The Sandbox

GWOT hot wash, straight from the wire

Welcome to The Sandbox, a forum for service members who have served or are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, returned vets, spouses and caregivers. The Sandbox's focus is not on policy and partisanship (go to our Blowback page for that), but on the unclassified details of deployment -- the everyday, the extraordinary, the wonderful, the messed-up, the absurd. All correspondence is read, and as much as possible is posted, lightly edited. If you know someone who is deployed who might have something to say, please tell them about us. To submit a post click here.

THE HEAT IN MY DREAMS |

August 17, 2007

THE HEAT IN MY DREAMS
Name: CAPT Benjamin Tupper
Posting date: 8/17/07
Returned from: Afghanistan
Hometown: Syracuse, New York

It felt like just another day in Afghanistan. Our Humvee crew was going through all our pre-mission rituals, like we had done a hundred times before. CPT "Hep" was his normal stressed-out self, and was replying to the radio commo checks with short, biting responses. The unbearable heat in the Humvee didn't help much to lower his tension. Neither did the fact that the AC wasn't working.

Up in the turret, the gunner leaned forward and jerked his arm back. The metallic thud of the .50 cal being charged rattled everyone in the vehicle. KAH-CHUNK. I was the driver for this mission, so for the moment I just had to make sure our IED jamming device was up and running. I got the green light signal, waited for Hep to stop transmitting on the radio, and then flashed him the thumbs up. Now it was just a matter of waiting for all the other trucks to finish their pre-combat checks, and we could roll out.

The moments before a mission usually found me all tensed up. My two hands were tightly gripping the steering wheel while all the catastrophic "what ifs" of Humvee combat patrols ran through my head.

I got my first hint that something was out of the ordinary when I glanced over my shoulder and saw my girlfriend seated in the rear right seat. She held a strand of her long hair in her hand, and was inspecting it for split ends. She pouted and looked at me. Sweat ran down her forehead onto a cheek flustered red by the heat.

"It's hot in here. Why can't we open the windows?"

Seeing her sitting there in the Humvee took me by surprise, but actually hearing her voice was what awoke me from this disturbing dream. The thought of her being there, in Afghanistan, in harm's way, was enough to make me shudder and roll over onto my side.

In these few groggy seconds, I'm able to confidently say I'm not in a Humvee. I'm firmly planted in an Army-issued cot. The cot is firmly planted in one of the notoriously hot Bagram holding tents for soldiers in transit to and from Afghanistan. I feel a slight breeze on my exposed legs. The sides of the tent are rolled up, which allows for some ventilation.

In front of me, and to my sides, are rows of cots. Most of them are occupied by fellow soldiers. Like me, they are trying to pass the hours of boredom with sleep as they await their flights out of Afghanistan. 

Some are successful, others are not.

Two cots down I see SFC C, a fellow New Yorker and teammate of mine. Despite the heat, he is wrapped in a poncho liner and is in a deep sleep.

Directly next to me is a stranger from some other unit. He is reading a magazine of some sort. I see a glossy foto of some scantily clad nubile female on the cover, so it's probably Maxim or FHM, the literature of choice of young male soldiers.

Across from this stranger is SFC "Deg", as we like to call him. He is another one of my teammates. He has one arm resting on his forehead, shielding his eyes from the sunlight seeping through the tent.

Good ole Deg. It seems like it's been forever since I've gotten a chance to really talk to him. We were ETT partners for a short stint, before he was transferred to another FOB. I smile as I see him laying there, staring upwards towards the sky. God it's good to see him. We have a lot of catching up to do.

I begin to doze off again. Some time passes. An obnoxious creak is heard as someone rolls over in their Army cot. It's a noise every soldier knows. It's a noise only an Army cot can make. KKKRRRRREEKKK.

More time passes.

"Are you gonna tell him?"

A stranger's voice, right next to my cot, and possibly directed at me. I ignore it.

"Hey, are you gonna tell him? He was your friend." The stranger puts special emphasis on the word "your".

I look over, and the stranger is sitting up in his cot, looking at me. He motions over towards Deg.

His casual demeanor is replaced by a look of seriousness. Now he's got my attention. Before he speaks, I already know what bad news he wants me to deliver.

"Aren't you going to tell Deg?  Aren't you going to tell him that he's DEAD?"

My eyes dart from the stranger's face to Deg, who remains resting on his cot. His chest rises and falls with his relaxed breathing. It's the same chest that got shot last September. The bullet cut through all the important parts. Heart. Lungs. We heard he died on a helicopter en route to surgery.

Deg shifts his head over towards me. I see tiny specks of sweat on his face.

He smiles at me.

I smile back.

It feels so good to see him.

But the stranger is right. I should tell Deg. But I can't.

Deg and I remain locked in this silent reminiscence. He is still smiling at me. Perhaps he is remembering the practical jokes we played on our interpreters, or the nail-biting evening chess games, or the time we bought melons and shared them with everyone at that street intersection in Ghazni. We had some great times together.

Maybe he just wants to catch up on things. But I know if we start talking, I'm going to have to tell him why he can't go home. I'm going to have to give him the bad news. I close my eyes to collect my thoughts, and to muster up the courage to tell him what happened to him.

I open my eyes.

The red numbers on my alarm clock read 4:16 am. It's Eastern Standard Time.

Comments

K. Kewl. Now try doing that thiry years, forty years later.

OBTW: if the dead tell you anything, listen to them. The dead rarely return to discuss the weather.

