Today I was awarded my CIB, or Combat Infantryman's Badge. It is an award given to only to infantrymen who have been in combat. It cannot be awarded to non-infantry soldiers, nor members of any service besides the Army.
For the last 30-some months earning my CIB has been a goal of mine. It is the goal of every infantryman because it denotes proficency and practice in our job; to engage the enemy in combat. If you have a CIB you have been to a war, you have fought in a war, you came home from a war. Everything we do is to prepare for war and win at war, no secondary task or more complex directive than that.
So now I have it. A 3-inch piece of black metal on my chest that tells those who know what I did. Make no mistake, I am proud to have earned it. I am proud of my job, proud of my choice to serve and proud of myself. I don't regret anything involved with my time in the Army in the least. But against my will I think; is it all worth it? Is the money and the pride worth spending three years of my life in a series of deserts? Strangers trying to kill me, people making me feel awkward in airports, crippled friends and watching the world pass me by? Is it worth a handful of cash and a matte black scrap of metal?
I can say no, it is not. But its ok because the more I think about it the more I realize I'm forgetting something. I'm forgetting I didn't decide to join up and come to Iraq for money or medals. I came because I wanted to. I had an urge, I felt a pull deep in my soul to go forth and take from this world what I could, for good or ill. And I have done that. I have followed my heart and taken a right turn off the beaten path so readilly layed out for me.
So to me my CIB means more than the combat it certifies. To me it means that in spite of my fears and uncertainty I can do fucking anything. And I'll be ok.