I didn’t get much sleep last night. For some reason I was back in Iraq.
Last night’s dream world was about every fear I had when I was in Iraq on steroids. I woke up almost every hour in terror of IED attacks, ambushes and attacks on the small groups of advisers on Iraq bases with whom I served.
It is important to note that none of these events happened to me. I was shot at on a number of occasions but none of the terrifying instances that were part of my nightmares last night happened to me. In fact there were people in them who I know now who served in Iraq but not with me. That being said, they were terrifying and all too real in my mind. Though I never actually experienced any of them they were a part of my life and my fears that I lived with on a daily basis as I operated in Al Anbar Province during 2007 and 2008 with small groups of advisers to the Iraqi Army and Security Forces.
Nightmares and dreams are surreal. They are real, but they are not. They blend elements of our lives and our subconscious into visions that can be pleasant or terrifying. Last night was for the most part terrifying but at one point pointed to hope. That being said, I didn’t get much sleep. When I got up for a very busy yet productive day at the final day of my denominational clergy-chaplain training symposium I looked in the mirror. My eyes were bloodshot and I looked terrible.
I remembered a quote by Guy Sager, the author of the classic book of war The Forgotten Soldier:
“Only happy people have nightmares, from overeating. For those who live a nightmare reality, sleep is a black hole, lost in time, like death.”
Since I have to wake up very early for my flight back home tomorrow I do hope that my sleep is sound and my dreams for once pleasant. However, I know that such thoughts are an illusion and that like me countless thousands of other combat veterans live what I live. So my hope an prayer is that we will all be able to get at least one good night of sleep.