Alone in the desert, naked with a rifle. This was not an experience or a horrifying imprint in my brain that was a result of escaping a tortorous capture or fleeing from a combat shower.
In 2004, when I found out I was to deploy to Iraq, I started to paint as a way to cope with my angst and fear. I created this oil painting as a premonition of a more philosophical aspect. Intimatated, isolated and vulnerable with only my M16 to protect me.
I was assigned to a combat engineer company with damn good soldiers. Friends, not so much. Not because they were all bad, but because I was a female. Unfortunately, the only woman in my platoon for most of the year. Having the rank of Staff Sergeant recognized me as unrelatable, at best, to 75% of them on any given day. Many of those were spent in mental isolation, and eight hours of each day in physical isolation.
The exclusion could have had something to do with a lack of time. We were so exhausted and busy it was hard to connect with anyone. Unquestionably, it was out of respect for my husband. I was a newly married 27 year old that desperately wanted a family of my own, so I wasn’t tempted to do anything that may alter that course.
As much as that time in my life hurt, I wouldn’t change being a soldier for my country. My intuition has always been strong and entering the Army was one of the best decisions I ever made. I met my husband and ultimately ended up with two of the most precious children, more than I could ever imagined them to be.
I also want to respectively state that I was blessed to have had those guys in my life. Even if they hated my guts, I hold them in my heart with the highest respect. Many of which probably struggle with survivors guilt after losing an exceptional young man in our company. His name was SGT Joseph Nurre. Read about him here. We may not have been perfect but, We ‘got er done’.
If you paint for therapeutic reasons, go back and look at your older paintings or art to see if they were premonitions.
Read here how I coped with returning home and feelings of guilt and shame from not being that ‘perfect soldier’.