Tag Archives: Iraq

I Love a Dead Kid Whom I’ve Never Met

I have been going through a quarter life crisis since I turned 20, almost eight years ago.  Unfortunately, my quarter life crisis has not included cool cars, hot 18 year olds with six packs or new hair-cuts.  My crisis has been a whirlwind of self-doubt, an anesthetized heart, and an overall identity crisis.  In other words, middle class white girl problems.  So, what did I do instead of the hot 18-year-old?  I signed up to volunteer and I got a tattoo to commemorate a dead kid I’ve never met.  When I got the tattoo, it was during a time that I was having very high anxiety.  I don’t think that anything we do is truly altruistic.  Even the acts we label as “selfless,” we still do as a way to make ourselves feel good about ourselves.  It’s a bonus that someone or something else is also benefiting.  Volunteering is a perfect example.  My distracted point is however, that I suppose one could say that I’m exploiting the boy whose name is now tattooed on my leg, but I’m perfectly comfortable with that accusation because I don’t feel that I am.

Years after Nick’s first deployment, the boy I speak about in Aristotle and a Story of Love, a book was written about his unit titled, “They Fought for Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq” written by Kelly Kennedy.  It is an excellent book.  I fancied myself some sort of anti-war advocate back then.  I thought that because I KNEW that this war was wrong, and that I could back up my statement with fancy political terminology and passionate rhetoric on foreign policy, that that meant something.  God was I naive.  This book provides unexpected perspective, and gives a face to what the war truly is to the troops; just a bunch of kids fighting for one another.  Without a cause, these soldiers only have one another to fight for and they can’t abandon that.  That’s their true call of duty.  Each other.  I better stop myself now, before I go on a rant about this imperialist war that was created through ignorance.

I had no idea that Nick’s unit was the hardest hit until he told me about this book and suggested that I read it.  Of course I did, and it was a strange experience because as I was reading these accounts of woeful events, I could remember hearing about them when they actually occurred.  Nick didn’t talk too much about the war, but when he was able to call from Iraq, and when he felt like sharing, there were a few stories that stuck out in my mind.  For example, one I remember him telling me happened when he was out on patrol.  One of the sergeants just got out of the Humvee saying, “fuck this,” walked a few yards away, and shot himself.  It made me sick to my stomach when he told me.  That awful event was recounted in the book, so it was a strange thing reading about these accounts that I actually remembered happening.

One of the guys that was often brought up in the book was Sgt. Ryan Wood.  Obviously, a lot of soldiers were discussed, but whenever the author wrote about Ryan Wood, I couldn’t help but think, I really like this guy.  As I kept reading, this feeling grew.  He wanted to go to art school after he was done with the Army, and they described him as being the one who, “often served as the conscience of the second platoon.”   He kept his morals intact, at a time when I can only imagine it would be far easier to let go of moral principles.  He was quoted as saying, “we can’t be like them,” during times when most other soldiers were revenge thirsty and simply wanted to murder every Iraqi because their best friend was just killed by some stupid fucking IED buried under some trash on the side of the road.  I can’t say that I blame them.  Hating is easy.  It helps to make sense of things that don’t make sense… like war.  But Ryan Wood saw the “enemies” as humans when no one else could.  When you’re fighting for your life everyday, to save your mind from yourself, I’d imagine that you’d have to create an enemy  monster in order to attempt to keep yourself at least mildly sane.  But Ryan Wood was strong.  Throughout the book, I developed a crush on this kid.  He seemed funny and smart and just someone who I would get along with and should be friends with.

As I was in the process of reading the book, I found myself wondering what he was doing now.  Was he at art school?  Did he have PTSD?  Is he married now?  Is he happy?  It was strange that I felt close to a guy that I didn’t know.  At the end of the book, you find out that Ryan Wood died in Iraq.  I literally cried.  Cried for a boy that I will never know.

It’s been years since I completed the book, but I still find myself thinking about Ryan Wood from time to time.  Not a lot, but every couple of months or so, he’ll just pop into my mind.  I never told anyone this because it seemed like a deranged fixation, but I began to embrace the idea.  I love the idea of remembering people you will never knew.  People whom most of the world will never know.  We remember grand heroes and legends, but people who you see in antique photographs, and people whose handwriting you find on vintage postcards, and people who are buried at the pretty cemeteries I visit, all with small gravestones from 1879 who no one in this living world probably remembers anymore…  I like remembering those people.  And I like remembering Sgt. Ryan Wood.  The boy whom I love, but will never know.

