[October 8, 2019] It was sometime just after midnight when our base came under intense mortar fire from Shia militias pledged to fight for cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Our combat engineers had been on route clearance duty “outside the wire” looking for IEDs on the roadside.1 I approached one gruffy engineer Staff Sergeant who had been leading his men into the fight and asked about his mission. He said, sir, living the dream.
This was not the first time I’d heard this expression in the military. In fact, it was common phraseology to describe their feelings about what they were doing. I never heard it said of garrison peacetime duty, driving a supply truck, or doing paperwork. Every time I heard “living the dream” it was in combat or on a difficult training mission where the soldier/Marine/sailor/airman was performing under stress.
Uncomfortable weather, lack of sleep, difficulty of the mission, enemy action, or the threat of death would not deter that person from doing their job. The phrase was an open admission that regardless of the trouble, those military members were in control of the situation. Better to be in control than to be a victim.
This takes preparation. Yesterday, I got a letter from a young soldier. He had just won Soldier of the Year and was telling me about the work he put into the effort. Learning technical answers about engineer and standard-issue military equipment, select Field Manuals, and various creeds including Army Values was not easy. He was proud of the fact that he had worked so hard and the payoff was bragging rights with his buddies. He told me he was living the dream.
I have found that those who adopt the greatest amount of responsibility are those who are most satisfied with their lives; happy, like what they do, and are reliable people. These are the kind of folks we all like to be around. Their approach to life can rub off on others around them. They are, truthfully, living the dream.
Oh, that young engineer soldier who had just won Soldier of the Year is stationed in Syria helping support the Syrian local militias battling the Islamic State. He is engaged in combat almost every day and yet he took the time to read and study to be a better soldier. That is why I’m so positive on this generation of young men and women in our armed forces.
- These IEDs had indiscriminately killed many coalition military members and local civilians.