Hello all. Yep, it’s that time of year again… I know, I guess I am a day late and a dollar short so to speak. Well better late than never, right? Anyhow, as you may have guessed by the title of this entry I am writing about this most recent “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and what it was like over here. Sorry that this entry is a little late in the coming, but I tried to write an entry closer to the actual holidays and it turned out, well… a little sour. I guess the emotions were still a little too close to write about. But now that we are past the holidays I would like to share a little of what it was like here, near where the first Christmas occurred.
I guess the whole thing with being separated from family during the holidays hit me harder than I had expected. Not as though I wasn’t expecting to miss my wife and the rest of my family, but up until Christmas day I had been doing fine. I suppose all I had really missed up till that point was all the shopping, wrapping, traffic, parking, commercials, price tags, head aches, late nights, hangovers and the bulging waistline associated with the season. No biggie, right? I had just hoped that the day would pass like so many others had over here, uneventfully. As it turned out the real problem was, it did. That is why I think my emotions caught me off guard. Nothing particularly bad happened. Like I have said many times with my wife on the phone, the day itself is just another day. One more “X” on the calendar and one step closer to coming home. The only problem with that logic is that when the day arrived the contrast between reality and what could be (ie. home for the holidays) was so great that the day seemed all the “suckier”.
On Christmas day all of the gifts, trees, hats and holiday regalia that you all had sent me (thank you very much by the way) turned against me. The joy I had gotten out of all of the gifts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, like the hand painted Christmas tree from my nieces and nephews and the holiday hats from Dad and J, suddenly turned to anguish. On Christmas day those things began to serve as a poignant reminder of what I was missing; the laughter of children, the cozy morning with coffee, sticky buns and the reading of the Christmas Story, and most importantly those feelings that only can be expressed in a look or a smile shared between two loved ones in the moment. I wondered how many such moments I was missing. Or rather, I knew about how many I was missing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like the entire day was an emotional rollercoaster. I actually thought I was going to make it through the day unscathed until the “Extravaganza”.
The “Extravaganza” as had been advertised for a whopping 3 days, which we believe really only served to allow the cooks some time off, took place from 2:00pm to 6:00pm; sort of a lunch dinner thing. We returned from a mission just in time to stand in the atrocious line that had formed, since everyone was so hungry. Everyone had developed this urgent need to satiate due to the hiatus that the cooks had scheduled for themselves surrounding their “Herculean” task of preparing the “Extravaganza”. I guess the strain of putting up some cheap decorations and preparing two meats instead of one justified the absence of any breakfast and a limited menu for dinner the night before. If you can’t tell, I wasn’t too impressed with the “Extravaganza”, nor did I agree with their lazy logic. After shuffling through a line the likes-of-which would make a Stalin era Russian grimace, we found ourselves being served a Christmas meal that had been prepared in the US and shipped to us. No really. Actually maybe this is a good time to tell you that all the food we eat here at FOB B-M is like this. They are called T-rations and for those who are familiar with military foodstuffs, they are sort of like huge MRE’s only made for many, rather than for one. So yeah, sure we got stuffing and sweet potatoes and turkey, but it all came over on a plane in an airtight bag. Yummy. Actually that was the real kicker, walking to our table with slices of turkey loaf nestled in the corner of our cardboard picnic plates (you know, the kind with the little sections to keep your food separate), we walked past a perfectly cooked and garnished turkey. Set up on a table for everyone’s viewing pleasure sat a golden brown bird, probably an 18+ pounder. There wasn’t enough actual turkey to serve everyone with it, but there it was… for all to see. I think it was somewhere just after that when it all began to catch up to me. As I inhaled my portions while being phonically assaulted with R&B blaring from the loudspeakers (I don’t know why either), I began to realize that the members of my family were likely waking at that very moment. Sharing with each other gifts, laughs, love. I wanted so badly to just be happy for them. I tried not to be jealous. I know that, in part, that is what I am doing over here… serving to preserve and propagate our way of life, so why begrudge others? My weakness did get the better of me though, and I quickly found myself both depressed and feeling bad for myself, neither of which suits me very well. Later on I spoke briefly with my wife, which is usually the bright part of any day, but sadly was somewhat lost on me at the time.
Here I am finding myself reluctant to even share all of this with you. I don’t want to come off as though I am seeking pity, but it wouldn’t be much of a blog if I couldn’t be truthful about my experiences either. Please do not feel badly for me though, I assure you that I am feeling profoundly better and that my sadness was fleeting. Many others have sacrificed so much more than I, and many continue to… There are some who gave their lives this Christmas, and others who loved them. I know that despite my reassurances some may feel badly for me (Mom K ) but again I will tell you that things are definitely looking on the up and up now. Actually that leads me to the next part of this entry, the New Year.
To be honest, we were more than just a little excited about the New Year, or 01JAN06 as we refer to it. Note: the operative portion of that last sentence is that little 06 part… that’s right, this is the year of our return! I know, it’s a stretch but hey it’s something. Actually that reminds me of what we are really anticipating. The Super Bowl! Not the actual event, more the milestone. You see it all started when we first arrived at FOB B-M. The computer we inherited from the previous team had a program on it that calculates the % complete of the deployment and many other things of that sort. I think I may have mentioned it in an earlier entry. Well, when we first entered our information it spit back that we were less than 2% complete, ouch (about 33% now!). It was about that time that SGT J began devising his ingenious methods of what I call “optimistic math”.
Occasionally, while sitting around the CHU (not sure what it stands for but lets just say Crappy Housing Unit) SGT J will suddenly declare “If you really think about it, we don’t have that much left till we go home” and he then proceeds to describe the semantic loop-holes that he has devised that when stated out-loud make it sound like we really don’t have that much more to go. Mind you, this started in the first month of our 12 month deployment. Many such edits have been made, but none have taken quite so well as the “Super Bowl formula”. Under this formula all we really need to do is make it to the Super Bowl, and the rest is all down hill. The logic is as follows. If we can just make it to the Super Bowl (Feb 5th) then it is only about 6 weeks till SPC H takes his leave; and what is 6 weeks? Piece of cake. Leave is 15 days stateside but that usually translates to nearly a month of absence from your duty post including travel time. Now pay attention, it gets a little tricky here… Having a member missing from the team should serve to break up the monotony of the deployment and time as such can therefore be discounted. Upon SPC H’s return, I have scheduled leave as well. By the time I return this will take us all the way up to somewhere in May. Wow. May is a mere three months from the month that we are to begin our RIP with our replacements, August. Then we are out of here! Furthermore, those three months; May, June and July are three of the busiest months for insurgent activity… that means that we will be working at a high operational tempo and therefore time will fly. So you can clearly see if we just make it to the Super Bowl we’ll be practically home already! I can smell the biscuits and gravy all ready! Makes sense right? Sure it does! At least that is how we see it, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll agree… after all, we are “trained killers”!
So, anyhow that is where we are at for now. We’re still chillin’ here in the armpit of the world (sorry if you happen to be indigenous, just my opinion) dodging bombs, bullets and boredom. It has also gotten quite cold here; extremely so at night, so that sucks too. Supposedly it only lasts a month or two at the most so we are excited about that. Then back to 100+ temps. Hurray. But don’t fret, we are hanging in there. We are armed with our positive attitudes (no really J), camaraderie, many thousands of rounds, and most important of all, the support of all you great people.
I really do love you all and can’t wait till next year when we can all celebrate together again. So, till next time, (belated)Merry Christmas and have a (belated)Happy New Year!