Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bananas.  The POO of Happiness

Displaying IMG_0343.JPG"What's it like?" is a question sometimes best answered by describing the little things. Its always the little things that provide the humor, frustration, or happiness that make any experience what it is.  Here are a few signs that you've been deployed (for too long).

1.  You have used the word "POO" in a sentence with other adults and no one started to giggle.  I mean, seriously…doesn’t anyone review our acronyms to ensure that we don’t sound like 9 year old boys on a bathroom break? It means "Point of Origin".  

2.  You have stood on the outside of a code-entry door, vainly punching in one of 362 number combinations, hoping that one of them actually works.  The likelihood of this happening is usually inversely proportional to your need to use the facilities.

3.  The armpits on your t-shirts are hardened to the point of qualifying as an addition to your body armor.

4.  You think nothing of your battle buddy standing next to you in the bathroom, glancing at the color of your urine, handing you a bottle of water and ordering you to "hydrate".  In most other places, this conduct would be a Misdemeanor.

5.  Few things make you happier than walking in to the DFAC for breakfast to find that they have bananas.  If the Army knew how happy this makes me, they would likely ban and test for bananas.

6.  When someone refers to important people, Very Important People, and Very Very Important People, you understand exactly what they are saying and who is in each category.  These terms were borrowed from a Middle School activities committee.

7.  You actually understand what other Soldiers are asking for when they grunt, waive and play charades in the chow line in order to tell the non-English speaking server that they'd like more of that stuff right there.  No... not that one. The next one over...yeah, that stuff.

8.  You have walked in to the PX and browsed the exact same items 27 times without making a single purchase just for something to do.

9.  You have pondered the culinary train wreck that occurs when you have cooks from Nepal making Mexican food with Kuwaiti ingredients served in an American dining facility in Afghanistan to Romanian soldiers.  This is how you get a taco bar with no taco shells and spaghetti with enchilada sauce.

10.  You begin thinking the 5 roll toilet paper dispenser is pretty neat and would look like fine in the master bath at home.

11.  Your first thought when the recorded British girl comes on the Big Voice to tell you you're under rocket attack is that she sounds attractive.

12.  When you hear the term “weather”, it no longer means rain, thunderstorms or wind.  It means dirt.  “We’ll have lots of weather” = “We’ll have lots of dirt in the air”. 

13.  You can tell who's in the other shower stalls because you recognize the underwear draped on the bench outside the showers.

14.  Though you understand when your FB friends post things about missing their spouses since they’ll be gone for a week or two on business, you secretly want to punch them in the throat and scream “suck it up buttercup”.

15.  Breakfast is the best meal of the day.  It tastes like breakfast.   It is really, really hard to screw up breakfast.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering to Forget

As I rose on September 11, 2001, life was different.  I had just left active duty in the Army.  I was living in a small rental house with two 3 year olds and a pregnant wife.  I had been job hunting and a few very nice firms had shown some interest.  In fact, I was to have a second interview the next week.  Then it happened.  The entire world changed.

Today, while serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, we honored our dead, both from that day and since, just a stone’s throw from the camp at which the terrorists trained for the attack on September 11th.  It was good to remember.  It was right to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who answered the call of a Nation deeply wounded. I must wonder though, if they wouldn’t want us to be able to forget.

I have been in Afghanistan for the better part of a year now.  I suspect that when I return, there are some who will approach me at church or in the courthouse and ask: “Where have you been, it’s been awhile!”  People have forgotten which one is my parking space.  At least one person has forgotten that it’s MY office.  I watch my friends and family from afar, usually via Facebook and I see date nights, BBQs, church activities, ladies nights, DIY projects, back to school pictures and anniversary photos.  I see the ordinarily extraordinary lives of my fellow Americans.  Not one of them is thinking, at that moment, of any of us here in Afghanistan…and that is exactly what I want.  I suspect that may be exactly what many of us here want:  Friends and family with no fear of an imminent attack; children able to play in the park and attend school with no threat of being kidnapped or beheaded by ISIS monsters; young women pursing an education without fear of being mutilated or enslaved.  The option of “forgetting” is a gift from God delivered by an effective Military standing between us and these horrors that are reality for too many.

For my Grandfather and my Great-Uncle, the day was December 7, 1941.   It was the most horrendous surprise attack in our Nation’s history.  They answered the call.  They fought, sacrificed and lost comrades in the war that followed.  For me, the war was history.  I didn’t fear the Japanese.  I drove a Honda.  My future intersected their past only when I eagerly awaited my first assignment to Germany.  I too had the privilege of forgetting.  My ability to grow up free, pursue an education and marry the pretty girl who knew that the “S” in Harry Truman’s name didn't stand for anything was a privilege borne of their victory.  I have to admit, I didn't really think about it, but for maybe a moment on Pearl Harbor Day.  I think that’s exactly what they were fighting for.  A world where their grandchildren could forget what they could not.

I don’t mean to support ingratitude or argue for ignorance.  It is good and right to pause and Never Forget.  But, as a Soldier serving his tour in Afghanistan, I certainly hope that my grandchildren have the option of forgetting we were ever here, and I think it might be okay too if you happen to remember to Forget on your way to the BBQ or school play.