Under Poncho. Under Pressure.
As you all know, I struggle with an eating disorder; Last night I had a dream, well more like a nightmare that I was back in Iraq. I dreamt that it was the first night of the war, just after my unit had crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq. I remember this night like it was yesterday. There was a dust storm that night and it caused the sky to light up at nine o'clock at night like the fiery end of a cigarette blazing orange. I couldn't see a foot in front of me because of the sand, and I had an eerie feeling like this was a bad omen, that we shouldn't be here. This was wrong, all wrong. I had no idea exactly where we were, only that we were in the middle of the Iraq desert and there was nothing but sand for miles in all directions. I was the battalion surgeons driver. Doc was a salty old grey haired man who had spent the majority of his time as a Special Forces Ranger medic. He had a reputation for telling overweight soldiers what I'm sure many doctors would love to say to their patients: "Of course your back and knees hurt, You are FAT Lose weight, and your back won't hurt." (I edited out the cursing) He was hard, and he knew it. Because of his background as a "hard ass" the regular rules didn't apply to him, he was somehow able to get away with not following any type of regulation. The battalion commander had Doc leading the convoys and providing recon. This meant that this was my job as well since I was his driver. I'm sure he got a kick out of this, like one last hurrah, like the good old days he got to tramp around and play soldier one last time. I have to admit, I wasn't as excited as Doc. Here I was, in the middle of a war acting in the same capacity of a Special Forces reconnaissance team member. There was an AT4 behind our seat, we had M16's, hand guns, and grenades. I kept thinking to myself "I am a medic, I am supposed to be saving lives not taking them, how did I get here? I am supposed to be in an ambulance protected by the infantry unit that is attached to us, not the other way around." Something snapped inside. I was filled with the fear of the unknown. The fear of being unable to save a life should I be faced with that situation. I didn't know what else to do, so I did what I always did to feel release, I ate. Yes, I silently shoved bits of MRE (Meal Ready to Eat) into my mouth while doc drove through Iraq on the first night of the war. It calmed me the way that I assume a bottle calms a crying infant (sounds... strange, I know). The trouble was not that I ate, but that I NEEDED to throw up. I needed to purge, to get rid of what I had eaten. For those of you who don't know much about bulimia, it is not done for vain purposes, but more for control. I had felt out of control and knew no other way than this to feel control over this situation. That night we led one of our units to their Destination Point in Iraq. No lights were used, only NVG's (Night Vision Goggles). Using these goggles made everything glow a sick horror movie green. Only the blurry outlines of figures could be seen. During the convoy we stopped for a span of about 10 minutes so that the vehicles could rally. In desperation, knowing very well that anyone could see me with their NVG's, I pulled out my poncho, dug a hole in the sand, placed my pocho over my head and body and proceded to vomit the MRE I had just eaten. The fear of people seeing me do this through the lenses of their goggles was far less than the fear I had of not having control over this situation. The calm lasted only breifly, and was soon replaced with self loathing for my weakness. In Basic training I had been the distinguished honor graduate, I had been the soldier of the Year in Korea, and had ran on the Army 10-miler team.... And here I was, at war with my eating disorder in this foreign land, and it was winning. The next day we received notification that our Maintenance unit; the 507th http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/507th_Maintenance_Company had been ambushed.
I felt disgusted with myself. These people, many of whom I knew, died for our country, and there I was killing myself.