August 29th, 2009 0800
I was right; it had been another hot day. Well, night really. When the temperature tops out at 115 degrees by 0200 and with the sun being not that far away, it was only going to heat up worse.The day wasn’t going to get much better from there. We were in a “blackout”, had been for two days so far and the reason was weighting on every single person’s mind.
It would probably extend for a few more days, at least. If not longer, and you could tell people were getting antsy over it. I’d already drawn ten dollars out of the atm at the px, to let my mother know I was ok, and that I would call when I could. I knew she would check my bank account after a few days.
I have to quickly shower and change into a fresh uniform and get ready. We are having a fallen soldier tribute today. Our commander had asked for volunteers’ to show support to our sister company.Most of the guys from my crew were going. None of us knew him, he lived on the other side of the FOB from us, but it doesn’t matter. He is still one of our brothers. That’s all that matters. We all wear this uniform, in one pattern or another.
That point never seems truer than when you are doing something like this. It’s surreal, I’ve been in country for well over 7 months now, and I think it’s finally hit me that I am here. From the day that I stepped off that C-130, fully loaded down with gear to now, I would walk, feeling my weapon weighting down my shoulder and just pause mentally. “I’m really here…I’m not on some extended training exercise in Texas”. But somehow it’s finally hit me. All I want to do is call home and hear my baby girl’s voice. For her to tell me about what she’d done the previous day.
I’ve been up for well over 16 hours already and I know the ceremony will go for at least half an hour, but I was going to show my support as well. Discomfort is one of those things I have grown use to. Medi-Vac helicopters whirling overhead, flaring before landing. I could sleep through them now with ease, hardly noticing them. Most of the noises here have come to that, white noise.
August 29th, 2009 1439
It was harder than I thought it would be. That solitary rifle, stuck to the ground by its bayonet. The soldier’s dogtags draped down over it. I watched battle hardened men, with two or three deployments under their belts, silently wiping their eyes behind their sunglasses.
Not that I am impervious to it. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe when I felt my chest tighten up. I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath. It was reality, simple as that. Everything was blurred around me as I stood there earlier today. That pain to talk to my family is back again. I understood the need for it, but at a time like this, I simply wanted to just hear Nat’s voice.
I doubt I am going to sleep today. I have to be up in a few hours regardless to get ready, so I might as well pull and allnighter again. I just feel numb at the moment, but I think everyone is and all I can think is I want to go home.
I just keep going back to what our Lt. had said. We’d traded missions with our sister company, running log-paks. That could have been us. We could have been on that side of the FOB. That mortar could have hit near us.
I can’t help thinking of the times we’d all sit around when they announced “all clear” and we would chuckle. Joking that one day maybe we’ll get to the bunkers. We’d grown use to it, but were we complacent to it now? Or what I complacent to danger and risk. It scares me that I’ll go home from this calloused. But I’m going to anyways. I know I am, I can feel it already, even after days like today. Days that remind you that you are human, and yet I still can feel it.
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