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Home is Where You Hang Your Armor – The Concept of Home for Those Who Have Served in the Armed Forces

Home is Where You Hang Your Armor – The Concept of Home for Those Who Have Served in the Armed Forces

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Somewhere in Iraq during the 2003 invasion

Lattes with Leia Show #4: Going Home discussed the concept of “home” in Star Wars. One of Andrea and Amy’s topics was how characters viewed different locations or ships as home. They also talked about the millions of Imperials stationed aboard the two Death Stars at the times of their destruction. The two hosts asked if people who are currently serving, or veterans of, the (real world) military thought of their bases or places of duty as home. As a veteran of active duty and a currently-serving Reservist myself, I’m eager to share my thoughts on the matter. I am limiting the scope of my post to “home” while deployed to a combat zone.

The first idea that came to mind when Andrea and Amy brought up the subject was a particular vehicle. In 2003, during the invasion of Iraq, I spent the vast majority of my time moving through the desert in a light armored vehicle which I’ll refer to as “V5.” V5 had a crew of five Marines, including myself. We had our assigned spots, our assigned areas for storing our personal gear, and our assigned roles. When we slept, we slept in crew order on the ground on the left side of our beloved V5, as did all the other vehicle crews. Why on the left? Because if another vehicle needed to get past us, they’d pass on the right – and not run us over. Once we were within range of enemy artillery, we dug shallow trenches to sleep in, so that we would be less likely to get hit with shrapnel in case of attack.

V5 was our little home on wheels – our recreational vehicle, if you count what we were doing as “recreation.” No matter where we went through the country, we had our basic necessities, spare parts, and plenty of ammunition – and each other – encased in metal, armor, and chemical-resistant paint. To tell the truth, it was the worst Spring Break I’ve ever been on, but at least I was there with good people. We knew each others’ voices on the intercom, and we could read each others’ body language and facial expressions. If there was work to be done, we all pitched in. We tried to hook one another up with our favorite MREs [Meals, Ready to Eat – three lies for the price of one] whenever we could. We all took our turns standing watch, safeguarding our brothers* while they slept, ate, or did other tasks.

When you gotta go....

When you gotta go….

When it was time to leave V5 and come home – and in my case, it meant North Carolina, where I was stationed – I bid a fond farewell to V5. Long story, but V5 and the rest of the crew was from another unit that had been on loan to our battalion for the duration of the campaign. I never saw that vehicle again, but I surely remember it well. V5 got me nearly all the way through a war-torn country and back without a scratch on me. We all had bad days, but we had good ones, too. We gelled as a crew and our vehicle had much to do with that.

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Mosul? No, let’s go to Tikrit. Make sure to put on your turn signal!

Five years later, I deployed to Iraq again. I joke that my two Iraq tours were separated by five years literally and a million years figuratively. Many of my friends agree with the sentiment. By 2008, it was a much different fight than in 2003, and I was in a different unit with a different mission. My company was housed in a specific area on a major base, and I did not fight my 2008 war from an attack-type vehicle. Our area wasn’t much at all, but again, we made the best of what we had. Plus, we had showers, actual flushing toilets, and hot meals in an air-conditioned building THREE TIMES A DAY! It was amazing. We had none of that in 2003.

A small village just east of Ramadi. Thinking about buying the place….

Several months after we had arrived at that camp, our higher headquarters informed us that we would be required to uproot all of our stuff and move to another part of the camp to be co-located with the rest of the battalion. Besides the fact that it made no sense from a practical standpoint (as our heavy gear was parked right next to the maintenance battalion), we were being asked to leave our home. All the improvements that we had made to the camp in an effort to better our situation, all the personal touches we had added, were to be cast aside. It was truly frustrating, but we “Marine-d” up and did what we needed to do.

Amy and Andrea pointed out that one’s thoughts about whether a place is home or not may depend on if they are there by choice. In both of the situations I described, I was, in the grand scheme of things, there by choice; I volunteered to join the Marine Corps. However, my presence in Iraq, albeit again by my choice, was also enforced by law under the contract that I had signed. A key difference between the current all-volunteer** force and the Rebel Alliance is that the rebels could just leave if they wanted to. Claudia Gray’s fantastic novel Lost Stars has a scene in which a newcomer to the Alliance is told by his superior that as a volunteer, he is free to go at any time. Han Solo certainly left when he wanted to in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but at that point he was really only a rebel in the literal sense of the word. In Timothy Zahn’s Choices of One, Han Solo wrestled with the concept of joining the Rebel Alliance officially. It was probably no accident that the character named “solo” wasn’t sure that he wanted to settle down – sometimes physically, definitely figuratively – with the Alliance. The Millennium Falcon had been his only home for quite a while.

I am glad that Andrea and Amy explored the topic of “home” in Star Wars. This episode really made me think about my own views of what I as a veteran thought of as my home during my combat tours. I appreciate your indulgence as I veered away from the galaxy far, far away during this post, and I hope you found it to be an interesting addition to the Lattes with Leia discussion.

Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –

This is the podcast you’re looking for!

Contact me at MediocreJedi@coffeewithkenobi.com or on Twitter @MediocreJedi.

our battalion was all male

** or “all-recruited” force, as few people actually volunteer, and most are actively sought out by hardworking recruiters

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2 Comments

  1. Melinda
    May 16, 2016 at 09:43 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story. 🙂 I enjoyed your tale immensely. (As a fellow Marine — although I have not been on active duty for more than 20 years … once a Marine, always a Marine 🙂 — I never saw action overseas, but I do like to hear such stories. Not everyone is willing to share their stories. I appreciate the opportunity to learn part of what you endured. And — thank you for your service! 🙂 )

    “Home” is a very interesting concept, is it not? I basically consider my “home” to be where I live, but until my folks sold the house in which I grew up, I considered my childhood home “home”, too. My daughters live in their own homes (very far away, unfortunately), and while both of them consider their respective apartments their real homes, they also call their childhood home here in WI “home”, too.

    To my way of thinking (for whatever that’s worth 😉 ), “home” has more to do with to where one has a connection — and that can be to more than one place. Home is where the heart is. 🙂 And I bet it works that way in the Star Wars Galaxy, too. 🙂

    MTFBWY 🙂

  2. Pam Bruchwalski
    May 18, 2016 at 22:33 Reply

    Such a great subject. Thank you for your service and for sharing.

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