Thursday, August 24, 2006

Send Me Home Early?

My friend Kevin wrote a letter to my commander trying to get me sent home early.

Dear Sir/Ma’m My name is PO2 K. A. M., I am a Storekeeper in the US Coast Guard. I am writing you this letter in regards to Spc. K. H. She is well, how do I put this properly, a unique soul I guess is the proper words and she shouldn’t be there. She once threw a knife at my head among various other things. She tells me she hates god and therefore shouldn’t be in the Army. After all she is a Devil send her home 4 months earlier. That is all.

Kindest Regards,

SK2/E-5 K. A. M. USCG

It didn’t work.


The Army is full of characters. You have the middle class kids that joined for the college money, you have the crazy rednecks that just wanted to get off the farm, you have the inner-city kids that didn’t want to get shot at anymore, you have the kids that just wanted to get away from their family or lack there of, you have motherfuckers that can’t speak English, you have racist kids, you have kids that were bored with everyday bullshit…anyone you can think of is in the Army.

Redneck: I met this one kid on my way back from R&R and this is our brief moment of friendship: I’m in Kuwait waiting to get on a flight…laying on my cot, and talking to my friend. Out of nowhere this guy walks over with dip in his mouth, spit bottle in hand, and he sits on my cot. I have no clue who he is or what he wants but he starts talking about how he thinks he knows me from who the hell knows where. Out of nowhere he asks me if I went fishing while I was home. Pretty random question. I look at him real hard, because I didn’t know if he was joking or not...he wasn’t. I told him no and he begins to tell me how he did. He had this super southern accent (he was from GA). My friend tried to clue him in by and said, “she’s vegetarian... I don’t think she'd be into that“. He looked at me with dip spit coming out the side of his mouth and said, "ya don’t eat meat? why the hell not? its good for you." I just told him I didn‘t think it was healthy...blah blah blah. I didn’t want to go into detail. Five seconds later he looked at me, and said..."not even deer?" I just started laughing…and said, “no I don’t fucking eat deer”! He goes into detail on how to kill a deer, skin it, gut it and how to cook it. Awesome, thanks. I just stared at him and thought about how I could get him off my cot. Being the nice girl that I am, I pushed out my legs, kindly rolling him off my cot and told him happy hunting.

The Crazy Asian: We had this kid named SPC C in our unit...he didn’t know much English besides no, fuck you, leave me alone, and I don’t want to go. When it was time to report to Ft. Dix for training he didn’t show up. He went AWOL. Everyone was looking for him and our First Sergeant finally picked him up at his house in NYC. Every night when we would get back from training he’d stare at this map of Ft. Dix we had in the hallway…we’d always say, “SPC C you planning your big escape?“ That was usually followed up by a, “Fuck you…leave me alone.: The whole time before we left and while we were overseas he was just a fucking pain in the ass to the higher ups. We loved him for that. He would just talk shit, tell people to fuck off, give people the finger…he was out of control. But somehow he managed to be promoted from a Private to a Specialist throughout the deployment (that’s moving up three ranks)…don’t ask how and till this day I can’t figure it out. When he came back from R&R he brought my roommate and I these Chinese ornament things…I guess he liked us.

Our Command Sergeant Major: CSM R was the second highest Soldier in our unit, falling under COL F. CSM was the type of Soldier you’d want to go to war with. He was the “all American” guy. He knew how to get shit done, he always helped you out, he could get stern and serious…but that’s what was best about him. If he asked me to deploy with him again I’d do it in a heartbeat. We trusted him with our lives.

Our Commanding Officer: COL F was the “big man”, who everyone answered to. He was basically a politician…always waving and giving these speeches everywhere he went. A lot of people liked him unless you worked directly for him. When people would ask what unit we were in we’d tell them and they would always respond with….”Oh, you have that tall black Colonel…the one that acts like he’s running for President.” That was us.

Straight Edge Kid: One night I was in the gym shooting the shit with my friend when I saw this kid walking around with X’s tattooed on the back of his legs. I automatically ran over to him and we started talking. I was like, holy shit! A kid in the Army that doesn’t drink? No way. I was so excited because no one in my unit heard of Straight Edge before…I mean I didn’t really care but it was awesome to find a kid that lived the same lifestyle. C and I became friends and would just talk about music, all the shows we were missing, and how we wanted to become cops. He was from Kentucky but he tried to tell me he was from Philadelphia. I don’t know who he was trying to fool with that accent. I still talk to C to this day…he’s fed up with “civilian life” and is going active duty. Once you get something in your blood its hard to get out.

Reason number 403043 why Officers suck: Major M…this man thought he was the creator of the world. Arrogant, rude, obnoxious…no one could stand him. When our tour was over and we arrived at Ft. Dix to out process, we had to turn in all our equipment. G and I and a bunch of other lower enlisted volunteered to look through the units equipment, check it off and get it ready to go back to Ft. Totten. MAJ M came through with his equipment but he forgot something, so I told him to go back and get it. He finally came back 20 minutes later. He expected me to stop what I was doing but I told him to wait a couple minutes while I finished another Soldier. Well that wasn’t fast enough for him…he walked up to the table I was sitting at, punched it and screamed in my face. I lost my shit. It turned into a cursing, screaming match…and that didn’t go over well. He told me to get into the position of attention and I just started laughing and didn‘t move. After about 5 minutes, my First Sergeant had to escort him out. Needless to say, his bag disappeared and so did he paper work. Enjoy paying a couple thousands dollars, asshole.

Safety Officer: Captain P was our Safety officer. He was just a “dork”. All the guys would fuck with him, make fun of him and just terrorize the shit out of him. A bunch of guys saw him talking to his Skittles one day. Our Company Commander gave him the worse job ever. He had to walk around the base and check how safe people were being. Sometimes he would ride around on his bike and yell at people if they didn’t have a helmet on, he would place those orange cones randomly on the street, he wore these huge goggles all the time, he was just a disaster. He would give the unit safety briefings and everyone would fall asleep. Poor soul.

Goooo Yankees!: SPC S was the oldest Specialist in the Army…he had to be about 45. He was this crazy guy from NYC that ran a hotdog stand vendor. It always seemed like he had 10 cups of coffee too much. He would talk to himself and listen to the oddest 90s rock and hip-hop ever. Whenever he would get excited he would yell “HOOAH! GO YANKEES!”. He was priceless.


