Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Down Side of Olympia

The down side is that the war and the Army are very close here. There's no escaping it, really. Olympia is adjacent to Fort Lewis the largest Army base on the West coast (and my infantry training alma mater). The fort is home to the Second Infantry whose soldiers have deployed multiple times to Iraq. One of the its Stryker brigades just returned from a 15 month deployment. They lost 48 dead and over 700 wounded. Not many other communities have experienced that kind of lost. The soldiers may have been from Vermont or Kansas but they were also from here. The losses are painfully obvious. Most recently, a brigade (I think) of the Washington National Guard received notice to deploy to Iraq. "It seems like they just got back!" was one comment I heard. I had not seen the Iraq war in this way this close before.

Coming this close--and I mean relatively close, nowhere near to war's actual reality--has the potential to trigger memories. Army Chinooks fly over Olympia pretty regularly. Sometimes more, other times less. Even the little television and police choppers in Phoenix reminded me of Vietnam. The Chinooks are an actual relic of that time, still a real workhorse for the Army. They remind me that others are flying at risk in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don't expect these reminders to trigger anything like flashbacks; I came to terms with my Vietnam ghosts on the Appalachian Trail and the years since. Any reaction I have to war's proximity is to THIS war, not events 40 years past that I can do nothing about. As long as Americans are occupying Iraq and directing its internal affairs, I'll be angry about war. I can't imagine not being angry about such waste, arrogance and stupidity.

Olympia has a downside. I'll deal with it.

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