Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Love Stories from the Front

First, let me say that I love my wife and I consider myself a very lucky man. Not a day goes by that I don’t count my blessings. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s face it; love can be strange. Of course, love is even stranger in Iraq. Here are two stories about finding love in Iraq.

Several weeks ago I was approached by someone in the chain of command I work for with a simple question that derailed me for the next few days. He asked, “Did you know your officer, Captain JP, is trying to get married to a local national woman; today; on the FOB?”

The look on my face gave it away that I had no idea what he was talking about. That look quickly changed to one that said I was about to go find out.

Captain JP had been seen for the last month or so talking to, and having dinner with a local national woman who works on the FOB as a translator. This wasn’t news to me and I didn’t have a problem with it. I was aware of it and made sure that I told him what was considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior in having a relationship with an Iraqi. My concern was from an operational security point of view. Because neither person was married a relationship, per se, wasn’t off limits but there were points with in General Order #1 that forbid physical relationships. Captain JP acknowledged all of this.

To find out that my officer had decided to get married – literally out of the blue – caught me by total surprise. To learn of it from outside the chain of command sent me fuming to go find him. But first, the details.

It turned out that at breakfast, JP asked one of his peers to attend the ceremony to be held later that afternoon. His friend strongly suggested that there may be some l-e-g-a-l issues surrounding a US Soldier marrying a local Muslim woman and that he had better check with the JAG. Once he went to the JAG office, my officer learned of the extreme legal hurdles in his way and demurred from his quest.

Then I got a hold of Captain JP and counseled him. He had the unmitigated gall to say out loud that he couldn’t understand what the whole fuss was about and why the Army might have a say in his “private affairs.” I recommended that the best course of action for him was to return after the deployment, apply for a visa for her, and bring her back to the United States. When I laid it all out for him I think it was a little clearer and the matter, for the time being, was dropped.

And while the idea of getting married may have ended for my officer the situation was far from over for me because I work with a group of world class ball busters and this was a perfect diversion from their work and the issues within their own ranks. They pounced.

I had two choices, take a beating at the expense of the others, or go along with it at the expense of Captain JP. I found a middle ground. I expressed my embarrassment as a commander and made certain that I would contact my chain of command, advise them, and officially counsel my Soldier. I also took part in creating an elaborate story that was eventually told to the big boss.

The only fact the story that followed was that Captain JP had inquired on how to get married that same day. The part about the woman being the niece of one of the most influential sheiks in the region; we made that part up. The part about Captain JP promising a huge multi-million dollar project to the sheik as a dowry; we made that up too. The part about want to have extra ammo for “celebratory fire”; we made up. The part about Captain JP getting married because he HAD to; we made up. By the time we got done spinning the story no one knew what the truth was which helped to diffuse the situation entirely.

The original title of this entry was going to be, “The Bride Wore Body Armor," becuase there was only one story. Then the love bug bit someone else.

I thought the story of Captain JP was a love story gone wrong until I learned another story that left even more of a mark. A young Soldier (not mine) shot himself clean through the calf while trying to impress a female Soldier. Why did he have a loaded weapon? He was guarding local nationals working on the FOB! Imagine that; trying to impress a woman in front of the Iraqis and you shoot yourself through the leg. Imagine those Iraqi workers going home at the end of the day, “honey, those Americans are crazy! Today one of them tried to show a woman how tough he was by shooting himself through the leg!” Years from now, what kind of story the Soldier will tell his kids about that scar he got in the “Great War on Terror”?

To quote the great Bugs Bunny, “Love; ain’t it grand?”

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