Life in the Military on the Home Front

Interviewee: Thomas Arnold

Born: November 20, 1977

Thomas Arnold grew up in Bountiful, Utah. He remembers the war stories his grandfather, a U.S. Army veteran, would tell him when he was a child. When it became time for him to find a way to pay for college he started meeting with recruiters and learning what each of the services had to offer. Ultimately, he decided to join the Marine Reserves. Thomas values the discipline he learned in boot camp as well and the hard work ethic it instilled in him. He recalls feeling very comfortable in his reserve group Fox Company 2/23. He went on a mission for his church and started a family prior to the events of 9/11. Deployment to California in 2002 as a quick reaction force presented Thomas and his family with hardships. The uncertainty of when he’d be reunited with his family created the most stress, but he still felt that the deployment was important. When his unit was deployed as part of the 1st Marine Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, the clearer mission objectives helped to keep him concentrated on the tasks at hand and helped to ease the anxiety of being so far from his family.

Thomas’ unit arrived in Kuwait at night, filled with anticipation. Officers provided a lot of encouragement as his unit moved into Iraq. He mentions that most of his time in Iraq was spent in the back of a 7-ton armored truck.. He vividly recollects the shock of seeing his first dead body lying in an Iraqi urban area. It was very difficult for him and his unit to find ways to cope with the sight of so much of the violence. When his unit arrived in Baghdad Thomas remembers being intimidated by the sheer number of people. This, in addition to the complex layout of walls in the city, made him feel like a “mouse in a maze”. One of his most intense firefights occurred in Baghdad against the Iraqi secret service.  He describes the rest of his service in Iraq as a military presence to provide security. Out of boredom, Thomas and his fellow Marines found things to do with confiscated Iraqi goods such as play baseball and cards. The end of Thomas’ mission and his return home went very smoothly. He received many forms of appreciation for his service, ranging from the cosmetic supplies his father sent him when he was in Kuwait to the handshakes and free trip to Sea World he received. He talks about the sole occurrence of a flashback he had after coming home from Iraq and feels very grateful it was limited to the once incident. While he settled back into life at home in Utah Thomas did not mind that everyone knew he was a veteran but felt it got old after a while. He rarely has the opportunity to see many of the Marines from his unit but is okay with that. He does not regret one second of what he did but is very happy his service is over.