The Long Road Home
Asher Abrams, 1st LAI Battalion USMC, 1989-1993
Posted to the unit veterans’ bulletin board.
“That is a chapter of ancient history which it might be good to recall; for there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valour, and great deeds that were not wholly in vain.”
-- J.R.R. Tolkien, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ I:2
“It is not your job to finish the task -- but neither are you free to abandon it.”
-- Rabbi Tarfon, 1st century
We gave what our leaders asked of us. If they had asked more, we would have given more.
Before the ground campaign began, we were told that the American forces’ final objective would be Baghdad, and that we would eliminate Saddam Hussein. As we all know, this did not happen. “The word was passed; the word was changed.” But we did liberate Kuwait.
All of us need to know that what we are doing has meaning and purpose. This is especially true in war. War is a hard thing -- having a reason gives us the motivation and the will to fight. Sgt. Michaels talks about this in his book (pp. 97-100): “It’s about my comrade, and his tiny Kuwaiti flag...” I don’t think this is naive. I think it is honest, truthful, and inspiring.
Nothing we do will ever be complete or perfect. If you’ve read ‘The Lord of the Rings’, or seen the movie, you might have noticed that theme. It’s not a story of superheroes, but of little people who are at the mercy of forces greater than themselves. They don’t set out to do great things; they love their home and dream of returning to it. They confront evil in a world that gives them no choice. Only then do they discover what they are truly capable of. Their victory comes with the loss of teachers, leaders, friends, and innocence. But they win, and some come back alive. It falls to them to tell the tale.
One of Dave Snyder’s favorite sayings was, “This isn’t fun anymore. I want to go home!” What made it funny, of course, was that in the military you can’t go home when you want, and a lot of what you do isn’t fun. But in the end Dave got his wish -- he went home before the rest of us.
Those of us who returned alive from Desert Storm have done many things with our lives. Some are still defending our Nation, either as “lifers” or as defense or security personnel. Others may have turned to teaching, creativity, or volunteering, enriching other people’s lives in whatever way we can. (Ken has contributed this site, where we can share our thoughts and memories, and honor our fallen comrades.) Many of us have married or had relationships, raised children, or discovered things about ourselves we had not known before. All of us have given of ourselves, and continue to do so.
We must all, each of us, find our purpose in the world. In war, your purpose is clear: defeat the enemy and come back alive. Life off of the battlefield is not so simple. All of us must find our own way home. It is a long, hard road.