Tag Archives: reintegrate

Thoughts from the Road – New Jersey Campsite

Nearing the halfway mark of the tour, about to spend a week in the Big City—New York—the mission is in full swing.

And it’s definitely a mission. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme; in fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever attempted and it weighs heavy on my soul.

It’s heavy when you sit in front of your display for hours, in front of the US flag I fought under, in front of a banner urging people to hear veterans stories, and not even a single person stops to give you the time of day. It’s hard to sell a book, a story I’ve pored years of sweat and tears into, and get little response from people on the street, in the bookstores, and even my own friends and supporters.

“Hey sir, do you know anyone who served in the military?”

“Yeah! And they’re all dead!”

“Ma’am. Do you like to read?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Want to check out this book I wrote? It’s about the War in Iraq?”

“Oh. . . I think I know enough about what’s going on over there.”

A group of cute women my age.

“Excuse me ladies? Do you support your soldiers?”

Nothing. Not even a response.

One of the greatest parts about this tour is talking to vets: Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf War I, Vietnam, Korea, and even a few World War II. They stop and shake my hand, we share stories, but most of all we share knowing looks. They might be too broke to buy a book, but they check it out, and tell me I’m doing good things.

Older hobos and vagrants frequently stop and talk, more often than not, they’re Vietnam vets. They may be panhandling from other people, but they’re not looking for handouts from me.

“You a veteran?”

“Yes sir. And you?”

“Vietnam.”

“Thank you for your service sir.”

“No. . . thank you, son.” A handshake, some human acknowledgment, that’s all they want from me, and I’m more than happy to give it. We owe them, but America hung them out to dry. We demanded that the soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors of that generation go over to a jungle halfway around the world and kill for the sake of “American ideals.” They came back, many fucked in the head for what they had to do to survive, what they thought they were doing for all their loved ones and communities and nation. America called them “baby-killers” and now watch in disgust as many of them age away, take to the streets, and survive in a new jungle: an indifferent homeland.

One thing that’s been continuously reinforced throughout this entire trip is that the younger generation as a whole, my generation, does not care about the wars going on or the veterans who fought in them. If you don’t have some kind of human connection to the fight—a brother, a mother, a nephew, or cousin—then you don’t know and you don’t care. I’ve about ceased trying to sell books to people between the ages of 18 and 30—the young crowd, the hip crowd, the college crowd. These are the future leaders of America, who don’t know shit about what it really means to go to war, and you know what’s going to happen when they in turn become businessmen and lawyers and politicians and educators? They’re just going to send off the next generation to the slaughter, to kill more people halfway around the world who just want to survive and feed their own families.

But I can’t just disparage the youth, because that’s too easy. An Army buddy of mine, a brother-in-arms, who showed me a great time in his hometown and always treats me like family, is in the doghouse with his wife and in-laws because of Zarqawi’s Ice Cream.

“You did that? I can’t believe you!”

“I can’t believe I let him sleep in my house!”

“He makes the Army look bad, like you guys were a bunch of savages.”

We were a bunch of savages. You send off a bunch of teenagers to kill people halfway across the world and expect us to act like missionaries? We were just tools, so you didn’t have to get your hands bloody, so you could sleep at night and tell yourself that you’re a good person.

All the time I hear it. “I didn’t support the war.” I guess the insinuation is that you don’t have to hear about it or deal with the consequences, or even give a moment of your time to the veterans who volunteered to fight and bleed and risk insanity and give years away to a cause they can’t define or benefit from.

But you did support the war. In 2003 your Congress, your Senate, and your President decided to invade Iraq…and by overwhelming majorities. And it’s still going on. People are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers and civilians. Death is death is death.

If you want sanitized stories, if you want to keep living in a false reality and pretend like you know what’s going on, then don’t buy my book, don’t listen to the vets of Korea and Vietnam and Iraq and Afghanistan who did inhumane things to fellow human beings so that fat Americans can keep eating cheeseburgers and driving luxury cars. Know the consequences of going to war, what putting a machine gun in the hands of a teenager is going to do him and the society he lives in.

Don’t judge us, because you don’t know.

Listen to our stories.

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Filed under Book Tour, iraq war, Politics, soldier's stories

Thoughts from the Road – Texas

Highway 10, on the road to New Orleans, and it’s almost midnight. We have no idea where we’re sleeping tonight; maybe a campground, maybe a rest stop; perhaps there’ll be no sleep at all.

Van living is a tough life, and Texas spared no punches. In Huntsville we camp for the night and see an eight-foot alligator, night-stalk an armadillo, and battle with ants.

In Austin we set up shop on a street corner fair. “Circus Food,” Bob calls it. A flash rain storm makes us happy to have our umbrella. Everything gets wet. I go out to an open mic night I saw in the paper. Seven people are there, an eclectic group, when I read my chapter from the book. Thirty minutes later there’s thirty. No sales.

