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By Jeffrey D. Barnett (a Marine officer and Iraq War Veteran):
"Before my deployment [to Iraq] I was disposed to always be active. Whether it was with work, hobbies, reading, social activities, or other things, I did not like to be idle. Now I am sometimes content to sit idle with only my thoughts. Watching the ocean, sitting in my front yard with my dog, driving at night: moments when I can contentedly reflect on life alone. Adding a few friends and a pleasant discussion to this activity is now probably my favorite pastime. I now place a much greater value on experiences, while before I almost exclusively valued achievement. And I don’t necessarily mean grand, individual achievements, but also group achievements through things like playing poker or gaming with friends.
Now, I certainly enjoyed experiences before Iraq. Going to the movies to see the latest Will Ferrell film was just as gratifying then as it is now. However, my perspective on activity has changed, and now I am content to relax and just let things happen rather than relentlessly steer every activity towards an ultimate goal. I still steer towards goals, and be sure that I am still relentless, but I now have a far more balanced desire for simple experiences. This has given me a much deeper appreciation for my experiences and those who share them with me, because I know they are just as mortal as I am.
The second change runs slightly counter to the first, causing disconnect with others: After experiencing real chaotic violence and seeing how ugly humanity can be it’s difficult to get excited about some things the rest of the world views as important. For example, about a year after I returned from Iraq a new video game was released and heavily criticized in the media for brief scenes of semi-nudity, I remember feeling frustrated that some of my friends were deployed at that time and probably facing worse circumstances than I had, yet America was in a tizzy over whether its children should be exposed to alien buttocks. At the end of the day, after you’ve seen school children walk in a single-file line past the dead body of a man executed at gunpoint, it’s difficult to care about the social degradation caused by bare buttocks in a video game."