The first part of the tour in the Gulf was incredible. You should read my first update if you haven’t already done so. You should also view all of my photos when you get time. While reviewing those, it re-occurred to me that while in the Gulf, on the USS Winston Churchill, we were only 5 miles away from Iranian waters. Holy crap that’s close. Five miles in the Persian Gulf is really close. It’s like five miles in the Rocky Mountains…it can go by pretty quickly. It’s not like five miles in Iowa where it feels like an eternity to get through, where you yell “I’ve only gone 2 miles?! Holy shit I hate corn!”

Speaking of which, I learned that the Gulf over there has two acceptable names. Persian Gulf and Arabian Gulf are both used, depending on who’s talking. Since Persian is “Iranian”, Iraqis and other countries don’t call it that because they hate Iran. I wonder if we can get away with that here in the U.S. If you despise Mississippi (and come on, who doesn’t?), there are nine other state names you can adequately substitute in its place when talking about the mighty river. That’s not a bad idea, eh? And for the record, I’m not a big fan of the pompous way Lake “Superior” carries itself. Just sayin’.

After our Gulf tour, we went “into the box” of Iraq. We took a C-130 into Baghdad. The C-130 is a giant aircraft equipped with state of the art technology for the troops…except it apparently requires an act of Congress to get seat cushions. My ass is still asleep from sitting on a canvass-covered lead pipe, strategically positioned to keep you awake, as if the four roaring engines weren’t enough to remind you that you’re in a war zone. We landed using evasive maneuvers, just in case we took on surface-to-air rocket fire. After landing, I kissed the ground like it was a woman and I was a sailor in Times Square in 1945, only I used tongue and promised to write.

The first thing we noticed was how cold it was in Iraq. It was about 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit, which may not seem bad, but 40 degrees in Iraq is not like 40 degrees in the Rocky Mountains, where you don’t care because the scenery is gorgeous. It’s like 40 degrees in the middle of Corn-ass, Iowa, when you honestly think that God may be on some sort of coffee break. Have I drawn the Iowa analogy clearly enough?

Anyway, the tour included stops at FOBs (Forward Operating Bases), PBs (Patrol Bases), and COBs (Command Operating Bases). I personally don’t know why the military uses acronyms when talking to civilians, because after every one we have to ask what they mean, which only prolongs the conversation and therefore defeats the whole purpose of using them. We traveled around central and northern Iraq, because when it’s 30 degrees at night time, that’s where you want to go…fuckin’ NORTH! But we didn’t care that much because it was only temporary, and it was for the troops who were stuck there for 15 months. So we shook off the cold and had a blast.

However, around the fourth day into the Iraq tour, I came down with something. It felt like the flu. Aches, chills, fever, nausea, and because I was in Iraq…it gave me the Shiites. I tried to plow through it, but I got too miserable and went to the hospital on the base. The doctors were quite helpful, although one who I will call Dr. R apparently didn’t know I was a hypochondriac and after reviewing my information told me, “I don’t think it’s malaria.” Great. Thanks for emphasizing your uncertainty. Can you notarize my will?

After they gave me what seemed like all of Saddam’s medicine chest, I was on my way. Thankfully, on the day I felt the worst, it snowed and grounded our helicopter which gave me time to rest without travel. That’s right, people…it snowed in Iraq and they were gleeful with the strange phenomenon. I overheard one local say, “Unbelievable! What’s next? Seeing a woman’s ankles?!”

After Iraq we headed to Kuwait, where we celebrated my birthday. An Air Force girl sang to me at Camp Patriot. Just so you know, to be politically correct…the men in the Air Force are called Airmen, and the women are called “vixens”. Not sure how accurate that is, but someone wrote it on a port-a-john wall so it must be true. I also read that Lieutenant Barrington’s mom likes Marine ass and Captain Whitworth is an asshole.

It was an amazing trip to say the least. I worked with three great comics–Tom Foss, Jesse Joyce, and Robert Hawkins. I’m sure you’ll hear more of them in the future.

The troops at FOBs/COBs Washington, Liberty, Prosperity, Speicher, Warrior, Iskan, Victory, and Patriot, and at PB Yusufiyah were amazing. We had a great time entertaining them. So a special shout out to them. I especially want to tell you about the Peter Burks Store. At FOB Prosperity, the chaplain, Captain Bryan Smith has opened this “store” in memory of a brave soldier killed in action. Everything donated is given away to soldiers based there to cut down on costs…toiletries, books, games, DVDs, etc. And school supplies are given to the very needy and grateful local schools. It’s basically a media story that you’ll only hear about through grassroots efforts like this. If you would like to contribute, please do so to the following address:

Capt. Bryan Smith
The Peter Burks Store
4/2 SCR, FOB Prosperity
APO AE 09348

The situation in Iraq is getting better. Regardless of your opinion on why we invaded, the troops deserve your support and prayers. This was my third tour there and it’s remarkably better than it was in 2005. Concerned Iraqi citizens emerge daily, the insurgents are on the run, and the people are realizing how we’re helping them. No, it’s not perfect, but when I hear stories of how Saddam brutally executed the nation’s soccer team for not winning a gold medal, or how he built ornate palaces for himself while citizens lived hungry, or how he held parties for his sons who raped whoever they wanted, killed his own people with weapons that people somehow think don’t exist, I can’t help but think that it’s better now and improving. Many of you will disagree, and that’s cool. Nevertheless, thank a veteran for the opportunity to voice your opinion without getting shot. I do everyday.

Thanks to everyone who made this tour possible and enjoyable, specifically Rich Davis of Davis Entertainment and Comics On Duty ( I look forward to the next one, hopefully without malaria.

Categories: Columns