Dear Grunts and Devil Dogs, #realtalkAFG

As the first year mark of the withdrawal from Afghanistan approaches, some of you are going to have a really hard time, and this is an open letter to you, to the grunts and to the devil dogs and other combat arms, especially lower enlisted. First of all, THANK YOU. I learned exactly what war was in Tarin Kot, Uruzgan Province, August 2010-August 2011, and without the physical sacrifice of men like yourselves, the people in the USofA would face severe danger. I learned very quickly that the physical demands of wearing kit, much less performing in it, is not my cup of tea. I would never want to go out patrols now that I know what that really encompasses. Constant duress is not my cup of tea, and I readily admit that your physiques and mentalities handle that better, and nuts to the geriatric biddies in their recliners pushing for young women to go into combat they’ll never see.

To be fair, I didn’t see combat either, thanks to men like you. I got to be a sitting duck with a thousand bullseyes. It was a dark and blacked out Fobby night, rockets fell from the sky, and the next day, the chiefs said, “It was a dark and blacked out Fobby night, rockets fell from the sky, and the next day, the chiefs said, ‘It was a dark and blacked out Fobby night, rockets fell from the sky, and the next day the chiefs said….lived like that from March to August with occasional diversions like the suicide bombings in March and in July.

I know something about what some of you are feeling and are going to feel. As a fellow human being who has undergone some of what you have, I express my concerns for your wellbeing in addition to my gratitude and respect. I’ve had 11 years to work out how to work out Afghanistan.

One question that may cross your minds: Will I ever be happy again? CAN I ever be happy again? SHOULD I ever be happy again? Most likely you will feel happiness again if you stick around long enough. Here are some of what worked for me:

RUN. Trail running works best for me. I did quite a bit of this in the dead heat of the summer in Arizona.

RUCK. Not real rucking, but carry some weight and go for a nice little distance. Join a geo-cachet club.

RELAX. Take scented baths morning, noon, night. Give yourself a whole day to sleep and do nothing else but eat and relax. Repeatedly. Don’t listen to the news.

ROMP. Get it out of your system. Embark on a planned bar crawl. Hang out for a night with the strippers, they’ll listen to you better and actually give a strange shit about you more than the “clinicals” getting paid to listen to you, and you’ll likely feel happier after. Leave your credit and debit cards at home.

RECOLLECT. Write, sing, scream, paint, strum, hum, synchronize dive your vivid memories and emotions.

RESET. Get thru the month of August, please. You’re urgently needed still.

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Anna Chan

Anna Chan

Anna Chan writes fiction for children and adults and various non-fiction articles. She loves gardening and playing at the beach with her little girl Joy.