All of the lower enlisted were able to go to Qatar for a four days of R&R. I ended up going with SGT B and SGT R. It took us about three days to get out of Iraq. All the flights were backed up and we were told to just wait around…which was awesome because we got three days off of work. On the second day we were told to be there at 3:00am. We arrived and just waited and waited…at about 4:00 we started to get mortared non-stop. They were on top of us and we were all rushed to the bunkers. Everyone was silent…I honestly thought we had a pretty good chance of getting fucked up. The insurgents favorite spot to mortar is the airfield. I held B’s and R’s hands as we sat there for about an hour. It was so hot in the bunkers, everyone was sweating and just staring at the ground. The guys made me feel better and told me they’ll stop mortaring us soon. (The mortaring finally ended and no one was injured.) We were told to leave and come back in the afternoon. We got on a flight and flew straight from Iraq to Qatar…it was about a two or three hour flight. Qatar was beautiful, huge buildings, nice houses and cars…and humid as shit. We went to the “club” on post, went swimming, went to the mall twice, and went on a BBQ/sand dunning trip. The club allows every Soldier three drinks…now this is a huge deal. Since I don’t drink I sold each of my tickers for 10 dollars…sometimes it pays to be Straight Edge. We danced, laughed at people, ate…it was nice to just hang out . We were able to wear civilian clothes too. The mall was really nice. Let me tell you one thing, Arabic people fucking love Starbucks…maybe even more then piece of shit Americans that can‘t get over that place. While we were walking around we were stared at a lot…nothing new. The guys wouldn’t stop
looking at you and even made whistling noises. But right when you looked at them they would turn their heads and shut up. The best was the BBQ and sand dunning…we road across the desert in SUVs, went down crazy hills and almost tipped over a few times. I had to go to the bathroom so bad and once we were done sand dunning, I seriously found the only dead bush in the desert and peed behind it. I prayed a scorpion wouldn’t bite my ass. It was awesome. They made us a traditional Arabic meal and we were able to swim in the Gulf Coast. It was so peaceful…the water was blue/green and clear…I thought about hiding out in Qatar. Our four days came to an end and we had to go back.

Cry Baby

The Army has a way of making you feel like, “you signed up, deal with everything…don’t be a pussy and don’t let anyone see you down.” A lot of us just dealt with shit. We didn’t run around crying or stressing out…if anything was bothering us we’d just toss it to the side. I can honestly say I cried three times while I was in Iraq. One time, was when my mom told me my dad was in the hospital. The second time, was when I was suppose to start taking an ASVAB improvement class (that’s the test you initially take when you join the Army…I was trying to improve my GT score by 8 points). I was annoyed and I didn’t feel like going, so I walked into SPC S office and cried. As I was crying we were both laughing hysterically. The third time was the worse…I watched the Notebook. That movie fucked me up. Angulo told me to watch it…and she warned me…she said, “Katie you’ll be crying the whole time“. I didn’t believe her but just incase I watched it while G had to pull night duty at her job. Within 10 minutes I was in tears and cried all the way through the movie. I couldn’t stop…I was still crying two hours after the damn thing ended. Don’t ever watch it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Clean Water

I covered a grand opening of a water plant in a village that the Army had installed. Did you catch that? The military actually builds school, hospitals, installs water plants, and provides water and food to Iraqis. You might not know this because our shitty media fails to report anything positive the military does. This was the first time these Iraqis had clean water…they would drink from the Tigris, wash their close in the Tigris, piss and shit in the Tigris…so needless to say, they were pretty damn excited to have clean, running water. We went out with the Civil Affairs Unit again but this time I was stuck in a shitty humvee with a Sergeant. We usually go out in up-armored humvees and that’s not even that safe…but this time I got stuck in humvee that had NO roof, NO doors, NO windows…it was completely open. Well the doors were pieces of material that went half way up. All I could think was, fuck off I’m not going out there in this. The Sergeant tried to calm me down and said…”What? It’s my Batmobile. We’ll be fine.” Of course, the higher ups wouldn’t let me change my vehicle and I wasn’t about to not go…so I said, fuck it. If we die it’ll get out that the Army is sending people out in humvees made out of pieces of material. The whole way there I slouched in the seat and held my feet up…I didn’t want my head or my feet to get blown off. I don’t think it would’ve made a difference if we hit an IED, but it made me feel better. We made it there safely. The Iraqis made cake, gave out soda and cut a ribbon for the grand opening. The Iraqis told the Civil Affair guys that the people in his village were upset because the water had given them diarrhea and hurt their stomachs. You just can’t win, can you? Kids were everywhere and begging for cake. I didn’t want mine so I attempted to give it to them…bad idea. I was completely mobbed and ended up throwing the cake. There were two older women getting water and I tried to take their picture. They really weren’t having it. They yelled some shit at me in Arabic, so I left them alone. They came back and finally let me take their picture. I talked to them as best as I could. One of the Soldiers pulling security in a hummer told another Soldier on ground that a guy pulled up and was staring at us with binoculars. That wasn’t a good sign. We decided to leave but the women that were getting the water, grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Two other Soldiers had to get them off of me. We finally left and made it back in one piece.

