[Note from Kathie Malley-Morrison: In recognition and appreciation of his anti-war efforts, Engaging Peace offers the first installment of Ross Caputi’s story]
My unit returned from Iraq to Camp LeJeune, North Carolina, in January of 2005. When we arrived on base we were met by crowds of cheering friends and family members.
In the weeks and months that followed, newspapers published articles praising us. Authors interviewed us and wrote books about what we had done in Fallujah. A filmmaker began making a documentary about us. People thanked us for our service, parties and parades were thrown in our honor, and everyone was calling us heroes.
We were met with a wave of praise and veneration, and we rode that wave as if it would never break, celebrating and drinking recklessly.
But eventually that wave did break, and it faded away like all waves do. Yet after our moment of fame had come and gone, we continued celebrating and our drinking only intensified.
The end of that winter and the year that followed are a period of my life that I will never forget. On the surface everyone in my unit was triumphant, proud, and confident.
Perhaps I was the only one, or perhaps there were others, who felt confused and depressed behind that happy facade. I was taking trips with some of the guys from my unit into the ghetto to buy drugs. Maybe they were feeling like I was, indifferent toward life and death; or maybe they felt invincible after having survived Fallujah.
I got the impression that what was driving them was quite different from what was driving me. There was a feeling in my gut that, at that time, was incomprehensible and inexplicable.
Ross Caputi, former Marine, founder of the Justice for Fallujah Project, and former president of the Boston University Anti-War Coalition