I was never good following orders. But my dad always made sure I got what I deserved when I didn't. When I joined the Marines it wasn't by choice either. Well, in my dad's mind it would make me a better man. A "Yes, Sir!" kind of man. The kind of son he dreamed of. I am now what my dad wanted. But it's no use. I ponder here, in retrospective, about the decisions I made in the past seven years. I had the chance of pulling out many times, living a normal life. But the more I waited the harder it got. This is what I do. This is what I'm good at. My father is long dead. My mother has married again, I haven't seen her in years. And now: this letter. I've walked miles with a pack on my shoulders, a rifle in my hands and only one thing in my mind: Abey! We met back in Buffalo in a Japanese-American restaurant, the kind of place that serves both cheeseburgers and Fish Bowls. She was a waitress there. She had me at "Can I get you something to drink?". We dated for years, always long distance. I would go back home whenever I could just to see her. My dad always thought it was to antagonize him though. She always asked me why I was still in the military, why couldn't I just move back to Buffalo and get a job at Earl's Garage or something. Sometimes I asked myself the same questions. But only to realize I had no other skills and honestly the idea of moving to Italy, even if it was only for a year, sounded better at the time. But it's no use. No freaking use to change my mind now. She left me for a scrawny college teacher! And all I got was a letter saying sorry. I have no reason to go back to Buffalo anymore. In a way it clarifies a lot of my dilemmas. I feel sad but relieved. The last time I cried was in my dad's funeral. He never had eyes for the man I became, only for the angry kid I was. And right now I'm crying because I lost the last thing that gave me a bit of hope. My only true friend, my girlfriend. When you live in military bases is hard to make friends, they will only last you a couple of years. I had my share of them. Never cared, till now. Tomorrow we start training for the Mulberry Ridge mission. We should be leaving in a week. Some of the guys here at base keep saying how lucky I am. An easy assignment inside of the country, instead of being sent to Iraq. Besides seeing Ben for the first time in 2 years, I could care less. I met Sgt. Palmer last night and the guy is as rude as they get. But I'll do my best. This is what I am. And right now, that's all I have left.

by Corporal John Harris, September 05, 2005