Say Cheese...Now Give it Back

Its was almost seven months into our deployment and we were all ready to go home. Some people were thinking about extending with the new unit coming in or coming back and working for KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root). The civilians that work for KBR make so much money its fucking insane. They do the same shit we did and make 100,000 plus a year. Such bullshit. I started to have 2 to 3 stories in the newspaper a week. I would cover the Air Force firefighters a lot. They always did cool training and were just laid back. One time they taught me how to repel and I repelled down the side of the stadium while all the other suckers were stuck at their desk job. The General on post got so sick of seeing firefighter stories he told my OIC (Office in Charge) to stop having me cover them and asked if one was my boyfriend.
I volunteered to cover a story in a near by village. People from back home sent over a bunch of soccer balls, jerseys, and shoes, so we were going to hand them out at some school. We left the East ECP (entrance control point) and there was a village right outside the gate …the village was known for allowing insurgents to reside there and being really poor. We went onto the main road and there were KBR trucks flying towards us (they don’t carry weapons and this convoy did not have security). We pulled over and waited for their convoy to pass us. The one thing the Army drilled into our heads before arriving in Iraq was NEVER stay stationary…never. Sure enough, we stayed in the same spot for at least 15 minutes and the humvees were about 15 meters apart. We should’ve just written “attack us” on the humvees. There was a Major in my vehicle and he said…”We are probably going to get attacked, so keep your guard up, scan your sector and be ready.” Thanks for the tips. Thankfully we didn’t get attacked by anything but kids. We finally got to the school and guess what… the school was closed. The Army is known for their piss poor planning. Luckily there were a few teachers and a couple other people at the school, they rounded up a bunch of kids from the village. We had them throw on the jerseys and kick around the soccer ball for a while. Then when we were done taking pictures we took the shit back and sent them on their way. (We gave the items to the school so their kids could use it). We also gave out shoes and clothes. One father was there with his son and daughter. The whole time he was trying to convince me that his son was American because he had blonde hair and blue eyes. He wanted me to take him back with me. Every now and then, you’ll see kids that look American. It’s really weird. His son and I walked around holding hands…his sister was really scared but she finally warmed up to me. I found some sneakers for them and went to go get them in back of the school. I walked back there by myself and got screamed at by an Officer. He was like, “What are you doing? You don’t go anywhere by yourself. You could get kidnapped or shot.“ He had a point. It was a nice mission. One of my favorite Officers came with us…Captain S. She ruled. She was a Sci-Fi nerd. We would talk about Buddha, share books, make fun of our higher up OIC, talk about our families. She was a sweetheart…just a genuine good person.

Going, Going, Gone.

I can’t even count all the times G, SPC S, SPC A, and myself would fall…it was ridiculous. We had been in Iraq about three days when G, SPC D and I wanted to get midnight chow. We adventured into the unknown and ended up on the other side of camp. We ate and decided we didn’t want to walk all the way home. We saw a bus coming towards us… I decided to run and catch it. I ran with all my gear on…flack vest, helmet and weapon. I came to a circle in the middle of the road that’s used for planting trees and I saw a soda can. After all the training we received on how insurgents use soda cans to make IEDs, I automatically jumped over it and landed face first in a fucking tree hole. My helmet flew off, my weapon hit me in the back of the head and I had a mouth full of dirt. That fucking M16 hit me so hard that I blacked out and ended up having a huge bump on my head for a couple of weeks. G and SPC D ran up behind me and screamed, “Holy shit, you just flew like batman…are you okay?” all while laughing their asses off. They help me up and we get on the bus. The bus driver, who’s this little Filipino guy said…”Is that how you run from the enemy?”…as he put his arms out and laughed hysterically. We couldn’t stop laughing and ended up pissing our pants.
One night G was walking up the three little steps to our room and someone called her name…she turned around and somehow rolled her pinky toe and fell backwards and landed on her ass. She couldn’t get up and was convinced she needed a cast for her toe. It seriously looked like she did a Matrix move or something. You know how people say black people love fried chicken? Its true. G SPC S and I had just gotten food to go and we headed back to our room to eat. G goes in first, then SPC S and then me. SPC S tripped on the second step and bounced off the ground and flew into the room… the whole time holding her fried chicken in the air. Her face hit the floor but you better believe her chicken was safe. We would all twist our ankles and trip walking on the damn rocks that were everywhere to keep the sand down.

Monday, August 14, 2006

People Die at War

My commanding officer told me I would be covering a story on a fallen comrade. There was a ceremony at the theater for a female Soldier that was killed by an IED. I never attended a ceremony like this before…all I knew was that I had to interview a few of her close friends because the article was going to be published back in the states and sent to her family as well. I arrived at 9am and it was packed. Several people talked about her…everyone was in tears or trying to hold them back. Towards the end of the ceremony the First Sergeant stood up and did a roll call. He called all the names of the Soldiers in his unit and stopped when he reached hers….he repeated her name three times (obviously she did not answer)…then Soldiers fired their weapons and played Taps. As I’m sitting here writing this I’m trying not to cry. It seriously has to be one of the hardest things to sit through. You see her boots, weapon and picture on the stage and all you can think is this women lost her life in a land that she doesn’t even call home. She had a young daughter and husband…and she’s not going back them. It wasn’t fair. Did she even know what she died for? After the ceremony I had to talk to her roommate. It was so awkward. The girl was in tears, she couldn’t breath…and I was standing there asking her to describe her friend to me, what she did in her spare time, to talk about how much she loved her family. I wanted to punch myself in the face. I sat with her for a while and in the end it worked out. Her family was able to read a little about what their daughter accomplished.
I was assigned to another story on a Soldier that committed suicide. The unit was under our command and was stationed in Kuwait. Our Chaplin, Command Sergeant Major and I went to Kuwait. Once again we attended a ceremony. The guy was everyone’s best friend…he seemed happy, I mean as happy as you can be in the middle of the desert…he had just became a father to a baby girl, he worked out everyday, always helped people when they had a problem…everyone was lost as to why he chose to take his life. I did hear his child’s mother was giving him problems. I covered the story and within three days we were back at Anaconda. It’s funny though because that story never went anywhere.

There were a few suicides that happened on our camp. One girl shot herself because the guy she was messing around with gave her AIDS. Who the hell lets people be deployed when they have AIDS? Our Chaplin told us that you can be deployed if you’re in the early stages of having the disease. Bad news. Think about it…if your outside the wire and get ambushed and your buddy is bleeding to death, you’re going to grab him. You shouldn’t have to worry about getting fucking AIDS. Another guy killed himself in his trailer. I’m sure more happened but of course that’s kept quiet. There was a Combat Stress Center that I did a story on…there was a lot of fucked up Soldiers there. They would go there to relax for a few days and get away from the real shit. People would talk shit on the Soldiers that went there…fucking stupid. You either get called a pussy and get made fun of or become so stressed you end up hurting yourself. These kids seemed to all come from the same FOB (Forward Operating Base…which are really small and have nothing) too. I forget the name of it. But one kid literally had a screw lose…he was a gunner on a tank. I felt really bad for him. Think about it…he was just a kid from some little town that wanted to do something with myself you know? Now he’s a complete mess. He didn’t deserve that.
SGT A had helped one of her friends join the Army. They grew up together, she was best friends with his wife and they had just had a baby. She received news that his convoy had been ambushed and he was killed. SGT A blamed herself because she had helped him join…she didn’t talk to anyone for days. It was really tough for her. We tried to console her but it was hard. I guess, you'd have to be in her can you grasp onto the fact that one of your best friends died in Iraq? That's not suppose to happen. He was suppose to be at home with his wife and baby. She called his wife daily until his body arrived home. She tried to go home for the funeral but she wasn’t allowed. You always had to watch what you did…if you went somewhere at a specific time you could get injured or die, if you told someone, for example, to get you food and something happened to them its on your shoulders. The whole time you’re trying not to step on any cracks.

