Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Hating that yellow ribbon (III): Why your ‘thank you’ is so damn awkward

I thought Jim Gourley had a lot of wisdom to impart in yesterday’s discussion with his comments about how internal grief often is expressed as external anger. If you didn’t see it, go back and look Meanwhile, further exploring this theme of disliking the yellow ribbon mentality, there was this from “Strykertyme,” which I nominate ...

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I thought Jim Gourley had a lot of wisdom to impart in yesterday's discussion with his comments about how internal grief often is expressed as external anger. If you didn't see it, go back and look

Meanwhile, further exploring this theme of disliking the yellow ribbon mentality, there was this from "Strykertyme," which I nominate as a tie for comment of the day:

When I was in Iraq from Aug 06-Feb 07 I never left the wire. We received IDF maybe two times, one of which we didn't even know anything had happened until the big voice announced "ALL CLEAR" out of nowhere. So, I can't speak on what it was like to go out on patrols, get shot at, blown up, and do the heavy work of the war.

I thought Jim Gourley had a lot of wisdom to impart in yesterday’s discussion with his comments about how internal grief often is expressed as external anger. If you didn’t see it, go back and look

Meanwhile, further exploring this theme of disliking the yellow ribbon mentality, there was this from “Strykertyme,” which I nominate as a tie for comment of the day:

When I was in Iraq from Aug 06-Feb 07 I never left the wire. We received IDF maybe two times, one of which we didn’t even know anything had happened until the big voice announced “ALL CLEAR” out of nowhere. So, I can’t speak on what it was like to go out on patrols, get shot at, blown up, and do the heavy work of the war.

I was one of about 12 Marines working at a hospital with a bunch of Navy Medical Personnel (some of whom drove me crazy, but all of them were great at their jobs, so I hold them in very high regard). This unique job put me in some very thought provoking situations, thoughts I’m still contemplating today.

We received 112 KIAs, mostly Iraqis, but at least 1/3 were American service members, a few of which died within the Hospital itself (the darkest moments of the deployment). Each one made me contemplate our being there. Each one led me to the thought of some Mom back in the States who at the time had no idea that her son had died in a terrible IED blast or fell victim to a sniper’s round, etc., and that within hours she’d be notified, and her world would be flipped upside down forever. Each one led me to ask myself, what the f*** are we doing here?

I’ve been back nearly 4 years now, left the Marine Corps in 08, and I still can’t come to terms with that question. The more I think about it, the more I become sick to my stomach, and each “thank you” only reinforces that feeling. I hope to one day get to the point where “thank you” doesn’t make me feel awkward, but I don’t see that being anytime soon.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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