I would like to conclude this with a very profound statement: Fuck war.


Not a very clear picture, but it's a day of the dead skeleton holding a medic symbol with, "R. Wood" inscribed in it.

Not a very clear picture, but it’s a day of the dead skeleton holding a medic symbol with, “R. Wood” inscribed in it.

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Aristotle and a Story of Love

I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone as much as I loved Nicholas Weston Golden.  I’ve always been a sucker for hot names, it may be the screenwriter in me, and Nicholas Weston Golden takes first place at SATNA (Sexy Author-Type Name Awards).  I met Nick when I was eighteen years old, working as a host at Outback Steakhouse.  He was a busser and I’ve loved him in some way ever since.

Nick has this ability to make you feel protected just by looking at you.  Girls have always been drawn to him because of this, and because he is just good.  While this may sound cheesy and rash, Nick is everything that is right in the world.   I was lucky because while everybody loved him, he loved me.  Of course, being who I was then, I always had a few boys, at the same time, that I was involved with in one way or another, declaring that I was anti-relationships.  We were young, so all of them put up with me, which is something I am eternally grateful for, but will never forgive myself for.  Those sad tales however, are for a different day.

Nick joined the Army, which was something I desperately did not want him to do, but I think he felt like he had no choice.  In a story about heartbreak, that could be the most heartbreaking of it all, because I know he could have done anything.  In late 2006, I believe, he was deployed to Iraq, and during those tormenting months of him being gone, I’ve never loved anyone more than I loved him.  The rest is history.  Life happens, people get away, we give too much or give too little, but we try.  Nick is now engaged to be married.

I’m not bitter about this, which surprised me, and is what brought on this random musing which will come to a point, I promise.  I am of course not thrilled at the idea of him getting married and I don’t pretend to be, not even to him, but I am truly happy if he is happy.  We hear that expression all of the time, but in most cases, we’re full of shit.  This is the first time that I’ve said it and been one hundred percent genuine, and the feeling did take me by surprise.  I suppose I still love and respect Nick far too much to have any real bitterness toward him.

I’ve been in many relationships, said I love you and meant it, in some way or another, to many people, but I wonder why… what it was that made me love Nicholas Weston Golden unlike anyone before or since.  Maybe it was because he was gone and I missed him so much to the point of it being crippling.  Or maybe it was because of all of the handwritten letters, there is something romantic about the mail.  Or maybe it was because he needed me.  He still, to this day, credits me for getting him through Iraq alive, which could be the most important thing I’ll ever do in my entire lifetime.  I think it was all of those reasons, but I also think it was because he was so near death, which brings me to my point.

Aristotle said that unrequited love is the most powerful form of love.  Therefore, the love of the dead (since loving a dead person would be the ultimate unrequited love) is the most powerful of all human emotions.  Of course he said this much more eloquently and in many more words… I’m just paraphrasing.  Thinking about Nick reminded me of Aristotle’s philosophy, and I think good ole’ Stotle was right.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I loved Nick the most because he was so close to death.  Of course, my love for him was reciprocated, but during that year of his deployment, I was constantly scared of him dying which in theory, could correlate to why I loved him so differently.  The question is, does this cheapen our love, or does it make it more beautiful and powerful?  I’m going with the latter.

For a second I was worried that loving him more because he was at war, somehow cheapened things. I was wrong and I think it actually allowed us to have a certain connection that many people will never know, and let us experience something so profound, that we should be honored to have felt that together.  Had Nick not gone to war, I still would have loved him very very much, and I know he would have loved me, but I also know now, that it would not have been the same love.  That however, makes it all the more special.  Realizing this allowed me to more easily come to terms with his marriage.  Nick and I were perfect for each other during that time and place, and had it been anyone else, it would not have worked.  In a way, I think, we kind of saved each other.

The notion that it takes death to experience the most profound of human emotions is heartbreaking in my mind, but somehow romantic as well.  After the love of the dead, in second place must be the thought and dread, of someone’s possible impending death.  So thanks to Aristotle, I now know that loving Nicholas Weston Golden may have been the most romantic and true thing that I’ll ever experience.

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