And hunters and soldiers.
Soldiers are a unique breed. It's very difficult to explain what it's like living through what Francis Scott Key saw when he penned our national anthem - you all know the words - rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air - unless talking to another soldier or Marine who has lived through it as well. We had insurgents firing rockets at us and it was scary but better that they went off a couple hundred feet overhead than having them hit the compound itself.
There's nothing worse than hearing the "Ka - rump" "Ka - rump" "Ka - rump" of the mortar rounds as they get closer to where you are sitting, knowing that there's not a dad gummed thing you can do about where those rounds are landing. About the only thing you can do is to say another prayer hoping that the counter fire radar has figured out where the other guys are shooting at you from.
I just finished giving a class to a group of soldiers, trying to blend some of my experiences "in country" with what I was trying to teach them. Some of the blank stare in the headlights looks I got from most of them made me look at their right shoulders (where the combat patches are located). Out of 14 students, only 3 NCO's and 1 warrant officers had combat patches. No wonder I got the funny looks.
You get a different perspective on life after living through some 'hair-raising' experiences. Tolerance for those complaining about little things gets on your nerves making you bite your tongue before saying something you will later regret - most likely right after you say it.
I just shake my head when I hear someone say they "just didn't sleep well last night". I've slept on a cot under nothing but mosquito netting, slept on the hood of my vehicle because it was better than sleeping on the ground, slept inside my military hummvee because it was better than sleeping on the ground, slept inside tents where the temperature was triple digits until around 2 or 3 in the morning (I re-named the tents 'easy bake ovens' for that reason).
And this is but one little area I've learned to appreciate that anything but food, water, clothing, and shelter is a luxury. Cool or cold water? If you grabbed a bottle of water right after dawn it would be considered cool to the palate. By mid to late morning it was warm or tepid, and you drank it anyway because you knew your body had to have the water. If you didn't drink the water, you'd get kidney stones - I watched it happen all too often.
Soldiers have to go through counseling sessions (for lack of a better term) when they get back from their tours of duty. For many of them, it is their first step on the road to recovery from PTSD. For soldiers on their third or fourth deployment, I can only imagine what they might be going through. But there are no such sessions set up for civilian contractors. Besides, who would think that civilian contractors have been through anything near what their military counterparts have seen and for the most part - that would be a correct assessment. But having driven nearly 13000 miles of Iraqi roads and spending 3 or 4 days a week on the road for a year gives one a different perspective.
Okay, I'll get off of my soapbox now. I've been back from Iraq for two years now and still can't shake some of the memories. Maybe some day . . . . .