High Dives and Manicures at Saddam’s Presidential Palace
Baghdad, July 15, 2003 –
As far as I was concerned, the war was over. The president said so and we weren’t shooting anyone; we were just killing time, waiting for the word to go home. We spent our days moping around, trying not to sweat too much in our cement buildings as the Iraqi summer heat got hotter. We still did missions, but they felt more like a way of keeping us from going completely stir crazy than anything else—the way your dad might suddenly decide to take you to the park after spending the whole day watching cartoons.
One morning, our battalion chaplain came to our small firebase in Baghdad and told us that he had to go to one of Saddam’s palaces for meetings and wanted to take a couple of infantry squads with him so we could enjoy the facilities. He said there was a big pool and told us we could spend the day swimming, eating good food, and calling home.
It was an easy sell to our commanders, who were already looking for ways to raise morale. And, luckily for me, I was in one of the first two squads chosen to visit the palace.
That evening we excitedly packed all of our army-regulation vacation gear into camouflage assault packs. A good friend had a giant orange and yellow towel sent to him from home. We gave him shit for it, but he packed it anyway.