Good Timing

Right before we arrived at Anaconda insurgents mortared the shit out of our PX. The Public Affairs team I was working with told me how several Soldiers were killed. The mortar rounds hit the entrance of the PX. They said there was tons of blood and people were just losing their shit. About two months after we left, a couple of kids I was over there with told me how the PX was mortared again and more Soldiers died. I guess we have good timing. It’s basically confirmed that the insurgents are able to hit the PX or specific targets because the Army allows Iraqi’s on the camp. They can gather information and coordinates on specific points or buildings.


Our unit was put on a couple details. We had to pull tower guard. Basically two people would sit in a tower for four hours shifts, with all our gear one and just keep an eye out for any unusual activity. It sucked. When it was winter time it was fucking cold…it snowed too. In the summer it would get to 115-125 and you would just sweat to death. Little Iraqi kids would walk by with their sheep and cows…sheep were everywhere. This one kid kicked his sheep and I yelled at him to be nice… he gave me the finger. Shit head. When we were first put on the tower two Soldiers from my unit heard a nose and saw some movement and the girl started to shoot. Turns out it was a stray dog…they talked their way out of it and didn’t get in any trouble. One night, I was on duty with a Soldier from my unit and we heard wild dogs barking and making all these weird noises. I was convinced they weren’t dogs but insurgents pretending to be dogs. I was sitting on a cooler and a couple of them sounded like they were right under us…I jumped and fell off the cooler….I had so much shit on that I got stuck and I couldn’t even get up. My M16 fell…I looked and felt like an umpa-lupa. Good thing they weren’t insurgents or else we probably would’ve been dead.
We were also put on “hajji watch” (its really called Local National Escort duty.) The U.S. hires locals daily to come work on camp…probably about 500 a day. Some of them could be insurgents…we don’t know…but they are allowed on our camp. Makes a lot of since. We ended up watching a group of 10 guys who were working on renovating a building into a hospital. Rumor has it the building they were redoing was where Saddam would torture Olympic athletes if they didn’t perform to his standards. A couple Soldiers that had the detail before my partner and I said there was blood on the walls in the basement. Who knows if its true or not…still kind of creepy though. The guys we worked with were awesome…really funny. They were all related. A couple older, middle-aged guys and a few in their teens. We would have to walk around with our weapons loaded and watch what they were doing. They would bring bread and fruit from home. They would always share too…the bread was really good. One guy always asked me for shampoo, soap, toothpaste and anything else I had. First thing I gave him was deodorant…Iraqis need to learn how to use deodorant. I showed him how to put it on and told him to use it everyday and he’ll attract the ladies. One of the older guys was a rebel. He had tattoos and told us how he loves getting drunk. We would always joke around with him. One day I helped two of the younger boys paint and that ended up into us cashing and painting one another. They told me I was a really bad painter…I thought I was doing a good job. Those guys were a lot of fun. They were really curious about the U.S, one of them told me how he was going to come to the U.S. and what jobs he planned on getting. He asked so many questions and when he found out I was from New York all hell broke lose. He loved the fact I was from there. He asked about the towers, about the city…everything. He really wanted to visit…I told him he could come stay with me. They traveled from Balad daily…they were the targets of insurgents. The insurgents knew which people worked for the U.S. and they would get robbed often... even killed. When you have a chance to work with Iraqis one-on-one you’re able to see them for “normal” people who just want to make a living and who are sick of being terrorized.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I had to cover another story at the hospital. This time some fancy General was there to hand out Purple Hearts to injured Soldiers.. To be honest I forget his name. He gave one to some girl who’s foot was injured when her convoy hit an IED. He asked what happened and she didn’t want to stop talking…he seemed interested for about the first couple minutes but then he tuned her out. Asshole. He didn‘t really care…he just wanted people to know he was there. That’s how a lot of Officers are…politicians. There are a few good ones but not many. While we were there the General wanted to see the Emergency Room. We were told two Soldiers that had just been attacked by insurgents had been flown in. They didn’t want all of us going through, but they let the General, one of his security guards and me go in. I was hesitant. I turned and looked at my editor, like should I be going in there? There was blood all over the floor and I couldn’t stop staring at the Soldiers. I probably had a shocked, about to cry look on my face…to me, those were my brothers…and I hated seeing them hurt. They were about to be operated on. One Soldier was conscious and the General asked him what happened…shook his hand and wished him luck. The General turned toward the camera…I was suppose to take a picture but I didn’t. Maybe I should’ve but it was hard.


After visiting the hospital I was depressed for a while. I felt guilty because I was in one piece and because I didn’t have to go outside the “wire” everyday. I felt like an idiot for complaining about dumb shit. My whole life I wasn’t really a big complainer and I was thankful for everything I had…but after that I almost felt bad for being alive. It may sound weird but to me so many people waste their lives working 9 to 5, trying to please other people, living up to others demands and expectations, trying to live the “American Dream”, which is the biggest bullshit ever…it makes me sick. There’s no satisfaction in living your life the way others see fit. And after seeing human beings fucked up and just wanting to see their family, or have their arm back…they were so thankful to be alive and I realized that’s all that really mattered. Its sad that no one is satisfied with just being alive.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I Hate Hospitals

