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.


April 15, 2008

Name: Mike T.
Posting date: 4/15/08
Stationed in: Afghanistan
Milblog: c/o

A long time ago I learned one of the most valuable lessons that the Army had to offer. A Squad Leader took me aside and told me no matter what went wrong, or how hard things got, “Keep the colors close to you at all cost." I looked at him and wondered what exactly he was talking about. He then explained: “Brother, there are going to be times when you have to do things you never thought imaginable, things that would make any man scared for his own life and those of his fellow soldiers. But when it all seems lost and you're about to lose your mind, that’s when the colors become your lifeline.” The colors he spoke of were memories, smells, dreams, music, conversations -- those things that bring you out of the hell you are in and allow you to focus on what is truly important.

I have taken this as the single most important lesson in my life, and carried it with me and followed it wherever I have been. I am now a leader of men, a teammate, and a friend. Every day here I try to find my colors, and at times it seems almost too difficult. I will find a place to isolate myself, to concentrate on a specific color that brings me back to a somewhat normal level. I miss the ocean, the gentle breeze from the shore pines near my house, the cat and dog chasing each other, the perfume of my lovely girlfriend. The songs she and I used to sing out loud and dance to together, or the long drives to nowhere. I miss her smile and touch, how they brought peace to my soul. How a splash of Johnny Walker and red wine aromas filled our kitchen on a beautiful summer evening.

These colors are extensions of our mind, body, and soul. Without them what is the point? Why continue to fight? All people have colors, the things in our lives that bring us back from the breaking point. My colors represent all that I have done in my life, all the happiness and sadness. They are my living legend that I share with all those around me. But when it is time to take stock in what we have done here in Afghanistan I am afraid there will not be a specific color for this place. A friend of mine in Iraq emailed me the other day and told me that I need to be careful, and that everyone over there believes we are the true soldiers of the GWOT. I did not know how to respond to that. He is the same guy who told me about the colors.

Find your colors in times of need, reach back to the world and life you left. Close your eyes and search hard. Your colors are there.


At first, thought of the Colors as our flag. That's what it meant to me in the Marines a "few" years back. As I read on Mike, I realized it was the same as what was tought me by someone back then. I knew it as my Sacred Space, a place I could take me and feel as you described. Different war, different discription, same safety. Thanks for sharing Mike. Hope many others can find their Colors or Sacred Space where ever they are.
Peace be within you, Michael

Michael, thank you for brightening my day. I don't live in the madness of war, but in the gray of office life. Still, I need a reason to get up every morning, and you have said it as well as anyone. You found the light within.

Bob of Oaktown, It was and is a pleasure to share what I have with anyone that can use it for their gray or madness. I learned to carry my Sacred Space where ever I go. Just recently retired from a Marine Corps Logistics Base where I was the primary hauler of munitions for the Small Arms Shop that serviced weapons for the Marines and others. I learned to creat my Sacred Space on the lift truck or where ever I was, on Base or off.
My hope is all can find their Sacred Space or Colors.
Peace & Happiness to all, Michael

Mike T.,
You ARE the true soldiers of the GWOT! May your Sacred Space, your colors serve you well.

Bless you Mike T for sharing. I'd like to send you the scent of hot sunlight on Montana mountain Ponderosa pines, the dusty smell of fat raindrops on a dusty path along the creek just as the thunderstorm hits, the tender gold sunlight of a spring time evening. May you come again safe to your home and your loved ones.

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