Seriously, try these herbal supplements; DHEA (stress reduction) and Melatonin (sleep enabler). Melatonin takes about two weeks to fully kick in. The dreams are a combination of Brain TV and OMFG 'what if's?'

Oh, yeah, and the humble realisation; Sometimes it sucks to be me.

You'll probably live through it.

HTH

Richard

Good writing. I hear it gets better with time. I hope so.

Stunning. I'd like to hear more.

I am so sorry about your friend Deg. I find it hard to know what to say, but I cannot move on without saying something. I will fall back on my personal belief that Deg is somewhere else as aware as you are of those wonderful memories that come to you in the dark of night when you are haunted by that other memory. I cannot prove it, I can only know it. I lost my younger sister and before she went, we talked about it. She said, "it's not good-bye, just so long." Perhaps because I was already aware of another worldly sense in the room that summer, it was that which was real, not the mirage. I could KNOW it and I did. I will hope and pray that that you will find a time when it is the happy memories that come in dreams and the other will simply be an accepted fact that one day will be erased by a joyful reunion. I found absolute certainty that summer as well as a profound peace. May you find them too. God bless you Capt. Tupper.

I am saddan by your frieds death. My nephew was killed on May 18th, 2007, 12 hours before his 2 week leave was to start for the birth of his first child, a daughter. This was a terrible shock to his entire family. We can only image the enviroment that you all are having to endor. I hope that you and all the soldiers will be returning to your family soon! Keep your mind on the game plan, stay focused and come home. God speed, Denise in Oklahoma

I am saddan by your frieds death. My nephew was killed on May 18th, 2007, 12 hours before his 2 week leave was to start for the birth of his first child, a daughter. This was a terrible shock to his entire family. We can only image the enviroment that you all are having to endor. I hope that you and all the soldiers will be returning to your family soon! Keep your mind on the game plan, stay focused and come home. God speed, Denise in Oklahoma

Ah, a dreamer and you must always sleep and the dreams come again, always to the real you - not the one in the mirror or the one your family and friends see when they look at you, the real you - the creator, director and star actor in your life and your dreams. Don't drink too much, the dreams twist into nightmares, just sleep and they will come and play with you and what you held true. Just sleep.

I also had a vivid to life dream after my father died where he came up to me and asked me where everyone was, and what was going on and I had to tell him that he actually died. After that he disappeared and a piece of exercise equipment I had in my living room was where he was standing. That was over 10 years ago ! some dreams stay with you. But it has been my experience that these kinds of dreams will happen less and less with time.. thank you for keeping us safe in the US !
Anne

Man, are we full of advice... Be well, keep writing. It always helps me during tribulation (I wish I was as good at it as you). And, maybe, Deg is chatting it up with Ski, telling him to go back home. I just hope against hope that these are the only two buddies available for these dreams.

Holy s**t.

be safe

Friends that laugh within our dreams... I've been there. I don't know if it gets better. I still see them everywhere.

Good luck to you.

Ben - I am here for you in heart and spirit. Breathe. Let it go. Please.

Deep sigh...

Beautifully written. Painful to read.

I teach college-level writing. Would it be all right with you if I shared this with my students?

This is amazing and painful to read. I am so sorry for your loss and hope in time you can find peace in your sleep. My loved one still has nightmares and I work to try and help him through this difficult time. He has been back over a year and still struggles with his sleep. That should be the one time of day he can have peace. God Bless you and your fellow soldiers. Thank you for all you have done and keep writing!

This post was difficult to read, I feel like I could cry. I can't imagine the pain of reliving the death of a friend over and over in your dreams. War is difficult enough without having to come home and it be in your dreams, one of the few reposes we are given from life. I can't relate to this, but I can sympathize and pray that times heals the mental wounds you carry with you.

Dude, you are having some amazing dreams. The only thing I can offer is that in my experience, relationships don't end when one member dies. They continue to evolve on your side, especially in dreams, most especially with those whom you would still have a lot of mileage with. So those people haven't left you, you just need to learn how to juggle these relationships so that you can live comfortably in the world the rest of us share. (When you get this figured out, tell us how.) Deg is still your friend, that hasn't changed. For me, these people are trapped in amber as time goes by. They don't change, but my relationship with them changes. I am sorry you have been exposed to this. You and your friends are far too young for this level of death. It is wrong. This kind of crap shouldn't happen to people at your stage in life. Do keep writing, if only to remind us that we are responsible for this happening to you, because we are.

I was so wrapped up in your posting that I cried at the end. I can't imagine how hard it is to loose a friend like that.

Thank you for the sacrifices you have made to ensure our freedoms and in helping other people obtain the same freedoms.

Jaime
IPFW Freshmen

For Benjamin Tupper:
I am reading your book and, strange as it might seem, I am hearing echoes of the experiences of a group of women Peace Corps volunteers when they were giving smallpox vaccinations in rural Afghanistan for two years in the late 1960s. People were not trying to kill these volunteers but their lives had "tragicomic" aspects too. They have made a film, Once in Afghanistan, which is available on DVD from www.dirtroaddocumentaries.com.
It will also be shown at Hudson Valley Community College, not so far from Syracuse, the week of September 21. Hope you can come.
Sincerely,
Kristina Engstrom

More & more people know that blog are good for every one where we get lots of information any topics !!!

I got the natural light weight transmission, anxiously waited for quit shifting on the stereo, and then placed the thumbs up. Now it was just a topic of awaiting all the other vehicles to complete off their pre-combat assessments.

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