I was assigned to cover a story on the Australian troops working with U.S. Soldiers at the hospital on base. I was pretty nervous to go into the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect and having to take pictures of people who were fucked up kind of freaked me out. I interviewed three Australians…they were really committed to their jobs and just being there. Walking through the hospital really changed my perspective on things. I mean, I’m in the middle of the war but I hadn’t seen anyone really physically wounded or missing body parts. After all, I wasn’t “in the real shit.” But when I got there I saw Iraqi civilians who were injured by their fellow men. One guy in particular was screaming for his family…he had been shot by insurgents. It broke my heart. Another Iraqi was totally burnt… I guess an explosion went off by him. I just looked at these people and all I could ask myself is how did it get to this point? Because of religious differences? Is the difference between being Sunni or Shiite Muslim that great that one can honestly justify killing their neighbor? Here is a simple explanation of the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.
“The split between the Muslims was formed over the years when attempting to select caliphs. The third caliph was murdered after twelve years in power. Mohammed’s son-in-law, Ali, became the next caliph, although with much opposition, including that of one of Mohammed’s wives, and he was also murdered five years later. Next, Muawiya came to power in 661, beginning the dynasty known as the Umayyad Caliphate. By now the Shiites had fostered the belief that caliphs should only be from the line of Mohammed, while it simply did not matter to the Sunnis. Around 680 AD, the division officially occurred. Although the two parties agree on the basic tenets, they each eventually developed their own way of thinking and living.
One of the things they agree on is that Allah is one. God is the only god. Both also believe that Mohammed was the last prophet. They agree that one day Allah will resurrect all humans and question (not judge) their beliefs and actions. They believe that all of the “famous” sins such as murder, adultery, stealing, etc. are sins. Finally, they both agree on the five pillars of Islam. Otherwise they wouldn’t be Muslims, would they?”
It fucking blows my mind. They all claim to all believe in Allah…and that’s what is tearing them apart. I didn’t see people united under one religious belief…I saw pain, grief, hate and murder. To this day I still do not understand it…I probably never will. I felt like such an asshole standing there taking pictures. Who the hell was I to exploit them? Or was I just putting their story out there? By this time in my tour I was starting to comprehend why I was there and what I was doing to help and what was really happening in Iraq. The shit on TV isn’t even half of it…its not even 30% of what is really going on.

All Out War

One time G and I order four water guns and water balloons…we had a water fight one night with some of our guy friends. We were so corny…we made team shirts (we were the Cherry Poppers…don’t ask why) and had hiding spots. It was a lot of fun, until one girl got crazy and punched one of the guys in the face and threw rocks. I guess she was just pissed because instead of getting laid, her “buddy” was playing with water guns. When we fooled around and let our guards down we had so much fun…we forgot where we were for a little.
G and I also had a war going on with SPC D and R. Everyday for about a couple weeks, those guys would put shaving cream all over our door, hang tampons they had dipped in this pink protein shake from our light outside, throw rocks at our window in the middle of night…they were crazy. We got them good though. One time, we threw rocks at their window and when they walked outside to see who it was, we poured tons of water in their room. That was the last of that war, we had gotten water all over SPC D’s computer. One point for the girls.

Peas In a Pod

Iraq was Iraq and time was time. A group of us grew really close. SGT A, SPC S, SPC G (my roommate) and I were basically inseparable. SGT A was Columbian, a holy roller who made me go to church once, she was a Praise Dancer, and one of the funniest people I had ever met. SPC S was Ghanaian, the mom to all of us and she kept shit real. She had a two year old daughter and a husband back home. I remember I use to argue with her all the time…she said she was African American but I didn’t believe her. If she was born in Ghana then she was Ghanaian…just because she had a dark complexion didn’t make her African American, to me at least. SPC G was just G. And I was the “sassy, white Jewish girl” …I guess being one of the only white girls with dark hair I must have been Jewish. I love those girls more then anything. They could call me up 20 years from now and tell me they just murdered someone and ask for my help…and I’d ask what our plan was. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


The two weeks flew by. I didn’t even want to be there. I didn’t want anything I had before I left. Nothing was the same. Everyone still complained about the same shit that wasn’t even worth complaining about. I changed… not in a bad way but people didn’t want to recognize it. Home wasn’t home anymore. I didn’t want to explain how I felt to anyone… I didn’t even want to explore it within myself. I wanted to leave…I wanted to be back in Iraq. My friends asked me questions…I would start to tell them and about half way through they would just stare at me…so I gave up. They meant well but it was pointless. My mom and I argued daily about her drinking problem. She would get trashed and it never made any sense to me….how could someone still do that to themselves after seeing what it did to a person they loved? Did she want to end up in the hospital too? It drove me fucking crazy. One night, she was totally fucked and told me how my dad wanted my mom to have an abortion. She couldn’t get over it and in a way she wanted me to be angry at my dad. I wasn’t though…I was alive and that’s all that mattered to me. I also found out my dad had been married three times before he married my mom. That was news to me. I found divorce papers from the pervious marriages and the reason for divorce was, “inhumane and cruel treatment.” Man, my dad must have been a real asshole.
Its funny because you get back into the states and people are just doing their normal day- to-day shit…You’re just like, what the fuck? This war has absolutely no impact on these people.
I think Coldy Buzzell said it best in his book (My War: Killing Time in Iraq), “All these people driving on the freeway in their own vehicles, going about their everyday lives, listening to the radio, enjoying the sunshine, I was thinking to myself that this war in Iraq doesn’t affect these people at all. That fucked with me a little bit.” I was so thankful to walk on pavement, no carry around an M16, not have to get into a bunker when some annoying alarm would go off, eat tofu, wear civilian clothes, get into my car and drive when I wanted to, not stand at parade rest or attention while talking to someone, sleep in my own bed, see grass and trees, see kids that had shoes and clothes on, go to a show, sit on a couch and watch stupid TV shows, wake up when I wanted to…I was grateful for everything I had…good and bad. I got back on the plane the day after my 21st birthday. I was pretty relieved but I didn’t want to leave my mom. I knew what she’d be doing and I feared she would get sick. And then who would I have to come home to? She dropped me off at the airport. After I walked through all the security shit, I turned and waved to my mom…and then I started to cry. People were staring at me and I just wanted to fucking screaming. I was trying so hard to hold in my tears… I couldn’t cry the whole time I was home but now in the middle of the goddamn airport I’m crying. The best part was some lady walked up to me and said…”thank you for everything you’re doing.”

What Happened To My Family?

