THE HOLIDAYS IN IRAQ |
January 03, 2007
I posted this on my blog last year:
It's kind of a relief that the holidays are over. Someone put it well here when he said, "Now all we have to get through is Easter and Independence Day. And those holidays won't be nearly as hard as this was." So very true.
I worked both Christmas and New Year's Eve. The usual 12-hour shift. On Christmas, I walked into work at 0700 and like clockwork, a round came into Anaconda. A little Christmas present for everyone. I, of course, took the liberty of blasting Bing Crosby Christmas music for everyone as they stumbled into the clinic to check in at my desk after the "all clear" was given. All sleepy-eyed and groggy, most were able to mumble a "Merry Christmas", while the rest were wise enough not to even open their mouths.
In the evening, I felt little Christmas cheer as I spent hours and hours trying to call back home. Imagine thousands of troops trying to call the U.S. at the same exact moment. I opened all the wonderful presents everyone sent to me and had a cup of "Christmas cheer" with my roommate to celebrate the holiday.
Backing up a day to Christmas Eve: I had to make a run to our Battalion early in the morning. Even though it isn't too far from the clinic, I always try and take advantage of the van, to save myself from the half-mile walk.
Yes, we have a van. It's kinda funny looking. The type you would see zooming around the streets of Europe somewhere. It's more long than wide, white, with a stick shift, which makes it even more hilarious when you're driving it off curbs and flying by armored vehicles with gunners on the top. It's ironic the way they strictly enforce the 20 mph speed limit but let you take sharp right turns off paved roads over curbs, and park wherever there's enough room to fit your vehicle.
So I'm scootin' down the road in my little Euro-van and it's a very chilly day. Upper 30's is my guess, from the way my breath is sticking to the windshield. Armed Forces Radio is on and they're playing Christmas music. The sky is a perfect blue and, for once, not a soul is on the road. There are no gun trucks or trash collectors. I find myself in a bubble of Christmas cheer. I could be driving anywhere right now on this calm Christmas Eve morning. I am reminded of Nebraska. The complete stillness in the crisp air and the solitude is something you can only find in vast mid-western winters. I wanted that half mile never to end because it took me back to better times. Here we grasp at any little moment that helps us feel normal.
We rang in the New Year with sparkling cider. Being a bit more organized than Christmas, New Year's Eve was quite pleasant. Even though I was working 1900-0700, I could feel the positive energy in everyone. They had music blasting and were grilling hamburgers and hotdogs. I have always felt that Christmas is meant for family, and New Year is meant for friends. Well, this year it was for both. It's a fantastic feeling looking at these people and knowing they are both friends and family. Even though I was stuck working, people still made the effort to come give me a hug and wish me a Happy New Year.
It was odd knowing that at midnight it was really only 3:00 pm back home. I got a bit depressed thinking that I'll be spending a majority of the next year here. As if I shouldn't even bother with goals and resolutions like everyone else. But I decided that maybe I should take this time and really live it. Smell it. Be it. Explore who I am, where I've been, and what has made me this person today.
The first bright morning of the New Year was spent in a bunker with the rest of my sleepy company. Again, the insurgents decided to throw a round at us -- a wake-up call if you will. At this point, we just laugh and say "Happy New Year!"