hate you Middle America.
posted by orange clock at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2005


orange clock: tou-f*cking-ché.
posted by esoterica at 10:58 AM on January 13, 2005


were all other options exhausted before young guys like this one had to pay the ultimate price?

do you mean like saddam trying desperately for a diplomatic solution at the 11th hour, folding completely under pressure? not too widely reported, that one.

but yeh, on the subject of f*cking bush: i liked the story about the conquistadors offering conversion to some insurgent indians, just before burning them at the stake:

indians: "this heaven of which you speak - are there christians, like you, there?

conquistador: "yes, of course!"

indians: "in that case, we will keep our own gods and go to hell"

i feel the same way about bush, bush's god, and the so-called christians who follow him. fuck them all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:58 AM on January 13, 2005


. It breaks my heart that kids are led to these mistakes, and that they lose so much from them. How can we help?
posted by metaculpa at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by longdaysjourney at 11:08 AM on January 13, 2005


It's not just middle America, here is the Iraq War Vote By State. This is a failure of our elected officials on both coasts and in between. Why can't people just ask questions?
posted by Arch Stanton at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2005


My heartfelt condolences to you and his family. So young - what a loss.
posted by Space Kitty at 11:12 AM on January 13, 2005


"Sorry for your loss, insomnia."

Thanks. Even though we had only been following each other's journals for about six months or so, I was still quite shocked to hear about his death.

I feel much more sad for his wife, his family, and some of his best friends. Here are a few links to some of their journal entries.

It's just very tragic and random. It could've been a lot of the people I know over there, but I hoped they'd all be able to go home, lead ordinary lives, have families, etc. I would've loved to see that for him, and it makes me very sad that it's never going to happen.

Mike had a lot of misgivings about Iraq, and he went through a lot of hardships and scary times out there, but nobody could ever say he didn't do his duty with honor and distinction.
posted by insomnia_lj at 11:14 AM on January 13, 2005


My little brother deployed for Iraq on Tuesday. Just the thought that he might not make it back is near incapacitating and I don't imagine that will change over the next fourteen months. And that can only be the smallest taste of the pain Mike's friends and family must be feeling right now.

My sincerest condolences for your loss.
posted by Cyrano at 11:16 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by poipill at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2005


:(
posted by salad spork at 11:19 AM on January 13, 2005


metaculpa, did this person really make a mistake? If he were to relive his life would he not do everything pretty much the same way?

I'm curious about what his last regret was but I see no reason to feel sorry for this guy. This may sound cruel and terrible and insane and I say this as somebody who has friends and family over there: each and every soldier in Iraq made a conscious choice to be there. Choices have consequences. This guy's choice was the wrong choice and like everybody else who makes such wrong choices (e.g. drug dealers, tax cheaters, adulterers) how can we feel bad when they suffer the consequences of their choice?

For me, there is no way to escape the fact that Iraq was a "preemptive" war and America was the aggressor. Had the case been different I might be over there myself but this is not the case and there's no way to escape the truth.
posted by nixerman at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2005


Fuck the war? No.

Don't scar the memory of these boys.
posted by sled at 11:26 AM on January 13, 2005


How does that scar the memory?
posted by agregoli at 11:27 AM on January 13, 2005


Want to support a soldier? The buying some gifts for the vets hospital is a far better way than buying a damn yellow ribbon.

"Before your son or daughter gets suckered into signing anything by those military recruiters who now have unfettered access to your children in school, make a point of taking your kids to a local veteran's hospital. Take some books and magazines, games, puzzles, stuff like thatto donate. The patients will certainly appreciate the visits and attention. And your kids might see that war is not all shiny medals. War is lives ruined in service to the wealthy."

Because it seems the war Prez doesn't.
http://www.interventionmag.com/cms/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=982
posted by rough ashlar at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2005


One of the things I appreciate about livejournal, and the internet, is its ability to bring you messages from individuals that have more impact than the numbers ever could. The singular ends up representing so much more than just one person.
posted by stray at 11:38 AM on January 13, 2005


Mike's friend Tybris: But please, for the love of god, don't start with politics, not now.