All the days just seemed to blend together. We were still getting mortared daily…sometimes 6 or 7 or 8 times. Our camp was known as “Mortaritaville” from being attacked so much. We would call home a lot but for me it just made me sad. I didn’t really want to deal with situations back home. Before I left my dad had relapsed…he blamed himself for me being sent to Iraq. I tried to tell him over and over again it wasn’t his fault. In April I called a friend, he told me my father was in the hospital. He didn’t really know for what but my mom didn’t want him to tell me anything. I got off the phone with him and called my house…I asked my mom if I could talk to my dad and she just started crying. She finally told me that for about three months he locked himself in his room and just drank and drank. About a week or so before he drank himself to death, I realized he had been taking money out of my account. I’m not talking a hundred bucks here and there, I’m talking a couple thousand dollars. I remember I told my editor because I was so pissed and he let me use a satellite phone to call home. I lost my shit. I had absolutely no problem with letting my parents borrow money, but to steal it from me? He crossed the line. Now I think back and wonder…maybe if I never had called or talked to him the way I had would he still have done that to himself. For months he didn’t work, he didn’t eat, he wasn’t paying any bills like my mom thought he was, he didn’t feed my hamster and she died (poor thing). He just rotted away up there. On day after my mom got out of work, my dad walked down stairs and sat on the floor…he mumbled something about my moms parents and talked nonsense. My mom called the ambulance and he was taken to the hospital. My dad who weighed about 170 his whole life got down to about 113 and had gotten Alzheimer’s disease. My grandmother had it as well and the doctor said my dad probably would’ve gotten it down the road but the alcohol abuse triggered it early….my dads 72 and my moms 56. The only thing I can think of is how my dad is completely fucked up and how my mom must be feeling. My mom has always had a history with alcohol. Obviously to cope with my dad being in the hospital and eventually being placed in a nursing home she drank as well. I was suppose to go home in mid April for R&R…we got two weeks to go home or on vacation. I was able to get on a plane within a week and a half and I headed home. Worse plane ride ever! Fuck Kuwait. Fuck long flights. Fuck having to travel in your uniform. Fuck peoples rude remarks. I remember I got off the plane in Chicago and I found a payphone. Some middle-aged guy was on it…he had on his suit and a tie that looked like it was choking him to death. He got off the phone but continued to stand there, so I asked him if he was done. And this motherfucker said, “Let me count to 10 while I think about it.” I was like, he has to be kidding me. No he stood there and counted out loud…and finally he said, “I guess you can use it.” I was so happy to be in the States that I wasn’t even going to let this guy get under my skin. I probably should’ve spit in his face. I literally step off the plane and my mom was in tears…she lost about 20 pounds. I was a complete mess and she forced me to go to the nursing home. At this point I’m emotionally detached…I couldn’t cry…I couldn’t let anyone see me be vulnerable…I mean, who was suppose to hold the “family” together? It was me. It all felt like …I don’t even know how to explain it. My mind was going in a thousand different directions. I was thrown back into my life and it was nothing like I remember it being. How is someone suppose to act and feel? It was like everything that ever made sense and everything that every held my family together was no longer there…we had to start over.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Bored and Sick of Getting Mortared.

Time started to go by pretty fast...days were slow but weeks flew by. Probably because we were use to our routine. After work we would usually take a nap, shower, go to the gym, go the PX, watch DVDs, clean (my roommate was obsessed with cleaning…it drove me crazy), decorate our walls with pictures from home and posters, and we would eat. I’m vegetarian so I lived on cheese sandwiches, french fries, ice cream, rice and beans. For one of my articles I wrote about how the Dining Facilities (DFACs) should have some sort of meat substitute and within a month or so, they offered two different microwavable dinners and this fake beef and rice thing…it was pretty good. We all started getting use to being attacked. We wouldn’t really go into the bunker when the alarmed sounded unless we heard the mortar hit. That was a bad habit but we just got numb to it. Two guys I worked with and I did a story on the Air Force gym and as we were walking there we heard a boom about 75 meters away from us. Nothing exploded so we kept on walking. Soon after the alarm went off and we found out it was a mortar round but it didn’t explode (the insurgents usually pack the mortars with so much explosives that they don’t go off). Thank God. One morning G and I heard the loudest fucking explosion. We were in the bunker before the alarm even went off. It turned out that a suicide bomber drove a car into a check point…he didn’t really make it past the first couple barriers but he did kill a couple Iraqi National Guard Soldiers. There were people from our unit at the gate when it happened and they took some pictures. Body parts were all over the ground.

Moving On Up.

At first I worked on minor stories for example; additions to the camp, what people were training on, what programs were offered at the Education Center (Soldiers had the opportunity to take college courses, Arabic classes and a shitload of other classes ), what movies were playing at the theater (yeah, we had a theater…rumor had it our camp use to be the training grounds for Iraqi Olympic athletes. We had a huge pool too.) Whenever I covered a story I was able to have a new job for at least a day…it ruled. After a while the newspaper editor took notice of my writing and photography. So in December there was a special story to be covered. An aviation unit was going to fly into Irbil (which is in northern Iraq) to pass out presents on Christmas day. Irbil is basically a Kurdish town and a lot of them are Christian or at least celebrated Christmas. The Kurds were suppressed by Saddam Hussein…thousands were killed during the 1980s. I volunteered for the story and they gave it to me. I was so fucking excited. I was psyched to get to fly in a Blackhawk, go into northern Iraq which I heard was beautiful and do something not many people will ever do on Christmas. I went with another Specialist …He was a broadcaster and was there to videotape the whole thing. We left at about five in the morning and it took three hours to get there. One of the Soldiers dressed up as Santa Claus. The crew were the best guys I had met since being over there. Funny, down to earth, laid back…they ruled. We landed on like a mountain side VIP mansion. It was insane. You could see hills, mountains, trees and grass. I completely forgot where I was. We were welcomed by one of the top Kurdish officials and other big shots. They were all dressed in suites and were professional…they looked absolutely nothing like the shit you see on TV. They had a traditional lunch set up for us…and we all sat in this enormous dinning room. Gold plates and silverware. They gave speeches and presents. They gave me a necklace, a ring and a Kurdish flag. After we ate we went into town. We were put on buses and the Kurdish Army acted as our personal security. I was so confused…I had a book bag filled with ammo because I defiantly didn‘t think we‘d have Iraqis protecting us . All the guys laughed at me because it was so heavy. I was leaning to the side while carrying it. I didn’t know what to expect. We ended up going to a community center type place… and when we walked in at least 300 Kurdish children dressed in traditional clothing played music and waved American flags. It was overwhelming. They had a ceremony, sang, thanked the aviation unit, the unit spoke…people ate cake, the kids took pictures with Santa, we passed out presents. Well kind of passed out presents…it went well for about 30 minutes and then by that time tons of kids and adults started gathering at the gates of the center. They wanted gifts and they were curious as to what was going on. All of a sudden they broke through the gate… it turned into a free for all. Shit was thrown everywhere…kids were grabbing whatever they could…adults were stealing shit from kids…it was fucking nuts. After that they took us shopping. We went to some store…kind of like a mini Walmart, I guess. We bought candy and trinkets. After that they took us around Irbil and showed us landmarks. We passed some mountains and one Kurdish guy sitting next to me said, “my family is buried in there…Saddam killed my family with gas.“ Come to find out U.S. Special Forces teams found mass graves in the mountains from when Saddam had committed genocide on the Kurds in the late 80’s. They also brought us into the middle of nowhere to fire weapons. Their Army let us fire AK47s. They passed me the weapon and I automatically put it on burst. When I shot the weapon it went straight up in the air…it had a strong kick and everyone laughed at me. It got late and we headed back. That trip had to be one of the best experiences of my life.

