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What I'm Thankful For

Cliched, I know. Writing a "what are you thankful for" post on Thanksgiving. Yet we're all thankful for something.  I am thankful for the bond I formed with my men.

I could be thankful that I brought all my men home. And I am thankful that I did. (A week before I joined my platoon, we had a soldier lose his legs. I later met the soldier, and based on the recollections of his comrades in the platoon and my experience, he is a tremendous individual.) Still, that is not what I am most grateful for.

For me, I am thankful to have known and led as many great guys as I did.

Read any war memoir, novel or history book, and the author inevitably describes the unbreakable bonds formed between men who fight. I first heard about this in a class on the Civil War at UCLA. Then I heard it repeated in every speech I ever heard from an officer. I had heard it so much before I deployed, I almost didn't think it could be true.

But it was.

You see movies like Platoon or Saving Private Ryan--or even action films with sci-fi Marines like Aliens--and you wonder, could a platoon of guys ever really match that? Tim O’Brien (who Eric C posted about here) created an entire cast of characters with intense bonds in both The Things They Carried and If I Die in a Combat Zone. Could reality ever match fiction?

It can and it does. We had the medic equivalent of Spicoli, we had a Southern Medic with a regrettable tattoo, we had guys from all over America but still everyone from California segregated into one truck, we had a mouthy guy from Vegas, we had a platoon sergeant who could put the fear of God into young soldiers (and platoon leaders), we had guys who were ostracized, guys who trashed on each other, guys playing cards, NCOs who yelled “who the f*** said that?”, NCOs known for the size of their arms and quick tempers. We had it all.

I am thankful to have been there with those guys. It is so cliched, it is beyond cliched. Yet the bonds soldiers make isn't make believe, it is what happens. I still can’t believe it.