Let's see if we can respect that.
posted by dhoyt at 11:39 AM on January 13, 2005


Great comment, rough ashlar. That's an excellent suggestion. Too often we get caught up in ultimately useless memorials and empty gestures of grief.
posted by orange swan at 11:40 AM on January 13, 2005


This guy's choice was the wrong choice and like everybody else who makes such wrong choices (e.g. drug dealers, tax cheaters, adulterers) how can we feel bad when they suffer the consequences of their choice?


You didn't just compare soldiering to dealing drugs, did you?
posted by OpinioNate at 11:41 AM on January 13, 2005


Dealing drugs is safer and pays better. You still might have to shoot some people, though.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:42 AM on January 13, 2005


This may sound cruel and terrible and insane and I say this as somebody who has friends and family over there: each and every soldier in Iraq made a conscious choice to be there. Choices have consequences.

This may sound cruel and terrible, but I think that anyone killed in a war deserves sympathy. period. I don't quite understand why you are so reluctant to be empathetic.

I didn't want to start grandstanding on this thread, because I have never served in the Army. I'd rather listen to Insomnia and others.

Soldiers join the armed forces for good and bad reasons. Many of those in Iraq now joined when the concept of preemptive war was unthinkable. I'm sorriest for Iraqis: Over a hundred thousand have died since the beginning of the last gulf war. I hope you have sympathy for them too.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 11:56 AM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by NationalKato at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2005


My sympathies to you, and all his family and friends. : (
posted by SisterHavana at 11:58 AM on January 13, 2005


I think the idea of preemptive war has been around for a long time in the US, this is just the latest, most blatant example. I understand what nixerman is saying, it goes to personal accountability, when all is said and done you are the only person truly accountable for your actions. But I also feel sad by the losses both sides suffer. I do not think the US truly thought Iraq had WMDs, we would have been more cautious about going to war if they had (see our standoffishness with N. Korea), this is just a colossal crime from start to finish and in conjunction with many other things makes me believe the system is broke.

rest in peace.
posted by edgeways at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2005


"You didn't just compare soldiering to dealing drugs, did you?"

Welcome to some of the ideas you'll find here.

Me? I was sort of struck by the contrast... this poor guy getting killed in a HumVee explosion and the story in the blue before it sort of crowing about how the some terrorists are "bringing it on" and that will show us! (including video of HumVee attacks. That will show us, the tone suggests.

The thing is, they aren't "showing us". Strategically speakign things are goign well. Tactically speaking it's not too shabby either. The forces aren't close to bringing enough force to bear, or causing enough disruption, to displodge us or reshape the country to their ends.

Each life lost, on all sides, sucks. However I'll also make no apologies for valuing a US soldiers life more highly than I do many others.

My condolences to this man's family and friends.
posted by soulhuntre at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2005


"Strategically speakign things are goign well. Tactically speaking it's not too shabby either. The forces aren't close to bringing enough force to bear, or causing enough disruption, to displodge us or reshape the country to their ends."

I know a lot of soldiers who would disagree with your rosy assessment, soulhuntre. It's entirely possible that we'll be "voted" out of Iraq soon enough anyway, which might lead to our country's premature "displodgement".

In any event, I certainly don't appreciate hearing how his death "sucks" from someone who has traditionally been so gung-ho about sending other people to fight a war for them.

Why must people on *both* sides of the issue trivialize his death in this post for political purposes? Mike didn't have it coming to him, he wasn't a pawn, and, yes, his loss is real, both to his family and his friends.

A lot of people are hurting over this, so knock it off already.
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2005


While I personally think these kinds of posts are valuable, they are often too sensitive and personal a matter to post to an internet forum, particularly one that is used to lots of political discussion and piling-on.
posted by agregoli at 12:34 PM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by Corky at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2005


Why must people on *both* sides of the issue trivialize his death in this post for political purposes? Mike didn't have it coming to him, he wasn't a pawn, and, yes, his loss is real, both to his family and his friends.