Christmas Tress in Iraq?

I was assigned to cover a story on this Soldier who’s father sent over 150 Christmas trees to our camp. It was so awesome. We drove around the camp and gave every unit a tree. People were so excited… it was like a piece of home was with us on Christmas. We also had a bunch of decorations and people would have contests with one another to see who decorated their tree the best. He also sent over a bunch of steaks and grills for a nice Christmas dinner. A picture that I took ended up in the New York Times.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Falling Into Place.

Within a couple months shit seemed pretty normal as it could be. My roommate and I went to work at around 8 everyday and got home around 6 or so. We didn’t mind. We worked right next to each other and would run back and forth during the day. G and I were the girls that were always laughing, busting balls, getting into “trouble”…we didn’t do bad things…we just liked to have fun. Everyone would try to point the finger at us for stupid shit but they never had proof . One night we took a hummer and did donuts in a parking lot. We also would stack sandbags half way up peoples doors…we’d knock really hard like we were someone important and the person would try to open the door…almost breaking the shit in half…it made for a good laugh. Our Command Sergeant Major (CSM) would always let us drive his car and one day G was parking it and ran over a cement stump. The stump was painted bright yellow and when she hit it she blew one of the tires. CSM chewed the shit out of her…he tore her apart. He had her outside for three days repainting that stump an even brighter yellow. He also asked to see her license from back in the States because he didn’t believe anyone who drove like that had a “real license”…the thing was she had lied to him…she didn’t really have a license. We had to call home and get a NY license.
G worked at the DVQ, which was basically a hotel. All the famous people and high army officials stayed there. While we were there Robin Williams, Vince Vaughan, Colin Powell, and the Chief of the Army Reserves General Helmy came. Robin Williams did stand up…he’s pretty funny. I wrote an article on General Helmy. He was nice. One day a top General flew in from Baghdad and we were sitting on the couch, playing on the internet. Her sergeant had left his music playing on his computer and the song changed to some “titties ’n ass, titties ’n ass…” song and it wouldn’t stop repeating it. And this fucking General walks in and we were suppose to jump to attention. But we just stared at the guy like, we didn’t put this song on. Thank god he thought it was funny and didn’t get us in trouble.
I started writing for the newspaper within the first week. I loved it. I was really shy at first…I didn’t really know how to approach people but I just went with it. Also within the first week my commanding officer and I had to go outside the wire to all the surrounding villages where the newspaper usually covers story. To do this we had to go out with the Civil Affairs unit. Whenever we would go out we would go with them. They were worked as security and acted as “spokesmen” for the Army. The high Iraqi officials in the towns would all meet with the Civil Affairs team and talk about projects that were going on within the village. The first time out I was so nervous. I packed my flack vest with so much ammo and I prayed…kind of…I was like, if there is God or anything don’t let any of us die. It was pretty intimidating. We went to 11 villages. We didn’t get out of our vehicles at all of them. But I saw Iraq with my own eyes. It wasn’t like the shit I saw on TV…TV has no emotion…it just goes from one clip to another…like, oh a Soldier died and 10 Iraqis were blown up and now here’s John Smith with the weather. People weren’t running around burning flags and yelling at us. I saw the people we were tying to liberate...if that is what we are doing over there. I saw the way people looked at us. The way they smiled at us. The way some of them ignored us and the fact we were rolling across their land. I saw kids…so many kids. We really should be passing out condoms there. I guess I was pretty naïve when it came to the kids and women. They loved seeing female Soldiers out there. There usually isn’t a lot of us that go out there. I held a lot of hands…I was grabbed a lot…all I wanted to do was smile and try to show that I cared and I didn’t want to harm them. I don’t know if they thought I was harmful…but I was just curious like they were. I met these two little girls at one of our stops. They were sisters and one was mentally handicapped. They just stood there with 6 humvees around them holding hands. I gave them lollipops, learned their names, they hugged me and showed me where the lived. Their mom was peeking out from the back of the house…she’d duck every time I looked in her direction. Finally she waved and showed me her other baby. At another village the Editor of the newspaper (who is a Staff Sergeant) and I came across a lady washing clothes in her backyard. She had three kids running around. She held up her little boy…she was so proud…we took some pictures. Then we saw a baby behind her…he was basically stuffed into a milk crate and had hundreds of flies on his face. We took a couple pictures but she started freaking out so we had to stop. I guess she wasn’t proud of that kid. I didn’t want the mission to be over. One girl asked me if I would come over and play at her house. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry or laugh. All I could think was, great we’ll drink tea and play house. And then Osama’s best friends, cousins brother who lives next door to you will see me, he‘ll cut off my head and you‘ll have a new soccer ball. I guess she was just as naïve as I was. Our trip was finally over and we didn’t get attacked.

Why Are We Here Again?

We all started to get adjusted to our new life. I can say that 90% of us still didn’t fully understand why we were there or why they needed us. None of us really felt our job was important mainly because there were other Soldiers already doing it. We kind of felt in the way. But we were all there together for some reason. I volunteered to work in the Public Affairs section. I figured if I was in the Public Affairs section I wouldn’t just be sitting at a desk all day and typing shit. I swear desk jobs will kill you. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I was assigned to work with an nine man team out of Washington state. When they arrived (6 months before we got there) they started the Anaconda Times. The Anaconda Times is a newspaper that focuses on events happening on our base, outside the wire (what’s going on in the villages around us), and anything else of importance happening around Iraq. I was told I would be working as a Staff Writer. I was so excited…but I had never received training before…I never had written an article. When the Sergeant in charged asked me if I had done anything like this before, I lied and said I had taken a journalism class. I just wanted this job so bad and if I had to sit at a desk for a year I would’ve killed myself.

