Terry C. Holdbrooks
February 12, 2014
As 2008 was coming to an end, I looked back at the last year of my life. It had not improved much from when I had been working in Camp Delta, a detention facility owned and operated by the United States located in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Guantanamo, or GTMO, as it known to the soldiers who have worked there, affected me in a way I would never have predicted when I was told that my unit was deploying there. What I expected was exactly what the media and the Army had told me to expect: dealing, on a daily basis, with “the worst of the worst,” “Al Qaeda operatives,” “the Taliban,” “dirt farmers and sand niggers” and many other colorful terms of endearment for the captives held there.
As it turns out, those were not the qualities and attributes I observed in the detainees of GTMO. Rather, I observed and felt compassion, sympathy, remorse, kinship and likeness to the men, as they truly were no different from me. Odd as it may sound, working at GTMO was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, but it was also one of the most difficult periods I’ve ever lived through. I met some amazing and inspiring men but was ordered to treat them like dogs. I think back on my experience with regret and shame. I am astonished that the detention center is still open, or that it was ever functioning.
When I began looking back at 2008, it had been more than four full years since I had left GTMO, and I was more unhappy than I had been while I was there, torturing and abusing presumably innocent men in the name of freedom and security. My guilt and remorse for my actions had grown to such a degree that I no longer wanted to live, and no longer wanted to remember their screams and cries any longer. Willing to do anything to get GTMO out of myself, I reached out to Cage Prisoners, an organization in the United Kingdom that provides information about the Guantanamo detainees: why they were there, where they came from and other biographical details revealing that these men were human, too. The group was more than willing to interview me and ask me every question that occurred to them about my experience in GTMO. After that interview my life took a new direction, one with a more dignified purpose: I set out to reach as many Americans as I could to inform them of the grave injustice that I saw, participated in and was aware of in GTMO.