“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time
that men have died to win them.” FDR
The Unexpected Storm is the story of one soldier's journey from the
moment he and a friend made the decision to join the military, to the quiet
beach where he found peace at last.
Steven Manchester joined the Army while still in high school. Later he
transferred to the 661st M.P. Company, a National Guard unit out of
Massachusetts. Normally the National Guard isn't sent into battle, but
Saddam Hussein made life anything but normal in 1991. Sergeant Manchester
found himself destined for Iraq, leaving behind a wife to deal with a
work-related injury and financial difficulties.
He arrived under the most beautiful sky he had ever seen with a little bit
of fear and a heck of a lot of courage and determination. He wasn't
fighting for oil as some would have him believe; he was fighting for all
the women, children, and men who had suffered under the cruel hand of a
sadistic leader. Sergeant Manchester's heart was in the right place.
The long grueling months in the hot desert took its toll. Hours turned to
days, days to weeks, and weeks to months. He witnessed children blown apart
by landmines, the twisted metal and burned soldiers in the aftermath of
technological warfare, and senseless deaths. He dealt with a platoon
sergeant who wobbled on the edge of insanity, and he was constantly sick
from the inoculations and “preventative medicines” shoved upon him by the
US government. And, though the war was over, Sergeant Manchester still felt
as if he were living on borrowed time and dodging the Grim Reaper.
I felt as if I were a ghost shadowing his every step, seeing what he saw,
hearing what he heard, and feeling his emotions. I laughed, I cried, I
smiled, but above all else I was touched beyond measure. In the end,
Sergeant Manchester sacrificed almost everything for his country and the
Iraqi people. He returned home to a hero's welcome but also to a
government that shoved him out the door and left him to fight his physical
and mental pain on his own. Finding peace within him proved to be a cruel
battle in its own right.
I recommend you read The Unexpected Storm, and then you'll understand why I continue to thank Sergeant Manchester and soldiers like him with every
breath I take.