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When the war came for me

On March 20, 2003, I was stationed in Alaska, about as far away from the desert heat of Iraq as you could get. I was a staff sergeant in the Army, assigned to the public affairs office at Fort Richardson just north of Anchorage. I spent nearly every working hour under the bland gaze of fluorescent lights with thoughts of war — actual combat in the “real” Army — far, far from my mind. Maybe someday I’d earn a Purple Heart for carpal tunnel syndrome, but I knew I would never come close to the graze of a bullet.

From the distant land called Washington, D.C., we’d heard the rumble of war-mongering getting louder every day. And now, the inevitable was upon us. For weeks, George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein had engaged in a stare-down contest. Neither one had blinked and now their eyeballs were all dried out, thanks to their resolve, hubris and, in at least one case, outright insanity. Bush had given Iraq a 48-hour warning, clicking a political stopwatch to life.

As the hour neared, there was something approaching a party atmosphere in the U.S. Army Alaska headquarters building where I worked. Voices rose in pitch. Tight laughter punctuated conversations. Senior officers swaggered down the hallways. At last, at last, all their military training would be put to good use.

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