MONGOLIAN JAM SESSION |
December 05, 2006
The Mongolians moved in on our "street" so we have new neighbors. Today a couple of our guitar players were out with them playing music. So a bunch of us gathered, and they took turns playing songs. The Mongolians sang one as a group that was pretty darn impressive. It was another one of those great Hollywood moments, if anyone makes a movie of life here. I enjoyed it immensely. It's hard to believe I get paid to do this.
Hang with me through these next paragraphs. I am going to try to tie together a wide range of emotions and I don’t know how much sense it will make. First of all, I was deeply moved listening to my friend Doug’s description of how he was received when he arrived home. Many people thanked him for his service. Even those who were opposed to the war still knew the price he was paying. I am feeling more a part of that group of men and women who have been placed in harm’s way. Today the internet went out for several hours, and we thought, “D*mn, someone died.” Sorry for the almost-profanity, but that’s how we think, not “Darn, someone died,” or “Rats, someone died.” Doug, Mike, and I all thought we had lost someone, and we started worrying about Drew, who might have been traveling back from his four-day pass. Thankfully, the internet came back on after a few hours (for those who don’t remember, whenever someone from Phoenix dies, the internet is shut down until the families are notified).
I've tried to imagine going home and going back to work at Arnold AFB after being here for a year. I could imagine sitting at my old desk, but feeling out of place. Afghanistan has really turned my expectations upside down. The measure of "a great day" is arriving home safely. "Spacious" is having room to open the shutter on my window, or being able to put a TV, computer, and coffee pot on my desk. My tiny room has been modified so much it has become almost an extension of my personality. My hut mates just laugh when I dig out the tools for another project. Time for another episode of "This Old B-Hut." Going back to the large rooms in my house will feel very strange indeed. I pretty much live in a tiny cave here, and it is oddly comforting at times.
I try to imagine doing peacetime work again. I was looking at the photo of me in full body armor, and I would never have imagined myself in such a situation, but now I suit up for combat when I go to work. Is that me in that photo? What will it be like to go to work without weapons, without armor? Will anything faze me after spending a year in a third-world nation, just hoping to make it home safely? I have known what is to go to bed certain you would die the next day, though mercifully I only experienced that once. It was not a good time, I assure you. Yes, it is I in the photo. I am part of the sword that is the US military. At 44 years of age, I can finally say I’ve been to war. My risk is certainly less than my comrades in Iraq, or southern Afghanistan. I have no delusions about that. But I am now part of that band of brothers who have been to a war zone.
General Stringer, my commander back home, called this "Getting your letter for your jacket." The price is high: a year away from your family, a spartan lifestyle, and homicidal and suicidal fanatics trying to kill you so they can get their 70 virgins in Heaven. And being here pounds on your psyche day after day, until you change. I see it in my comrades. Some are going crazy with boredom, some find hobbies or take classes. Some play guitar, and I’ve passed them many times playing the blues (another great shot for the movie). Priorities change, desires alter, anger either grows to the exploding point or disappears in apathy or humor. But whatever happens, you are forced into adapting. Afghanistan will not leave you alone, nor leave you unaltered. It has happened with me. Life here is normal now; life in the US is a mythical paradise. Each day melts into the next, and soon the distinctions fade. I have a hard time remembering what day it is. I have calendars up everywhere. So I am "getting my letter", but it will be most interesting to see what that letter does to me. What matters to me, and what doesn’t, will almost certainly change. I imagine that petty things that used to bother me won’t even register. We shall see.