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Suicide bombers: Living in America is like winning the life lottery.

Updated: Feb 5

I've heard some therapists will say; "If you can't talk about it, then try to write about it". Alright then, challenge accepted.

If you live in America, you have allot to be thankful for. Not that anyone doesn't already know that, but sometimes, it can be easy to forget. One thing in particular we can all be thankful for is our safety. I'm not talking about back-alley muggers or a car wreck on the way to work. I'm talking about living in a first world country that's not torn apart by religious or extreme political violence. It's easy to get frustrated with all the little things that make us angry, but I'm not sure anyone gets a better life than we do right here. There's no sarcasm there. It's the truth.

When the subject of life's problems come up in my day-to-day life, there's always one thing that I immediately relate it to from my time in the military...suicide bombers. This was something very unique to my generations "forever wars" that always made me realize how far from home I really was. When I hear and see what frustrates the people around me it just makes me realize how good we have it here. Keep in mind, I stay very silent on the subject when it comes up and I never lecture anyone. I just smile and try to mention an upside or positive spin on what's going on. Some of my coworkers and neighbors probably get annoyed with me for always smiling and acting positive, but it's the personality I've adopted after being through much worse in life. Someone's dog leaving a mess in my yard or a late trash pick up really isn't going to phase me too much.

On my first deployment, I was in Samarra, Iraq. The city was a mess. Water, power, infrastructure, police and just the general safety of the citizens was never a sure thing. It was the stronghold of the AQI insurgency when I was there and it was plagued with government corruption and civil violence. The golden shrine mosque was a perfect example. Honestly, you could just drive around any area that surrounded it and see what I'm talking about.

There's allot of things that stick with me from deployments. Seeing what neighbors can do to each other after society has collapsed was a pretty horrific experience for me. I'll be happy to never see it again. The idea of being slain by your neighbors because you had things and they didn't is very foreign to me. I grew up in safe and soft suburban America and being in danger from my own neighbors was never something I experienced. Something unique to a society that has collapsed and fights with itself are the methods of violence groups will use against each other. If you ever witness a suicide bombing or walk around to see it's aftermath, it's something that stays with you forever.

I wasn't personally present for this particular one. I was laid up and recovering from a pretty serious injury I got on another mission from the night before. One morning, my company was on a patrol in a marketplace when a man was noticed who seemed very out of place. He was wearing a heavy coat that was not appropriate for the weather and seemed to be by himself with no real business or purpose to be there. When members of the platoon addressed the situation it became clear he was a very real problem. He was surrounded, ordered to lift up his coat and had every muzzle of every weapon in the platoon dialed right in on him. I think it was assumed that things were about to go from bad to worse when my platoon mates saw the man start to cry. The next thing anyone knew...BOOM! No one in my platoon was wounded, but as you would expect, the gentleman was deceased and in many pieces all around my teammates. In some instances, he was on my teammates.

This is where it gets interesting. During the AAR, it was mentioned someone had spotted a vehicle in the distance watching him. It was assumed they were insurgents monitoring him to make sure caried out the attack. One person even mentioned they saw them make a warning shot towards the man. I couldn't tell you because I didn't personally witness that. This is very interesting, though. We always tend to think very one dimensional about the enemy. They're just bad guys we need to kill, right? Well, maybe not in this case.

This was always something I thought a great deal about. I hated and wanted to kill the enemy as much as the next guy, but, I'm not sure this man was actually the enemy. The fact that other insurgents had to monitor him and threaten him to carry out the attack gives me allot of questions. Was this some poor guy who needed a way to get his family money? Was he a victim of threats to his family? At the time, I couldn't have cared less, but over the years I really thought about this and other things quite a bit.

This man can pop up randomly in my thoughts like allot of other things from Iraq do. I've tried to imagine who he might have been. I tried to imagine a man with a wife and children. I pictured a group of intimidating men showing up at his home late at night and telling him he had to be suicide bomber and threatening his family if he refused. I wondered what kind of conversations someone might have with their wife after they find out they have to be a suicide bomber. I wondered if they talked about trying to run and get out of town? I wondered what that last morning waking up would feel like and how he might have said goodbye to his family? More than anything, I wondered how shitty it must be to live in a country torn apart by war and no way or means to escape it. This is when I remember my "bad days" really aren't that bad at all. Kinda makes me want to shut up, smile and be positive when I'm in bad traffic or someone delivers the wrong package. Just my humble opinion.

Now's the part that's going to get me some heat from people. I feel for this guy, I really do. I saw and did allot of things during my deployments, but this story leaves me thinking allot at night. Not about the gentleman, but just about life in general. I feel so lucky to be an American. I can live my life free from any of the worries that this man and his family had. I can think, feel or say anything I want, and no one is going to come to arrest me for it. I can go to sleep at night and know that no one is coming to force me, my family or my neighbors to do anything like what this man did. I feel so blessed and lucky to have the life that I do and I try to remember this as often as possible.

This might seem odd to you, but some of these things have really managed to hurt inside over the years. It can even eat at the very roots of your soul if you let it. It might seem ridiculous, but sometimes I think about the people we fought and who they might have been. When it comes to suicide bombers, I think about whether or not they were even the enemy at all. Maybe they were just some poor person unlucky enough to be born and live in the place they did. Who knows.

Of course, maybe none of the things I wondered were true? Maybe he was a hard ass insurgent who just got scared at the last moment and his friends in the car were really shooting at my teammates. I have no idea.

I'll wrap this one up with a question for everybody. How lucky are we to be Americans? No shit, how lucky are we to have won that life lottery and be on this side of the world? Never sweat the small stuff. Someone out there really wants to have our bad day.

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