For me, it's not about politics. I couldn't care less about politics. And I explicitly assume Mike wasn't a pawn who had somebody else calling the shots for him. But wasn't this post created so that we might reflect upon his death and thus, his life?
posted by nixerman at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2005


I am very sorry for your loss.
posted by puddinghead at 1:06 PM on January 13, 2005


I'm going to think about this guy for the rest of the day. It's the only tribute I think is fitting.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2005


Thanks, insomnia, for having the courage to post such a personal matter to a board frequented, as agregoli points out, by political discussion and piling on. I hope people can get past their issues for one post, at least.

Everyone's choices, in some way or another, lead to their death. That doesn't take away a drop of my sympathy for them or their loved ones that doesn't make it any less tragic. If anything, it exemplifies the great tragedy that we're all in; that none of us really know which choices are "right".

"A single death is a tragedy, a millions deaths is a statistic"
-Joseph Stalin

What can we do to personalize the effects of this war? How can we make it stop being some number people just blankly look at and start being real? How can a country seem to understand the impact of an event causing ~3,000 deaths, and then in response start one that causes even more. Maybe something like a website with a column for each country and a list of the names of every citizen that died? Maybe a collection of memorials, letters, pictures, or whatever submitted by those who knew the deceased? I don't know what, but I want to do something, and for that, insomnia, I thank you.
posted by nTeleKy at 1:34 PM on January 13, 2005


I wish I had found his site earlier. I have a carton of Djarum Blacks which I could have sent him.

Knowing one of my great pleasures in life was also one of his favourites really, somehow, brought this home to me.
posted by pandaharma at 1:43 PM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by papercake at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2005


"I know a lot of soldiers who would disagree with your rosy assessment, soulhuntre. It's entirely possible that we'll be "voted" out of Iraq soon enough anyway, which might lead to our country's premature "displodgement"."

I am sure there are. The soldiers who fight in most wars think it is going badly. Conversely if they all thoguht it was going well I doubt many would consider that the final word either.

My sympathies are real. Your welcome to ignore them if you wish of course.

As to politicizing his death, given the leanings of MeFi I cannot see how you thought this post would not turn into a thread using his death as a way to comment on the war.
posted by soulhuntre at 2:37 PM on January 13, 2005


That public men publish falsehoods
Is nothing new. That America must accept
Like the historical republics corruption and empire
Has been known for years.

Be angry at the sun for setting
If these things anger you. Watch the wheel slope and turn,
They are all bound on the wheel, these people, those warriors.
This republic, Europe, Asia.

Observe them gesticulating,
Observe them going down. The gang serves lies, the passionate
Man plays his part; the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.

You are not Catullus, you know,
To lampoon these crude sketches of Caesar. You are far
From Dante's feet, but even farther from his dirty
Political hatreds.

Let boys want pleasure, and men
Struggle for power, and women perhaps for fame,
And the servile to serve a Leader and the dupes to be duped.
Yours is not theirs.


.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 2:43 PM on January 13, 2005


Soulhuntre, I wish I could punch you in the eye. How dare you. You make my blood boil. You are not worthy of being associated with this man or his friends and loved ones, even tangentially. Everyone else thinking of inserting political rhetoric into this thread, don't. If someone else does, ignore it. This is not the place to make things "fair and balanced."

Jesus man, I'm so sorry, I just read through most of his journal and this will be with me for the next couple of weeks.

*sigh* =[
posted by rocket_skates at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2005


rocket, this guy wasn't in Iraq because he sent himself there--it's natural to look to the people who sent him as being responsible, especially now that it's crystal-clear (or should be) that it was all based on lies and misinformation.

Noone should die for lies. That this kid and many like him are is blood on our hands too, this being done in our name.
posted by amberglow at 4:01 PM on January 13, 2005


Yes I know, I just don't want to incite trolls like soulhuntre, in this particular thread.
posted by rocket_skates at 4:04 PM on January 13, 2005


Thanks for sharing this, insomnia_lj.

It's easy to forget each individual death that you hear about (or even those you don't) reaches deeper into their family and loved ones than you can ever imagine, unless you've been unfortunate enough to live through it yourself.

