Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emotional Reticence

So, I've had a number of questions from friends and family about when exactly I will be finished with this particular time in Iraq.

I usually respond to these queries by, well, not responding at all, or at the most obfuscating any empirical answer. Although in some part this is a standard OPSEC issue, it also gets at the inherent superstition involved with being in a war zone. In addition, this inherent superstition also explains my other elements of what I call emotional reticence - my personal lack of much emotional affect, not only when I am here in Iraq, but in general over the last eight years (and, to be honest, some time before that, but that was due to a different sort of PTSD).

Although I can't say with any empirical certainty, I suspect that many soldiers experience a similar response to their own deployments. We grew up on war movies, most soldiers can quote Full Metal Jacket from memory (and most drill sergeants and privates at Basic do so at length), have seen Saving Private Ryan more times than 40 year olds have seen Star Wars, and are inherently aware of the tropes involved in these movies. As such, we know a number of things:

1) Most people who survive combat do so because of luck
2) You can cut your odds a bit through training and preparation, but at the end of the day you didn't get hit by the incoming because you just happened to choose that moment to get out of your chair.

Now, a lot of "luck" is also the Confirmation Bias, but that doesn't change the fact that soldiers believe it. And the things we believe define our universe.

Which is why you will find many soldiers following the rules on How To Survive a War Movie

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