I'M GOING TO WAR

I am such a mess of emotions right now -- it's hard to sort through them. This is my dominant feeling right now.
  1. As you may know from previous lists, I'm supposed to be moving to New York with @Hoogie
  2. I'm also an active duty Army doctor.
    I swore in and signed on the dotted line in 2008, at the height of the wars.
  3. What you may not know is that on September 11, 2001, I watched the twin towers get hit by planes with my naked eyes from my 10th grade classroom. We shut the windows because smoke was pouring in. Class stopped. Time stopped. Everything stopped.
  4. My best friend at the time insisted on strapping an American flag bandana to my arm as I walked home a few days later when school finally resumed, because she was worried I would be targeted and attacked for my Muslim faith and appearance.
  5. In the years following that time, I've been spit on, kicked, had a shopping cart shoved at me at IKEA, and discriminated against in various settings.
  6. I even started wearing the hijab as an act of solidarity with my faith and rebellion toward those who failed to see me and other American Muslims as patriotic citizens, who loved their country and contributed to it in countless ways.
    I stopped two years later because I felt invisible and marginalized on my college campus (life got dramatically, and sadly, better after removing it).
  7. I thought about enlisting in high school but decided against it because I wanted to go to college.
  8. I almost took a ROTC scholarship in college but then I found out my chances of going to med school would dwindle.
  9. So finally, when I got my medical school letter of acceptance, I called my local army healthcare recruiter and told him I wanted to join the Army.
  10. Why?
  11. Well, aside from the amazing benefits, I felt like 9/11 was a personal attack on my friends, family, and neighbors. My dad's workplace was destroyed. He got laid off for years after. And somehow, I kept hearing, "why aren't Muslims condemning terrorism?" as the media refused to give us a voice.
    It's not sensational enough that the vast majority of Muslims in America and the world are peace-loving, anti-terrorist .. PEOPLE. Humans, like anyone else. We were denied, in a way, our patriotism, nationalism, and identity, and were systematically assigned another one that was completely untrue. We simultaneously felt like victims from the attacks as we mourned our nation, as well as the hatred that poured in from so many impassioned, but ignorant, people.
  12. I felt a personal responsibility to take a stand against al Qaeda and later the Taliban for all they stole from me, other Americans, coalition forces, and citizens of the world.
  13. And I felt a personal responsibility to stand up as an American Muslim and say that we are just as American as anyone else. We defend our flag and freedoms like every other ethnic or religious group in America. We love our country.
  14. Well, last week, I was asked by my boss if I wanted the chance to deploy to Afghanistan instead of moving to my next assignment with my husband.
    He knows I've been hunting for the chance to deploy all year.
  15. My husband is a two time combat veteran. I have so much respect, admiration, and awe for his 18 months deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his commitment to remaining on active duty since then.
  16. We talked it over and made a pros and cons list (since I would be volunteering) and ultimately decided to say yes.
  17. So I told my boss.
  18. And he told human resources.
  19. And my assignments officer.
  20. And the hospital commander.
  21. And the commander at what would've been my receiving unit.
  22. And the stars aligned. Everyone said yes, let's make an exception to Army policy and let this Soldier do her combat duty instead of moving her with her husband (a huge military priority).
  23. And just like that, yesterday I received my orders to go to Afghanistan to take care of my fellow brother and sisters in arms, who willingly put themselves in harm's way.
  24. I'll be going to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed length of time on an undisclosed date.
    Sorry, I would share but 1) operational security is important and 2) I literally have no details yet.
  25. This evening, as my thoughts raced about it for the third day in a row, I found myself crying.
  26. It's not sadness at the prospect of missing my husband, family and friends, colleagues, patients, three important weddings, Bonnaroo, Dead and Company in NYC, my wedding anniversary, the election and so much more (although those weigh heavily on my conscience and I've cried about them as well).
  27. It was tears of joy.
    Because I finally, after 8 years of literal blood, sweat, and tears spent training for this moment, am getting to do what I signed up for.
  28. It was a feeling of vindication.
    That I'll get to do my small part in bringing peace, stability, and control back to Afghans, and that, in a way, I'll be sticking it to the terrorists who started this roller coaster ride we have all been on since 9/11/2001.
  29. It was a feeling of release.
    From the burden of being a one of millions of peace-loving American Muslim who struggle to be understood by so many their fellow countrymen.
  30. And it was a realization that despite the anxieties and sadness about being gone to a dangerous, foreign place, to a war that seems forgotten but continues on, I am ready to do this.
  31. P.S. (Update): I'M NOT GOING TO WAR