Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Thankful in Afghanistan

November 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Bras & Boots, Most Recent Posts

I had a pretty good Thanksgiving Day. It is one of my favorite holidays because it’s not too religious and anyone can partake in the festivities!

I got to sleep in, which was nice! Then I went out to the gate and worked with the soldiers there for a few hours doing pat downs and making sure no one was bringing in or taking out anything considered contraband. A couple of the PFC’s got to go home because we were there. Almost everyone from my shop gave up their time off to help out. Night shift even came out and still worked their night shift hours.

The CO brought us turkey dinner with all of the fixings. I didn’t get any pumpkin pie this year but that’s OK. I don’t really like the pie they have here anyway. I am a big pumpkin pie fan though. We were all given paper cups and a sip of some Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice… That was kind of silly.

I went into work after my shift at the gate and worked on my job hunt. Then I met a friend of mine for coffee and hung out with her and her co-workers. I’ve gotten to know these guys pretty well and they’re awesome. It was a truly great night. It was one of those times in life where you don’t want anything to change. Everyone is here and everyone’s safe. [Author’s note: Unfortunately this would not be the case less than two weeks later.] We were listening to Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, the Red Hot Chili Peppers…What could be better than that? One of the local nationals brought the team a “turkey” (it was probably buzzard or some strange Afghan skinny bird) that was marinated in Afghan spices. No one really wanted to eat it (there wasn’t much to it anyway) but I felt that it was the most culturally sensitive thing to do to eat some, so I choked down a few bites. Now, I have a head & chest cold and the guys are teasing me, saying that I have Avian Bird Flu. What a way to go – come to Afghanistan and die of BIRD INFLUENZA!

Although I couldn’t be with my family, I was with good friends and I have memories that will last me a lifetime. I had a lot to be thankful for yesterday. I wish I could describe it better…but I lack the right words tonight. You know I’m going to try but just know I can’t do it justice.

Ever been with a group of friends and were just having a great time, and then this moment of melancholy comes over you because you know it can’t be like that forever? You’re watching everyone like you’re an outsider and they can’t see you. You’re outside of your body and you just feel that this is one of those moments you want so desperately to hold onto, forever?

Everyone’s laughing and talking, reminiscing about back home and what we’re going to do when we get there.

The guys talk about how much they miss and love their wives. Some break into stories about how long they’ve been married and how they couldn’t imagine their lives without their woman by their side. One guy looks at me with this smile on his face, and this look in his eyes, and tells me with pride, “I courted my girl for two years before she’d marry me.” Another chimes in “I courted mine for three!” I just smile and wonder what it would be like to be a woman whose man felt the way these guys do about their wives. I wonder if these women have any idea how much their husbands love them? I wish I could tell them, and that I could bottle up this moment and send them a glimpse, as I know that soldiers’ wives have the hardest job in the military. I envy the life they have but wouldn’t trade mine for it…I’d rather be right here.

Then the conversation goes to kids and parents. Not much time is spent on the kids. I think it hurts the guys too much to think about them.

Garcia speaks up and starts talking about his dad. Bob says that it’s cool Garcia and his dad have a bond like that, they seem really close. Garcia goes into stories about fishing and sitting around a camp fire with his “Pops.” It’s clear he idolizes his dad. His dad was blue collar and worked so much that he never really had time to spend with Garcia. He says “Now though, I just hope he’s proud of me.”

I wish I could tell him “You have no idea how much,” but it’s not my place. I wish I could call Garcia’s dad and tell him to stop holding back. Tell your son how much you love him. It would mean all the world to him. But that’s not my place either; and besides… I’m sure, deep down inside, Garcia knows. It’s just good to hear it sometimes.