Words are inadequate.
posted by cosmonik at 4:48 PM on January 13, 2005


nixerman: I'm curious about what his last regret was but I see no reason to feel sorry for this guy. This may sound cruel and terrible and insane and I say this as somebody who has friends and family over there: each and every soldier in Iraq made a conscious choice to be there. Choices have consequences. This guy's choice was the wrong choice and like everybody else who makes such wrong choices (e.g. drug dealers, tax cheaters, adulterers) how can we feel bad when they suffer the consequences of their choice?

As others pointed out, you chose a truly inept analogy.

He didn't make a "wrong" choice, as this entry clearly demonstrates. Why did he go into the military in the first place? Maybe it was the only thing that offered him some sort of career oppurtunity. Google is proving fruitless for me in searching to find when exactly he joined the military, but I bet it's documented in his lj somewhere. His earlier entries sound to me like someone kind of lost and trying to find direction.

As so many others here have pointed out, this personalizes it for the rest of us. It's easy just to watch Three Kings or read about the atrocities and stereotype the soldiers based on that information, but to know that there are real people over there can be a startling fact.
posted by frecklefaerie at 5:15 PM on January 13, 2005


.

April 25th, 2004. Sweet kid.
posted by grabbingsand at 5:22 PM on January 13, 2005


how many young iraqi men - with soul and heart ... just like this guy died on tuesday?
posted by specialk420 at 5:57 PM on January 13, 2005


Phil Ochs's War Is Over is apropos. I have been thinking of this song ever since Bush stood on the aircraft carrier with the Mission Accomplished banner.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:16 PM on January 13, 2005


:(
posted by dawna at 9:19 PM on January 13, 2005


.
posted by keswick at 9:57 PM on January 13, 2005


Mike's friend Tybris: But please, for the love of god, don't start with politics, not now.
Let's see if we can respect that.


Read: let's continue to bury our heads in the sand. More will die, but "let's just respect that." More will be maimed and suffer lifelong pain, but "let's just respect that." Families will be decimated, minds will be shattered by violence joined, but "let's just respect that." Generations of new terrorists breed from our aggression, but "let's just respect that." More will kill and suffer their own special hell, but "let's just respect that."

"Let's just respect that"....because war supporters, after all, just positively hate it when they are made to personally face the dead they prefer nameless and pawn-like. War supporters hate it when their faces are rubbed in the stupidity and waste and the decomposing dead of their fun little "Mission Accomplished" war.

After all, this young soldier's life is now vapor, his days vanished tint and tone (as one old soldier put it) -- everything he ever will be or could have been, annhilated . More soldiers follow, quick march, in rank- and-file close behind him. See them? See the brave, useless uniforms, the glittering brass and bits of ribbon? Hear the cadence count, the boots pounding in unison? Hear the homebound heroes cheering lustily from their safe distance? So stirring. So patriotic. So why should we rise up in righteous anger at the death march, when we can just spout impotent, milk-toast platitudes like "strategically speakign things are goign well. tactically speaking it's not too shabby either" from afar.

Get it straight. It ain't about politics. It's about fucking preventing this from happening to ONE MORE SOLDIER. If expressing that sentiment is just "politics" to war supporters, then it's pretty obvious the trivial nature that the death of soldiers has become to them.

See also: A mechanic with nine years in the Army, including a role in the assault on Baghdad, has refused to return to Iraq, claiming "you just don't know how bad it is." No doubt he will be defamed by our brave chickenhawk legions for experiencing what they never will, and then daring to step out of....ranks.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:13 PM on January 13, 2005


May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:13 AM on January 14, 2005


The soldiers who fight in most wars think it is going badly.

They'd have a better idea than you would, wouldn't they?
posted by agregoli at 7:16 AM on January 14, 2005


What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent maids,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
-- Wilfred Owen, "Anthem for Doomed Youth"
posted by talitha_kumi at 9:28 AM on January 14, 2005


coupla (aussie) snippets :
And the band played Waltzing Matilda

i was only nineteen
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:46 PM on January 14, 2005


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posted by panoptican at 6:36 PM on January 21, 2005


.
posted by Dean Keaton at 12:04 AM on January 22, 2005


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