Time for reflection

I went with Georgia soldiers on a tour of the ruins at Ur, near Tallil Air Base in early 2006.
Spc. Jason Smith and me at Tallil. 

The Iraq war isofficially ended Thursday for the United States.
Almost nine years after America“shocked and awed” Baghdad and young men andwomen from Maine to Hawaii began dying on foreign soil, the war isover.
CNN, like other news outlets, covered the last days for U.S. troops in Iraq. One of the stories aired wasfrom Camp Adder, otherwise known as Tallil AirBase, where I spent many weeks in 2005 and 2006.
Photos of Georgia’s fallen at a memorial at Tallil.
It is deserted now. A ghost town. Sand bags returned to thedesert. Empty trailers. Abandoned medical equipment.

The last hot meal served there was on Thanksgiving Day. I rememberhow I hated walking down to the chow hall to eat. It was such a hike in windand chill. So long and lonely that I often skipped dinner. Ate Ramen noodles inmy trailer instead.

That trailer was home for me. I set it up the best I could,thankful to be out of a dusty tent, sleeping on a real mattress instead of anArmy cot. Thankful to be in a place that was relatively safe and free from therocket and mortar attacks I’d lived through on other bases.
The last laundry service at Tallil was last week. How many timesdid I turn in my olive green bag with my last name and last four of my social.Three days later, I’d get back my cargo pants and cotton shirts and if I waslucky, all my socks and underwear.

The PX is shuttered. The barber shop gone. Soon it will be hard to tell that the Americans were even here.
I was at Tallil with the Georgia Army National Guard’s 48thBrigade. At that time, there were other U.S. units stationed there, as wellas the Brits and the Italians. Everyone wanted to go eat at the Italian dininghall. They served Chianti.
I took to this Iraqi girl at a health center near Nasiriyah. She
 was one of many Iraqis I remembered as the U.S. war
formally came to an end Thursday.
Before the foreigners came, Saddam Hussein used Tallil for hiswarplanes. It was, unlike so many other U.S. camps that went up fromscratch, an established base with concrete buildings and paved roads.
Tallil, not far from Nasiriyah, was built in the shadows of the five-floorziggurat of Ur,the ancient Sumerian city that is also believed to be the birthplace ofAbraham.
The Mesopotamian wonder stood as reminder to the Americans of Iraq’sglorious past. It was so much more than the land of human misery they wereseeing.
I watched the  understatedflag-casing ceremony Thursday that marked the end of the U.S. military mission in Iraq.
I helped write the CNN.com story and as I did, memories camerushing back. Of my first trip to Iraq under Saddam; of the sufferingI had seen over the years of American soldiers as well as the Iraqi people.
Those who spoke out about war’s end, including President Obama,said they hoped the sacrifices made in war would not be in vain – that Iraqwould now be able to forge ahead.
What happens next remains a question mark but for me, today was aday of reflection. I clicked through 6,511 photographs in my Iraq album iniPhoto. I saw the faces of friends and enemies.
I saw joy and sorrow. Hope and despair. Highs and lows. And all thatcomes with war.

Read the CNN story here:

One Reply to “Time for reflection”

  1. Very nice. So much US blood and treasure sunk into the drifting sands of that ancient, foreign land. So many lives changed, ruined, remade. You've excelled as a reporter and person. Bravo Basu. And posted, oddly enough, on the very day that Hitch passed away. May he and all of it be remembered.


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