A soldier's story of being subjected to the harsh and threatening world

Essay by red252A+, October 2009

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When I went to London for a military assignment I was told that I was not allowed to wear my military uniforms and that I would have to wear civilian clothing because I was in the US military and that was looked down upon in London because of the war. My assignment was at the London MCA, Heathrow Airport, working with all military mail going into and out of Iraq, Korea, and other countries. I was checking for anthrax and bombs that might be coming to and from the US, as well as preparing for President Bush’s arrival to meet with the Queen. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into, I felt like raw meat waiting to be cooked on a platter by barbarians. I have never felt as threatened by anyone as I did while I was in London because I could not retaliate towards these people who have no morals and a wrong political view but are quick to call the US for help.

My short stay began in November of 2004. I had just gotten to my duty assignment at Heathrow Airport when a civilian security guard, that appeared to be Pakistani, grabbed me by my arm and began to pull me across the airport dock. I snatched my arm away and began to yell at the civilian security guard for grabbing me. He did not feel that my military ID was sufficient and was about to arrest me for trespassing on a secured airport dock. He also informed me that in his country they are allowed to grab people like that. I quickly informed him that I was not in his country, wherever it might be, and that I was in London working with the military. I made it clear that if he ever put his hands on me again I would have him arrested for assault. My sergeant heard the commotion and came to see what had happened. I explained the situation and my sergeant also informed the security guard that he could be prosecuted for harming “government property” and that he had better not put his hands on me again. From that point on I felt uncomfortable and threatened by the people in London.

Later, after President Bush landed at Heathrow Airport in London there were terrible protests against the US, President Bush, and Tony Blair. People posted signs stating that blood was thicker than oil and that the war was our fault. I could not leave my hotel for days because of all the protesters outside I could have been killed. When I was finally able to leave the hotel, one of my Sergeants and I went to Central London to take pictures of the signs people had posted about our country. We took pictures and we were talking about how awful the signs were when a guy came from behind one of the signs and started yelling at us. He told us we were “stupid American bitches” who had no right to be there because all we cared about was oil. He also said we are the cause for the war. He continued to yell at us and follow us around. Both my sergeant and I told the guy to leave us alone and let us go about our business, but he would not stop harassing us. We began to walk away and he stepped on my heel, so I turned around. I had all I could take. Then he spit on my sergeant and I for being in the military and told us we deserved a lot more. We ignored the vulgar comments he was making, but when he spit on me, I felt threatened and outraged. I had never been so disrespected in my life. I take pride in what I do and was not about to let a foreigner take my pride away. Being in another country and being on military duty stopped me from punching the guy in the face. I would have went to jail in London and there laws are different than here. We went to find a police officer to tell him about the incident; he responded, “I can’t arrest the guy because he has been here protesting the war since it started. We also have freedom of speech here. As long as he makes no threats against the Queen we can’t arrest him.” I asked the police officer if I could press charges because he spit on me and he said, “No you can’t because he did not physically touch you. If he hit you or pushed you, then I could arrest him.” My Sergeant and I received no justice. I was certainly glad to return home to my family in January of 2005.

I did not realize how lucky I am to live in a country that protects its people to a degree that doesn’t allow someone to verbally threaten you and get away with it. I felt so powerless in London and I never want to go back there.