Monday, May 15, 2006

O God, come to my assistance

Make haste to help me.

Bad stuff happened in Iraq, stuff Adam Reuter doesn't want to talk about. Not with his friends, not with the line cooks in the burger joint where he worked when he first came home or the tenants in the apartment complex he manages now.

He doesn't even want to talk about it with his wife, who worried because he was jumping out of bed in the middle of the night.

But when he agrees to talk about the war -- really talk about it -- he goes right to how the insurgent crumpled after he pulled the trigger. How later, during the firefight, he ended up just a few feet from the corpse. Bullets buzzed by, and he was supposed to keep an eye on the alley, but he couldn't help but glance over.

"He just lay there," Reuter remembers. His eyes and mouth open. His whiskers a few days old. The bullet had gone in his neck cleanly, just to the right of his Adam's apple, but had come out ugly from the back of his head. He was maybe 25, a little older than Reuter. And his blood was pooling, thick and almost black in the darkness.

How can you describe what that was like? Who would understand it?

Nobody. So Reuter keeps his mouth shut. His army uniform is packed in a box in the garage. He hasn't looked at it in months. Instead, he kisses his baby boy every night. He gets on with his life, because that's what everyone else is doing.

At home in Newnan, Ga., there is no war.

"It doesn't cross their minds," Reuter said. "To them, everything is fine."

After three years, there are at least 550,000 veterans of the Iraq war. The Washington Post interviewed 100 of them -- many of whom were still in the service, others who weren't -- to hear about what their war was like and how the transition home has been.

Their answers were as varied as their experiences. But a constant theme through the interviews was that the American public is largely unaffected by the war, and, despite round-the-clock television and Internet exposure, doesn't understand what it's like.

You can't understand unless you were there.
Give us, O God, the needs of the body,
Give us, O God, the needs of the soul;
Give us, O God, the healing balsam of the body,
Give us, O God, the healing balsam of the soul.

Give us, O God, the joy of repentance,
Give us, O God, the joy of forgiveness,
Wash Thou from us the lees of corrupion,
Cleanse Thou from us the stain of uncleanness.

O great God, Who art on the throne,
Give to us the true repentance,
Give to us the forgiveness of sin--
Sin inborn and actual sin.

Give to us, O God, strong love,
And that beautiful crown of the King;
Give us, O God, the home of salvation
Within the beauteous gates of Thy kingdom.

May Michael, bright warrior of the angels,
Be keeping evil enemies down;
May Jesus Christ Son of David
Be giving us hospitality in the brightness of peace.

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