I'm Back Home, But Still in Iraq's Grasp
By William Quinn
The only feeling I've ever had that was more surreal than arriving in a war zone was returning from one.
I came home on R&R in 2005 after eight months in Iraq. Heading for the baggage claim in Detroit, I watched travelers walking and talking on their cellphones, chatting with friends and acting just the way people had before I'd left for Baghdad. The war didn't just seem to be taking place in another country; it seemed to be taking place in another universe. There I was, in desert camouflage, wondering how all the intensity, the violence, the tears and the killing of Iraq could really be happening at the same time that all these people were hurrying to catch their flights to Las Vegas or Los Angeles or wherever.
I've been out of Iraq for more than two years now. I have a different life, as a college student. But some of those feelings are still with me. After dedicating a year to a conflict of such enormous complexity, I find that college feels a bit mundane, and it's inexplicable to me that people here seem to be entirely untouched by the war.
I arrived in Iraq in March 2005. My unit hurried onto a Chinook helicopter at Baghdad International Airport in the middle of the night. I was weighted down with more than 100 pounds of gear, and I never managed to strap myself in. Helicopters are violent machines, and we shook as we lifted into the air. The rear door was open, a machine gunner suspended over the ramp, and the lights on the ground receded as we flew off, like the scenery behind a taxi in an old movie. Before long, we were over a field of tents, lit up under spotlights as bright as day. We had arrived at Abu Ghraib.
William Quinn is majoring in international politics and security studies at Georgetown University. He served in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.