Here We Go.

On November 22, we left for Iraq. We flew in on a C130. We had on our flack vest, kevlar, ammo, and M16. Everyone was squeezed together, pissed off, hot…no one wanted to be landing in Iraq…no one knew what the hell we were about to get into. I have to admit though, I was kind of excited. The flight crew told us we would be landing within 15 minutes and they would be shooting off flares and the pilot was going to do a combat landing. No one knew why they were shooting off flares but then we found out it was to distract insurgents. And a combat landing, basically the pilot swerves back and forth and drops fast. It sucks and people threw up. We finally landed and we are rushed onto buses. It looked normal…didn’t see any crazy Iraqis running around, we weren’t being shot at…was this really Iraq? We were then taken to some welcoming bullshit. Everyone just wanted to get to where we were staying. After a couple hours we arrived at our new home: a trailer park. I was so happy to see my white trailer. We were the “S Block”. There was about three rows of 7 trailers each…every trailer held six people…and everyone had a roommate. I ended up staying with “G“. A tiny little Dominican girl with a big mouth, a lot of attitude, and a good heart. She made me listen to reggaeton and I made her listen to Minor Threat. We were finally told we could get some sleep. We had planed not to wake up before 12 because we had the next couple of days off to relax and get orientated. We were idiots for thinking “yeah, just going to sleeping in…fuck the war going on.” The insurgents had other plans for us and at about 6am we hear boom…and the alarm goes off. (Every time our camp is attacked or threatened an alarm goes off and you have to get into a bunker or hard building.) G and I jumped out of bed, grabbed our gear, M16 and headed for the bunker. I never ran so fast in my life...thought it was the end of the world…we fucking tripped on rocks…we were a mess. Our whole unit is in the bunker like…what the fuck? We just wanted to sleep! Finally the all clear sounded and we went back to sleep. Within the first couple days we were attacked several times. Let me explain being attacked. The insurgents set up mortar tubes outside our camp and they place mortar rounds in them and they will come flying into the camp randomly. Sometimes they’ll place ice on the “trigger” and when it melts the mortar will go off. They really don’t have a method to their madness. They will also do drive-bys at entrance points. They set up IEDs along the roads and ambush convoys with small arms fire and RPGs. They will break through check points and set off car bombs. That’s basically what we experienced over there.

It Smells Like Shit.

So, Kuwait smells horrible. I literally refused to breath for as long as possible and when I did breath I blew air out of my nose. After leaving the airport we ended up at Camp Virginia. Camp Virginia: no water, tons of tents and just miles of desert. We arrived there after not showering for 2 days…I have OCD when it comes to showering and I freaked out because there was no running water. My friends and I grab box’s of water and “showered”. I’ve never been so grateful for water in my whole life. For the next two weeks we continued training and got use to the heat. We met Japanese, Korean, Fiji and British Soldiers. The Japanese “special forces” are fucking crazy. Nice…but crazy. And I’m pretty sure Fiji sent over two Soldiers…we seriously saw the same two guys. By the end of the two weeks we found out our flight information…it only takes about 3 hours to get to Iraq.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Funs Over.

It was time to start training and in late September 2004, our unit was sent to Ft. Dix, NJ. We trained for about a month and a half. We trained on everything from first aid, shooting, convoy exercises, identifying explosives and IEDs, to their culture…basically everything and more. After that we left for Kuwait in mid October.
Before I even got to Ft. Dix I started having the same reoccurring dream for about a month. I dreamt that I was in a firefight with several other Soldiers and I would always end up getting shot in the face. I would never die though….I could “feel” the bullets expand in my face. It was really weird. We would all be running around, hiding behind buildings and screaming at each other. We put our weapons on burst and shot at everything. All I could think was, Jesus I’m going to get fucked up while I’m over there.
The flight to Kuwait seemed surreal. When we boarded the plane we were greeted by a peppy, cheery flight crew…one broad had a President Bush pin on and within 5 minutes she heard so many complaints that she took it off. My three friends and I grabbed a middle row and fell asleep as soon as we could. We didn’t really want to think about where we were going. We finally landed in Germany to switch plans. We all called home and checked our email. Time seemed to go by so fast and before we knew it we were back on the plane. Everyone was up. We cracked jokes, played Uno, and watched movies. The pilot announced we would be landing in Kuwait within 20 minutes. Before he could finish his sentence everyone went silent…no one was laughing, no one was talking to each other…everyone just had this blank stare on their face. It was as if our hearts stopped beating at the same time and everything we could ever want was miles and miles away. People were holding back their tears. Kuwait looked beautiful from the sky. Almost like NYC.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Virgin Mary.

On December 27, 2001 I joined the United States Army Reserve at the ripe age of 17. I was a virgin, been drunk twice in my life, never did any drugs, and was into a different scene then most of the kids in my high school. Out of no where I grew balls and joined the Army. One day I came home from school and told my dad I was thinking about joining. All the men in my family had been in the military…my grandfathers, their fathers, my dad, and two of my half brothers ( I have three). I told him I wanted to join mainly because it’ll look good on my resume and I wanted to travel too. My dad and mom supported me but also reminded me that September 11th had just happened and I could possibly get sent over seas if we declare war. I looked at him and said…”Who the hell would send me to war?” I left for Ft. Jackson, SC on November 4, 2002 for Basic Training. I’m not really going to talk about it…but I remember this one Drill Sergeant that hated me because I was always laughing...he really couldn’t stand me. We were training in the woods and I remember him screaming, ”You’re worthless Private Giggles…If you ever go to war you should be the first one killed.” I just stared at him and started laughing…miserable prick. Maybe I should find him and tell him I laughed all the way through Iraq and made it home alive.

ready or not.

it's been almost a year since i've been back from Iraq...someone asked me to write about my time overseas, so i did. i've decided to share it with anyone who's interested for a couple of reasons...1) i'm sick of hearing people talk about this is right and this is wrong, and Soldiers are bad people... blah blah blah....the majority of the people sharing their opinion really have no clue what they are talking about...its driving me crazy. 2) why not? could be interesting.

i probably talk about situations you don't want to hear about, i probably don't talk enough about other situations...regardless, read it and then complain.