Thursday, January 06, 2005

Hot or Not penpals

After reading this post at blonde sagacity, and another one I read a few weeks ago at Sminkie’s, I was prompted to write about my experience with deployed soldiers and Hot or Not.

Now for those uninitiated of you, Hot or Not is this fabulous eye candy website…okay, that might be promising too much, but it is a lot of fun. It was originally conceived as a website where people can put up their photos and have total strangers judge their studliness/babeliciousness. Alternately some people are really really not hot…and that can be equally amusing. The website owners had the fabulous idea of making it a cyber meeting site, where for something like $5 a month, you can communicate with your matches, and you can have a unlimited amount of matches…and only one of the communication partners has to be a paying member to communicate.

So, I was looking to meet someone (and no, people who look for/have found love in the internet aren’t pathetic social pariahs…at least this is the mantra I repeat to myself). I had met people through different sites over the years, and although nothing romantic had really ever come of my matches, I did make a lot of friends. It had basically come to the point where I was doing it just for the fun of it, and for meeting people who don’t gravitate in my social sphere. So, starting in March of this year I started communicating with three US soldiers deployed to Iraq. One was a tanker, and two were infantry, one of the infantry was a 1LT. At first I was just thirsting for any information they could give me on their day to day life…I wanted to hear from a different perspective how things in Iraq were. I was reading many different Iraqi blogs, from Riverbend to Iraq the Model, but I wanted to also see an American perspective that wasn’t the media’s or the Stars and Stripes. And boy, they didn't let me down.

The tanker told me how it would get to about 150 degrees (sometimes almost 200 degrees) in their tanks; the first time we chatted he was waiting to join up with his unit again, because his tank had been damaged in Sadr City…he later went to Najaf. He would write about not showering for days/weeks sometimes…the time the mortar hit right next to him while he was working on the tank, and shrapnel went everywhere around him, but didn’t touch him…the day his best friend was killed. He was only 20 years old, and would complain about how stupid he was for being patriotic and turning down the college ice hockey scholarship to join the Army. But when he was on his way home, he said he was kind of glad that he had the experience of the war under his belt. He would also talk about missing his girlfriend back home. Every time I chatted with him online, or got an email from him, I was worried it would be the last time.We met up for beer in Frankfurt a few days after he got back. When he went on leave, he also stopped over to meet the parents of his best friend.

The 1LT was in the Green Zone for a while, and then was later posted to a FOB. He was more detailed about his experiences there, explaining the intricacies from his point of view. A former professor of his posted something he wrote about his experience with the media there . He was also involved in the renovating of Iraqi schools, and other projects belonging to the humanitarian efforts. He described the shock of the poverty in certain areas, and how foot patrols were sometimes ineffective because they were all too worried about where they were putting their feet in some of the areas lacking proper sewage systems. He would also pine for his life back in Germany. He couldn’t wait for the day where he could decide what to wear, drive aimlessly, decide where to eat and to spend time with a “female.” When he came back from Iraq, he came to visit me with his girlfriend (whom he had met thru Hot or Not). We also ran a race together in September, which I signed us up for while he was still in Iraq…he said it was his incentive “not to get his legs shot off.”

The third soldier was a gunner. We chatted quite often about everything and nothing: music, movies, beer (or the lack thereof). He would email me pictures of himself, his friends, and his fiancée. When he went home in July, he got married.

I was so relieved when all of my little ducks made it home in July. It’s funny, because they are all younger than I am, but seemed so much wiser and older, because of their experiences and decisions. What began out of pure curiosity on my part, and a desire to communicate with someone outside of Iraq on theirs, grew into something more over time. Suddenly I became very attatched to these guys, who were thousands of miles away, whom I had never met, and would have never met were it not for the internet.

I am kind of wary of doing something like that again, because it really tugged at my heart-strings. I never knew if every letter/chat/email would be their last. However, the experience was so fulfilling. And I definately will be doing that again, because I did end up meeting someone through Hot or Not, a soldier stationed in Germany who had recently returned from Iraq. And soon he will be deploying again.


Blogger ac blue eagle said...

Careful! Friendship can lead to marriage!

2:33 AM  
Blogger CaliValleyGirl said...

So I have heard...;-)

5:11 AM  
Blogger ALa said...

GREAT post...I wish I could've linked it to mine. I try to write as many of the boys as I can (and send packages)...they seem so lonely...

6:02 AM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

that's cool. you should see our computer labs. most of them are filled with hot or not. we huddle around and go through chicks like you wouldn't believe. we also switch the preference to man to man when a guy forgets to log off.

9:46 PM  

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