May 26th, 2008
02:28 PM ET

Deferring Memorial Day; It's too soon to fight those memories

Arwa Damon
CNN Baghdad

“And thinking about Memorial Day, one main factor comes to mind – 5 years, 4000 American dead, trillions of dollars, we have increased psychological issues with veterans, not to mention family problems, children with no parents, parents with no children.” A young medic said sarcastically plopping himself down on the couch.

He admits to being bitter and jaded. Nine of his close friends died in the last year, seven of them fathers. It’s impossible for him to see what for. He turns his pain, anger, frustration, and sense of helplessness into humor.

Its 12:53 in the morning. He’s about to head out the door on his fifth patrol in the last 18 hours. The men here are fighting physical and emotional exhaustion, drawing strength from each other and little else.

They’ve done their best to make this building home. Now it’s a bizarre blend of “military” and traditional Iraqi. Old style fake crystal chandeliers from its original inhabitants hang from the ceiling. Gold paint is chipping off the tacky molding. The power just cut out. There’s a baseball game on the TV. Taking a break from the war.

It’s always intense and intrusive to be reporting on the troops at a time like this. Most of them didn’t even realize it was Memorial Day until they asked us why we were on embed. The company we’re with lost 5 of its men in a single attack. A suicide bomber walked into the middle of a patrol just over two months ago and detonated. They are haunted by the events of that day. The pain is still so raw. Carried within because this isn’t a war that allows for the luxury of mourning, it is one that has demanded superhuman strength from America’s young men and women.

Strength they draw from the bond that exists between soldiers is nearly impossible to put into words. Somehow, through all the hardships, humor and love for each other carry them through. They fight for different reasons. The mission, the Iraqi children, so the next generation of Americans doesn’t have to. But most importantly they do if for each other. To bring each other home.

These men are proud of each other. Of everything they have accomplished. Of their discipline to carry on the mission in the face of things most of us wouldn’t be able to recover from.

There won’t be any Memorial Day ceremony on this small base in the heart of Baghdad. Not because they don’t want to remember the fallen, they remember them every minute of everyday. It’s because they can’t afford to reopen the still gut wrenching wounds. Losing focus can mean losing your life. They will deal with the pain when they get back home.
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Filed under: Memorial Day
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    God I pray for an end to this war and all these brave soldiers can return whole to their families. They deserve financial support and a president who sincerely cares about them and their families. I am the ex-wife of vietnam veteran and I know what families go through after their loved ones return.

    May 27, 2008 at 1:01 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    I hope that these troops will get home safely. Too many have fallen in this war already; too many will come back bearing the emotional cost of having lost close comrades in the war. Their courage and determination is inspiring and they remind us of what Memorial Day is about – young, brave soldiers and civilians who risk their lives for freedom.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 26, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  3. Stacy

    I lost some of the best and brightest people i will ever know.
    I was in afgan and iraq i am very wary to form new friendships because of my losses. I will remember them as the beautiful and hard woking battle buddies i have ever come across. May god protect and keep our troops who are serving in harm's way.

    May 26, 2008 at 6:47 pm |
  4. Jolene

    Arwa: It's sad that the troops had to ask why you were on an embed with them. This caught my attention not because it was Memorial Day but because they obviously noticed a difference in how often journalists report on this war these days. I realize that most of the public has grown tired of hearing about this war but I will always be grateful for everything our troops are doing. Every one of them are an inspiration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today. I hope you do so more often.

    Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    May 26, 2008 at 3:03 pm |