Saturday, November 19, 2005

Army Girl Point of Veiw

This is one of the milblogs I visit. She is in the Army and writes about the war in Iraq and other stuff. I read her personal commentary on the Letter from a Soldier posted on Sgt Hook's milblog.

As I read Phoenix's take on the wavering support in our country for the Iraqi war, I was reminded of my own upbringing. I, too, am an Army Brat. I have lived overseas and lived in countries not so fortunate as ours. I have two vivid memories that have shaped my views as an adult. The first was visiting a family in Mexico and seeing the abject poverty they lived in everyday. No running, water, no toilet, no kitchen, no windows in their mud hut and a cloth for a door. I realized that day in my tender 10th year that we, in America, are wealthy beyond imagination to most peoples of the earth.

The second incident occurred when I was 14. We were stationed in Germany at the time and I was a member of a softball team. I was a lousy softball player. I could pitch but could not catch or bat. I struck out every time I came to bat. However our team was pretty good and we had an opportunity to play in the West Berlin. Now for those of you that are youngin's Germany was split for a while after World War II and until October 1990. There was the free West Germany and the Communist controlled East Germany. Berlin, likewise, was split east and west.

The trip to West Berlin was scary. In those days you could only travel by train and only by night. No planes, cars or other travel was authorized. So we traveled to Frankfurt, boarded a sleeper car on a train bound for West Berlin. When we arrived at the border of East Germany East German troops boarded the train with us to ensure that no one left the train on the passage through East Germany. We were instructed to stay in our sleepers and not walk the hallways. We were also instructed that we were not allowed to open the curtains and look out the windows. And under NO circumstances were we to photograph anything.

As the East German Troops boarded the train we were scared out of our wits. They were dressed in uniforms very similar to the Russians and looked very fierce. Of course, as little girls, we did not obey orders and peeked out our windows. For most of the trip nothing was visible as people of this land either had no electricity or were not allowed to have lights on after certain hours of the night. When we approached a train stop during the night we saw a different sight. It was like seeing something out of a movie. Guards were every where in Jack Boots and long coats. Dobermans and German Shepherds on leashes were everywhere. All the Guards carried machine guns. These guys were serious. I was frightened and rightly so. I could live in this desolate lightless land.

Inevitably, I had to use the restroom during the night. My small bladder is the brunt of many jokes. I held it for as long as I could but the screaming of my bladder overruled the fear of my wits. I sneaked my way to the bathroom and was astonished to find a GUARD inside the ladies room, machine gun and all! I relieved myself as quickly as possible and ran as fast as I could back to my sleeper. I don't think I slept a wink that night.

It was a wake-up call both literally and figuratively. Nothing so concisely distilled for me in my mind the difference between freedom and a controlled state as traveling through East Germany all that night. It brought home to me how much liberty I enjoyed and almost without valuing it. I had taken for granted the lifestyle that many men had died for right there on those lands. Prior to that night I had no clue about the sacrifices made and why they were made. I had thought that everyone enjoyed the freedom I had by birthright. All it took was one night peeking out a train window to make me realize that freedom is not free.


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