Back at the Circus: “Bob, Nick. You sell anything?” They’ve made a carny friend. She gives them funnel cake and beer. “Maybe three copies.” We make a few more sales, shut down, and hit the road.

In Dallas we roam Main Street until well after last call at the bars. It’s hot and we sleep in an empty parking lot downtown. I lie on the floor and fight Bob for leg room. Scratching my sweaty hide reminds me of heat sleep in Iraq, reminds me of the austerities of being on a mission.

We can’t open the door to our budget hotel room in Galveston. The guy in the room next to us burns plastic in a barbeque, commenting, “You guys are vets huh? I’m a vet.”

He looks awful. “Vietnam?”

“No,” he says, “Gulf War.” His fat kid steps outside in only his underwear and stares at us.

We find a rusty razor blade and a screwdriver bit in the bed. The headboard falls off the wall the moment we touch it. The place is a flophouse. I plant myself in front of the laptop, drink beer, and catch up on business while Bob and Nick hit the bars.

We haven’t really eaten all day and when they come back at 2:00 we’re all hungry. I’m resolved to a “beer dinner” but Bob remembers the pasta in the Van. We cook it up in his fuel stove in the hotel room and wash the dishes in the shower. Van life.

At a small bookstore in Houston I chat with the nice lady who runs the store and pick up a copy of Toqueville’s Democracy in America. Sales for the day are low, but the first book sold is to a friend from the Army who makes a special point of driving out to see us, buys the book, and invites us to a fajita dinner.

Delicious meal, my friend, and good war stories.

And then it’s back on the road.

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Iraq War Stories: A Veteran’s Catharsis

Here’s the latest story to feature Zarqawi’s Ice Cream. Iraq War Stories: A Veteran’s Catharsis was written by B.L. Turek and published on Articles Base April 18, 2011:

Andrew Goldsmith was one year into community college when he was hit with a revelation:

“Join the army, go to war,” were the words that popped into his head as he sat bored in Economics class. “It never left me,” he recalls, recounting the initial epiphany. Four months later, Goldsmith enlisted in the United States Armed Forces. He was 19.

Goldsmith served in the army from 2004 to 2009, deploying to Iraq twice for year-long tours. He was a machine gunner for an Infantry fire team during the first tour; the second time around, he was a team leader and squad leader, steadily climbing the ranks from “Private” to “Sergeant” over the course of those five years.

“I thought the Infantry was going to be more hardcore, harder somehow then it was,” he admits. “Iraq was similar: I thought somehow that there would be more combat, and that it would be more glorious.”

Still, his time in the army left a deep imprint on Goldsmith’s psyche. Upon leaving the military, he moved to Hawaii and began attending school on the G.I. Bill, studying philosophy. He also began to write…and write some more. War stories poured from his mind and onto paper, compiling into hundreds of pages worth of firsthand tales. The result is Zarqawi’s Ice Cream, a personal account of Goldsmith’s time in Iraq.

“It’s not as if I wanted to write this book,” Goldsmith says. “I had to write this book.”

Writing Zarqawi’s Ice Cream was Goldsmith’s means to a catharsis, a way to make sense of what he experienced as a soldier. The book is broken down into five parts, sequentially written from the time leading up to his enlistment to military training to combat in Iraq to Ranger School to combat again and finally, to his journey home.

“Making stories out of traumatic, stressful, and extremely influential events in our lives helps us to process them, learn from them, and live with them,” he says.

Since leaving the army and attempting to reintegrate back into civilian life, Goldsmith has been faced with a number of challenges, and in many ways, feels as though he hasn’t really left at all.

“Getting used to the mundane, steady pace of normal life is hard, and so is finding people willing to listen,” he confides. “Sometimes it seems as if I have very little in common with the people around me, especially on the college campus.”

The approximate release date of Zarqawi’s Ice Cream is May of 2011. Goldsmith will then embark on a 10,000 mile cross-country road trip for two months, promoting his book on military bases as well as in book stores.

“I’m looking forward to exchanging outrageous stories [with other soldiers and veterans], meeting people and hearing their stories, life on the road, finishing this damn [book], and seeing how people react.”

Aside from writing and philosophy, Goldsmith practices Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a passion he began cultivating nearly ten years ago while growing up in Redondo Beach, CA.

“I also like to ride my skateboard, read a lot, and take any opportunity I can to travel,” he enthuses. His impending book tour should satisfy the latter quite sufficiently!

To learn more about Zarqawi’s Ice Cream and Andrew Goldsmith’s cross-country book tour, visit http://www.iraqwarstories.wordpress.com.

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Read more: http://www.articlesbase.com/non-fiction-articles/iraq-war-stories-a-veterans-catharsis-4627284.html#ixzz1KJACsGZP

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