Seventeen years ago this month, I prepared to invade another country. My cell phone was taken and I was put on lockdown with the rest my brigade. We packed our rucksacks and duffel bags countless times until they were stripped of inessentials and we all knew exactly what we had and where it was. Fear, anxiety and mystery filled the air, combined with an endless cloud of tobacco smoke and disbelief. Nobody believed it was really going to happen.
Some of the guys obsessively read papers and watched the news while others stuck their heads in the sand and drank alcohol like it was our last week of freedom. On March 23rd, 2003, I watched on TV as American troops moved north from Kuwait into Iraq and I still did not believe it. Fear, anxiety and mystery filled the air. Nobody believed it was really going to happen. Even up to the point when we convoyed north to Aviano, Italy where 10 C-17 cargo planes lined the runway in preparation to load paratroopers like myself. I still didn’t believe it. Even when we loaded into the tightly packed aircraft with our 100 plus pound rucksacks hanging at our knees and our parachutes tightly strapped to our backs, I thought the mission would be canceled. Even when I was on the plane, where the smell of chew spit and sweat pervaded as sweat ran down my hairless chest into my crotch and down my legs. I didn’t believe we were actually flying to Iraq.
Until the doors opened and cold air rushed in and my brothers started disappearing out the door into pitch black air. The drop zone was wet and muddy. I shivered in fear and near hypothermia. I couldn’t tell if I was in Iraq or on another planet. There was snow and hail and rain and all of things I didn’t know existed in the desert. I didn’t believe any of it, until we moved south toward the incessant bombs and chaos.
It began to feel real when we were rationed one bottle of water and one MRE each day despite doing endless patrols in 120 degree temperature in full body armor. It began to feel real when we pulled security at a hospital in Kirkuk where thousands of Iraqis stormed the entrance trying to receive treatment for their family’s war wounds. It began to feel real when we set up traffic control points on the highways to search every vehicle for weapons while trying to find ex-soldiers from Saddam’s army. It began to feel real when we closed off villages from anybody coming and going and we kicked in doors trying to find people. It began to feel real when thousands of Iraqis formed chaotic lines behind rows of concertina wire to wait for hours in 130 degree temperatures for propane, water and food. It began to feel real when my body was covered in rashes and sores from lack of cleanliness, lack of toilet paper, and malnourishment. It began to feel real when we all got dysentery and leishmaniasis and began to lose weight. It began to feel real when we started getting blown up and being shot at and we starting blowing people up and shooting at them.
Even today, 17 years after I parachuted into Iraq on March 26, 2003, it sometimes doesn’t feel real. But it was; my dreams, body and reactions remember.
This Corona Virus scare may be blown out of proportion by media and people, or it may not be— I don’t know— but I sure as hell saw first hand what chaos can do to a country and it’s people— and I want my family, our neighbors, and the world to be prepared. Because preparation, physically, mentally, and spiritually— are medicine to prevent chaos. Panic is the enemy that could take us all down if we let it.
So I suggest that we band together with our neighbors, we inventory our supplies, we fill our gas cans and water cans, we clean our rifles and sharpen our knives, we strip down our necessities to the minimum and then call our family and friends and pray to whatever God we believe in for a stable mind, and we keep on praying. Because preparation is prevention to panic.
I feel truly blessed at this point in life. My pregnant wife and I live in the deep country surrounded by an abundance of life and love. We have a well for water, birch trees to tap if need be, and a fresh water creek on our property. We have seeds to grow food, an abundance of perennial fruits well established on our land, and an abundance of natural vegetation to eat. We have a rainwater collection system, solar panels with batteries, laying hens that produce almost two dozen a day and a rooster that is happy to reproduce. We have countless jars of salmon, jam, dried greens, pickled vegetables, grains and beans, with at least 40 pounds of potatoes left from last year to plant in the spring. We have instruments, art supplies, board games, books, music and movies to entertain. We have a radio to listen to the news; gasoline for generators, chain saw, 4-wheeler and vehicles and a big stack of logs to burn with a nearby beach full of coal, seaweed and salmon coming soon. We have a wood stove to keep us warm and to cook on if we run out of propane. We have a survival tote full of food and supplies that we typically wouldn’t eat. We have rifles to hunt, poles and nets to catch, and the knowledge to do both. We have acres and acres to play in fresh air and to escape the chaos. But most importantly, we have solid relationships with some of our neighbors and we have each other.
We are two people who thrive on minimalism, will power and resiliency. Two people who trust each other and have confidence in each other, with plenty of experience to stay level headed, healthy, and strong.
Who knows what the future holds regarding this virus? But I learned 17 years ago that being prepared is the best thing that I can do.