Prayer at Rumayla

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9781401030452: Prayer at Rumayla
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In the spring of 1991, nineteen-year-old Chet Brown arrived home from the Gulf War. Yellow ribbons were everywhere, families were reunited, and the nation breathed a sigh of relief at the quick and painless victory over Iraqi forces.
 
But for Chet Brown, that victory was neither painless nor easy. Troubled by rage he can't explain and nightmares he can't stop, he finds himself moving through a world where little makes sense anymore.
 
When the people he depended on the most turn their back on him, Chet travels across the country in search of meaning behind the horrors of his war.

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About the Author:

Charles Sheehan-Miles served in a tank company during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Since the war he has been an outspoken advocate for ill Gulf War veterans. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he currently lives with his wife and two children in suburban Washington, DC.

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Angry, I reply, "No, you think you can change it, not me. You think you can step in like some guardian angel and suddenly change who I am. Well, let me tell you something, sheriff -- maybe I'm not what I used to think I was, but at least I know. At least I know. I'm not interested in being helped or changed by you, I got my own life. And let me tell you, I'm sure as hell not going to change myself just to make you feel like Vietnam was worth a shit. That's why you've been talking to me -- to convince yourself that your friend getting his head blown off mattered, that that old lady y’all blew away for no reason had some meaning. It didn't. It didn't mean a goddamn thing, anymore than the poor pathetic Arabs I killed."

"Tell me about it."

"Isn't it enough to tell you that it was a war? What need is there to say any more? You're a Vietnam vet. You should know. We're the ones who grew up in the shadow of Vietnam. We grew up in the shadow of Mylai and Hiroshima and all that shit. And you sit there and tell me there was no ground combat in the gulf. Do you really think the media was telling you the truth? Do you think the government was telling you the truth?"

He leans back away from me, his eyes narrowing, but I am to far gone, and I say, "I'll tell you the truth, Sheriff. We charged across Iraq and killed everything in our goddamn path, we left a trail of burning vehicles and broken bodies hundreds of miles long. If it moved, then it was the enemy, and we killed our fair share of civilians too. And you people sat back here and cheered us on and waved the goddamn flag and didn't ask questions and that blood is on your hands just as much as mine. I say fuck you, and fuck your goddamn parades and fuck your country. I didn't deserve a welcome home parade. I deserved a prison cell. You people made us into monsters. Do you hear me? You made me into a monster, and I look in the goddamn mirror now and all I can see is blood, all I can see is the blood of the lives I took."

I lean forward and speak, my words rough. "I remember the day we left Iraq. We were back on highway eight, lined up in battalions and brigades for the road march back to Saudi Arabia. Columns of smoke from burning oil wells rose into the darkened sky, and hundreds, maybe thousands of refugees were streaming out of Basra into the interior of Iraq. I don't know what condition the city was in, where they were going. Families, women, children, deserting soldiers, all of them in this slow exodus past us. Sergeant Mayer had picked up somebody's pet dog, was carrying it inside the tank. And the kids -- all those kids, so many of them had lost their fathers, and they were hungry, hungry, they were willing to pay almost anything for a MRE."

I look away at the wall, at anything. I don't want to talk anymore, and Daniels is still staring at me as if he wants me to continue.

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