I look back at the last year and am a bit amazed at all that I have done and seen. For a kid that grew up in Arkansas and became a truck driver, what I have done this year is beyond anything I thought I would ever do. I know to those of you that have been in the Military, all this is probably business as usual. Till September last year, the only time I have ever left the US, was to deliver freight into Canada. So, flying half way around the world to drive a truck is simply amazing. Then to think that it was in a war zone with bullets and explosives, and was voluntary, well, I some times wonder what the hell I was thinking. But ya know, I wouldn’t trade any of it. It has been a great year. I have been through quite a bit. Not just with the job, but personally.
When I stepped on that plane in Memphis and flew to Houston, I don’t think I had any idea what I was getting myself into. Oh yes, I knew it was a war zone, I knew the culture was going to be different, and I knew that I was going into something that was mostly done by men. Course, when has that ever stopped me. When I started driving a truck 14 years ago, there were not to many women driving single out there. Most of the ladies out there were running with their husbands or boyfriends. I had a fight to get the people in the industry to accept me as did any other women that were driving to make a living. But this was going to be a foreign land, a war zone, and an Arab culture. Several friends that have been in the military tried to give a heads up on what I was going into. I listened and went any way.
I remember the first time I crossed the border into Iraq. I was nervous as hell. That morning I had been late getting out to PWC where we pushed from at that time. I was told the bus left at 0400 and that was wrong. I was so scared that I was going to miss my first mission and I was just sick about it. Andy, the British guy that was the foreman at PWC for reefers at that time, just went off when I got out there. I thought he was really mad at me. I have now come to learn that the Brit’s are just that way. Every culture has it’s quirks and you have to learn what they are when you work with a multi-national group. Andy is a great guy and I am glad that I had the chance to work with him and the same goes for all other non-Americans. People are people, it doesn’t matter where they come from.
In Houston and after I had got to Kuwait, I had heard about how the children would lay across the road and try to stop the convoy. We had been told that we were not to stop for anything. I had all these thoughts running through my head about these kids. I didn’t want to run over them, but I also didn’t want to be killed on my first mission. So, as we crossed the border, I prayed that there would not be any children in the streets. My stomach was in my throat. And we got lucky and the kids were being good that day.
To think back on the fear that I had running through me on that first mission and the fear that I had on my last few missions, well, they are totally different. In the beginning, I had no idea what it was like to drive a truck in a convoy in Iraq. And now, it is so different than what it was when I first got there, it isn’t funny. In the beginning, I had no idea what it was like to have people shooting at me trying to kill me just because I was an American and trying to help our troops. Now, I have seen the muzzle flashes from the weapons as they reign their fire down on me and the guys that I am leading. I have seen, heard and felt the bullets as they pass through my truck. I have watched as a comrade that has been hit leaves with the medics. But in the beginning, my curiosity was so great, to see that for which I had never seen. In the end, I was just grateful if we didn’t get shot at that day. I have been from Kuwait to Mosul and out to Fallujah, and into a few camps that are no longer there. I have seen the City of Ur and I have seen the bombs left by the Iraqi Army sitting on the ground. I have met children that are trying to hustle you for anything that they can get. And I have seen those same children become kids again after a while and just want your attention and to play. I have seen women hit in the street because they did something that their husband didn’t like. And I have seen the eyes of the little girls and women widen to see a woman driving a truck. I once was asked if I was preaching to the women that they didn’t have to bow down to their men and doing my part to liberate their minds. My answer was that I didn’t have to. All I had to do was drive my truck. Seeing a woman driving a truck was enough to put the thought into their heads that women are good for than making babies and domestic duties. So, you don’t have to always preach your ideas, you just have to live them.
Now I am back home in the U.S. And it feels almost as weird being here as it did when I first went to Kuwait. The adjustment is not coming easy. I miss the guys I ran missions with and I miss the life. Yes, I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I think you have to be to live voluntarily in a war zone. But, like many of us said over there, when you leave the wire, it doesn’t matter where you are from, what color you skin is, or even if you like the person in the truck behind you, we are all a family, we are all brothers and sisters. Our lives are in the hands of each and every other member of the convoy, soldier and civilian. That is a bond that will never be broken, no matter where we go the rest of our lives.
I am proud to say that I was a civilian contractor in Iraq. I am proud to say that my son is a soldier. I am proud to be an American.