October 1, 2012 by Brian
The following is from an email I received today from a fraternity brother of mine, currently on his 9th tour in Afghanistan. Toward the end he references the “physical confidence” we have been discussing in recent weeks. I wonder what Dave would have done when that guy busted through the back door a couple weeks ago…
The Lord is with me, whom shall I fear?
Today is my birthday, I hardly believe it myself that I have turned 39 yet again. There will be many festivities, as the Taliban are certain to launch rockets in my honor. Who said the Taliban doesn’t know how to party? Should the party become boisterous we have our party hats and formal vest. No cummerbunds mind you, but it is a matching set. This is a dry county, so parties never last too long. My helmet and vest are right where I left them when I first arrived.
The first order of business will be to acquire coffee. I can get by without it, but those with whom I must interact prefer that I not forego the elixir. With coffee in hand, I set out to begin my 4 mile walk of shaking hands and kissing babies. To the untrained eye, one might think I am running for mayor of Bagram; instead I am networking with service members and contractors alike to find people who may need my services. While my primary duty is the maintenance of the equipment used by the Intelligence community, I’ll work on just about anything. If repairing an X-Box is the highlight of some Soldier’s day, I’m glad to do it. I notice that the Post Exchange (PX, our version of Wal-Mart) has new shipping containers outside; I also see that the ATM has a line of hopeful recipients. Cash is hard to readily come by in Afghanistan, so for my Soldiers who live the furthest away from the PX area, they need as much advance warning that they can get that the PX shelves are no longer bare, and our version of Vegas slots has been restocked. I make sure to tell all of my soldiers, but there is a fair amount of trepidation for those waiting to use the ATM. It gets stocked with homage to Benjamin Franklin, but it will be bone dry by afternoon. You’d hate to be “that guy”, the one who is next in line, when the house goes bust and no longer pays out.
Along the way from unit to unit, I’ll maintain and repair what I find. Every so often, I come across something woefully neglected. From my mumblings the Soldiers know to bring me coffee, STAT! With a fresh coffee in one hand and a wave of my other hand I shoo off the curious and work my dark magic. In truth, I need to get out my glasses to see the itty bitty print, but no reason to lose cool points over it. With conjuring of a mage, I plug the network cable back into its port, and viola! I step out from being the rack of equipment, and the device has been restored. When asked what was needed, I scan the audience to gauge gullibility, and reply with “small animal sacrifice”. I quickly move on and let them ponder my words.
I’ll move from unit to unit until 1600, my favorite time of the day. A little “me time” at the gym; at a minimum, I’ll lift weights for an hour. If the mission allows, I’ll stay for another 30 minutes to an hour and work on cardio. Physical fitness is of utmost importance on the battle field. There are plenty who do not see the need for exercise. Many with this view point also do not take weapons qualification seriously.
I don’t have any delusions about myself and Bruce Willis taking on the Taliban, but being called upon in the heat of the moment happens.
Though I am technically a non-combatant, I have more experience on the battle field than some soldiers. With the crack of small weapons fire, or the boom of IDF, one can be thrust into the midst of a storm.
As the duty day winds down, we’ll look to have a feast. We’ll check the menu of the Dining Facility… hmmm gruel again. Not all Dining facilities are created equal, but with the one closest to me offering grim prospects, it looks like a trip back to the PX area is in order. There we have Pizza Hut, Popeye’s Chicken, and Green Beans. Green Beans are the military version of Starbucks. It’s just as expensive as Starbucks, but hey… we’re in a war zone. The coffee there far exceeds the turpentine served at the chow hall, so I willingly part with five dollars for a twenty ounce cup of Gucci designer heaven. Tonight we’ll dine on pizza and drink sodas with pricing commensurate to your local movie theater. Free gruel or pay for Pizza? Pizza.
Today is my birthday, but I sent presents home to my children. Someone should enjoy my birthday. If I were home I’d take the day off. Get in a motorcycle ride in the morning, and then pull the kids out of school for an afternoon and evening of fun. For now, I’ll defer that special day until I get home. In two months I’ll make my way back to the United States. My birthday wish is that our children never have to come to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. One of my oldest friends has a son who is likely to enlist. It is he who needs our prayers. For me?… Well I made my decisions; I take the lumps incurred with sacrifice and revel in the pride of serving our country.
I’m not the strongest or the biggest guy you will meet, but I may be one of the most confident. I’m confident of my abilities, confident that I am saved. How many more birthdays will we get? None of us really knows. I do know this: If the Lord is with me, whom shall I fear?