Once, when Garcia told his dad a little bit about the shit he was in on a previous rotation through Afghanistan, his dad said “Well son, I almost lost ya.” Garcia said that moment meant the most to him. Just a few simple words can mean…

We all kind of smile and get quiet. Bob speaks up, “Dude, my parents are religious freaks…”

My mind wanders. I think about what my mom said to me when I was home on leave… about how writing me reminds her of where I’m at and forces her to face the reality of it all. Well, shit. It’s pretty freakin’ real, but not writing me and trying to forget where I’m at doesn’t really make it less real… does it? I’m still here. The fact of the matter is that you can get a million letters and emails from strangers but none of that means anything unless you hear from the people you love. I’ve all but stopped calling home. Kind of seems pointless to make the effort when no one else does. My step dad understands though. He’ll write me a sentence or two here and again, but in just those few words, so much is said. My grandma has been writing me too… telling me the same stories I’ve heard a million times, except now, I’m less annoyed by them and it’s kind of endearing. At least she makes the effort. I know she’s thinking about me and misses me.

Then Garcia, with this huge smile on his face, starts talking about how we should all do this again when we get back (home).

We should all go down to his dad’s, sit around a fire, and just chill. We all know it’s never going to happen… but instead of leave a moment of uncomfortable silence afterwards, I say “I’ll bring the marshmellows.”

I know that they’re not talking about me though. Not because they wouldn’t want me there, but because it’s hard to explain the bond I have with these guys to Army wives. It’s not something I think anyone could understand unless they’d been through it. Even now, after I’ve been through it, I don’t know if I could handle being the wife of a soldier. This bond, these friendships–are a part of something that a wife doesn’t have with her soldier husband. I see them in an element that the women will never see. That’s intimidating for any significant other. The thing is, I’m not after their husbands and there are sides of these guys that I have no interest in knowing. I will never know them as husbands, fathers, sons…They are my buddies and my brothers. They don’t really fall into the category of friend or boyfriend, or anything else. I consider them my Army brothers.

That’s the truth of it. I know that as much of an impact in my life as the men I’ve worked with here have had, I may never see any of them again after this tour unless we meet back up here months or years down the road. I won’t be getting any invitations for beers or for reunions and bonfires…There’s consolation in knowing that maybe a thought or a few good words will be passed about me. I, of course, will never forget them.

I’m coming down with another cold. Probably due to lack of sleep and the drastic temperature changes (or maybe the “turkey”?) I don’t want to sleep though. I don’t know why.

My time here is coming to an end sooner than I had expected. At least that’s what they’re telling me. I have such mixed feelings and such strong, profound feelings of failure and incompleteness. I haven’t done enough. At the same time, I myself can’t begin to understand all that I’ve learned. I was asked what the best and worst experiences of my life were. The best experience of my life has been this deployment. I came here to do whatever I could, and to learn as much as I could about being out there and working hard. I’ve learned more about myself, though, than I have about anything else. In every example set forth by the people around me, I have learned more about who I am and where I want to be- about the kind of leader and person I am and aspire to be.

On my computer, my screen saver is a slide show of my pictures. A picture of me, New Year’s 2004/2005 came up. I saw it in the reflection of my mirror and had to pause for a moment. I looked up in the mirror, down, back at the picture, and I asked the reflection if she had any idea of the person she would become? Who would have thought I would be here, in this moment, today? Then I thought, “Of course, silly”. She didn’t know she was going to be here today. She wasn’t even THINKING about the future then!!! She was thinking about the new year and all it would bring. At that time, I had no idea I would be coming to Afghanistan. I had no idea where I was going at all. I had little direction. All I knew was that I was finished with training and there were all sorts of uncertainties about the next few weeks, months and years.

Now I sit here typing this, and I feel the same way. I have no idea where I’m going. Little is set in stone. I have opportunities but I have no idea which ones will come to fruition. There are so many uncertainties. The difference is that I know more about who I am. Not completely (as I think we’re always growing), but I’m more aware of myself than I have ever been in my life. I know what I want more than I did then and I am cognizant of all of this. I am looking forward to what’s around the corner for me and am excited by what life has given to me and what more it has to offer.

Wish me luck… I’m going to need a lot of it.

Army Girl
Friday, 24 November 2006

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