Crossing the desert
In the dark of night
Smoke in the distance
With bursts of light
Bradleys cruising
Rumble of the ground
Cars on fire
Another burning town
Suicide bombers
A tossed grenade
Roadside bombs
Syrian made
Sand blasted eyes
Storms of red
The highway of death
The nation of dread
-- Robert G. Shields

Iraq-- a view from within
By Naughty Mickie

When troops from the United States marched into Iraq, they seemed a million miles away. I watched the television trying to imagine what our soldiers felt. I admired these people who were willing to give their lives to keep our country free and people like me safe. I had often thought about our many military personnel spread across the globe, yet until I met one of our DaBelly readers, I still did not have a connection to them.

I met Scott Weatherman when he e-mailed me regarding my story on Corrosion of Conformity. We began corresponding regularly and visited each other, as regular readers know from our On The Road columns. Scott has been serving time in Iraq and is scheduled to return home this month. To enlighten our readers, as well as myself, I asked him to share part of his life with us.

NM: What is your rank, duties and hometown?

SW: I'm an E-4 or SrA in the Air Force and a chaplain assistant. My hometown I came from is San Antonio Texas, where I'm stationed at Lackland AFB

NM: How long have you been in the military?

SW: Seven years in January

NM: Why did you enlist?

SW: I didn't really care much in high school so didn't push for any scholarships, but then when it was too late I knew that this would be the best way to get to go to college, plus my dad was in and I wanted to make him proud of me

NM: When and how did you find out that you were going to Iraq?

SW: I found out they needed a volunteer around the end of last March and I volunteered and was approved by mid-April to come.

NM: What was your first reaction when you found out you were going?

SW: Well, since I volunteered I was more enthused. I knew it would be a long thing and I hate the heat, but I also knew it was better to come here than go somewhere worse. It also was a good opportunity to help the people over here and I really was interested in helping people less fortunate than me.

NM: How did your family/friends react?

SW: My friends were a little worried and some close ones even cried, but they were proud. My mom was in denial, saying that I wasn't really going and that they would send someone else. My dad was pretty much like "don't talk about it" around my mom. He was in the air force for 20 years and knew how things were and he was more proud than anything, but just knew that my mother would not be to happy, but they are proud and happy now especially since I'll be home soon.

NM:. Before you left-- what were you excited about doing there? What were you afraid of?

SW: I was excited about supporting my country and about helping people less fortunate than me. I was most fearful of what to expect and if I would do a good job or not.

NM: What did you do to prepare for your trip?

SW: I visited with friends, family, and people I knew, prepared all my financial stuff to be taken care of and made sure I had everything ready to go.

NM: What area are you stationed-- if you are allowed to say?

SW: I'm sure it won't be an issue, I'm stationed in Kirkuk, Iraq.

NM: What are you current duties there?

SW: To provide support to chaplains in providing a spiritual well-being for the troops here. Also to assist in visiting to the people to show them we care, and to help get people in touch with a chaplain if they need any counseling. Basically our job as a team is to provide a more "at home" feeling to the community.

NM: What are some of the major differences between Iraq and the U.S. (culture, music, etc.)?

SW: Oh my, that's a long answer there. From what I have seen there are a lot of differences. Here, as in many Middle Eastern countries, one thing you should know is that if you are offered something you should never decline as they will take it as an insult. The people here are actually very friendly and giving. They are also very poor around here. Visiting the children right off the base as well as some of the people who come on the base to work, you see it right away. Their clothes are tattered and they aren't too clean. When we give them things, even something as small as a soccer ball, it's like them winning the lottery. But they don't seem sad about the way they are. They are very proud people. Very hard workers as well. I witnessed some of them over the fence building a house for a member of their family. They are out there working as happy as can be in the 118 degree weather. And 118 is not the hottest it gets.

The music I have seen and heard is pretty different. I have seen an Arab music video and the people in it looked surprisingly like an American pop video, but the way they sing is pretty different. If only I could understand it, it would be awesome because it's actually kind of catchy music.

The culture is way different. In order to enter holy sites and such, the women are supposed to cover their hair and be conservative. Also they don't use toilet paper here, the people use water, thus explaining why their toilets are just holes in the ground.

NM:. How are the two countries similar?

SW: There are a lot of kind people and then there are also bad people. They drive on the same side of the road. They speak English most of them, at least a little.They work hard and it kind of reminds me of Texas. The people here, not to sound racist, are like the Hispanics in Texas. they all work really hard even though they don't get paid much.

NM: What have you enjoyed most about being over there?

SW: Seeing the children smile when I went to see them and we gave them stuff, especially this little girl who was so adorable. She was really shy, but she and this other little boy with her had these big smiles when we came to see them.

NM: What do you like the least?

SW: It feels like prison here sometimes. We aren't allowed to go off-base or anything and it's like we are confined here. When we do go off-base, we have to be escorted and do lots and lots of paperwork

NM: Are you ever scared? And if so, why?

SW: Not really, though sometimes I get more nervous when on the perimeter. But I believe that God is protecting me, so I'm not afraid of whatever happens.

NM: What have you learned from being over there?

SW: I can write numbers in Arabic now, he he. Plus, I learned to appreciate how well off I'm doing back home and how good I have it and it's made me more humble and more connected to God. Also, this being the holy land is a big thing to me. I have learned that this area has a lot of biblical history. The prophet Daniel is buried in a tomb in the Kirkuk Castle and, as read in the Book of Daniel, the fiery furnace mentioned is the eternal flames that are here. It's a natural event that happens due to the natural gas in the ground seeping up though the dirt. At one time, it was ignited and has been burning for centuries.

NM: When will you return home?

SW: I can't say exactly the date as I'm not permitted, plus I'm not sure exactly either, but it's in September

NM: What do you miss most about home?

SW: My dog, my guitars, and being able to go do things and not be as bored and confined to so few activities. Not to mention, the more abundance of different food.

You are welcome to e-mail Scott via    Please put Scott Weatherman in the subject header and your letter will be forwarded.

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