"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

29 October 2010

The Junior Officer's Reading Club- Patrick Hennessey

I knocked out Patrick Hennessey's The Junior Officer's Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars in 2 day. Couldn't put it down. I think it could be fairly described as the British counterpart to Craig Mulanney's The Unforgiving Minute.

There was so much I loved about this book, from his humor to his battlefield descriptions peppered with pop culture and classic references. He tells a captivating story about the journey through young adulthood with stops along the way at Sandhurst, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

He talks a lot about his time as a trainer of Afghan forces and the connections he makes to those men and their officers. I think sometimes we forget when we talk about the wars and standing up an army or the deaths of Afghan soldiers that they are brothers in arms as well. Those that stand and fight forge bonds with our military men and British allies. Sometimes I think we underestimate that bond.

I am also fascinated by points in his story where the war and the outside world combine. A lot of people are so numb and/or ignorant of events that I always find it interesting when they are jolted out of their complacency.

The best example of this is a story in which Hennessey relates the aftermath of an attack and the evacuation of casualties:

The Chinook which comes thundering into the hastily prepared landing site turns out not to be the air ambulance but a diverted R & R flight, and I'll never forget the look of horror on the face of the young, possibly pretty journalist who's sitting in the back in gimpy blue helmet, unsure why her flight home has just dropped into the Green Zone, where the air is still a-rattle with fire form the ANA on the cordon, when suddenly the reality of Helmand charges on to her lap as four sweating, swearing, emotional soldiers drop a bleeding, naked, morphine-babbling black man on her brand new hiking boots.

I find myself wondering what her side of that story is. What did she take away from that experience? What were her thoughts and emotions? Did it change the way she reported on the war? Did it change her reactions, emotions, and relationships to soldiers? Did she see war in general with new eyes?

There probably are no answers to these questions but I think they are important to ask anyway. What do we do with the war when its realities are brought home? How do those realities fundamentally change us?

Those are questions I've thought about for a long time. I still don't have answers for them.

But I love this book for sparking my interest in searching for them again.

14 October 2010

Where War Lives: A Photographic Journal of Vietnam

I've been reading Where War Lives: A Photographic Journal of Vietnam by Dick Durrance. It is a collection of his photographs during his military service accompanied by an introduction by Ron Kovic of Born on the 4th of July fame.

The Vietnam war is, in many ways, the military history I grew up on. Stories from Vietnam were told by relatives who served, passed down in family legend. Its pictures, patches, and maps covered the walls of the VFW where we had so many family gatherings.

Yet its jungles and aging warriors seem far removed after so many years of the wars that have become my own.

Through Durrance's photographic journey of his service, I am reminded once again of the commonalities of war and of the men and women who fight them.

A war is a war is a war. A warrior is a warrior is a warrior.

The future photojournalist captures the humanity of his compatriots. In the black and white photographs of training I can see Bestie and a hundred friends reflected in the bearing and attitude of young men now thirty-plus years their senior.

Take the trees out of his helo shots and the door gunner could be the one that sits in my hard drive, flying over an entirely different battlefield.

Flipping through the photographs, I am drawn to their eyes. Eyes that reflect too many hours without a decent sleep. Young men burdened with the weight too much gear and too many memories. Eyes with a certain hardness and sureness of attitude.

I have seen these eyes before. I will see them again soon.

I find it interesting that Dick Durrance waited twenty years after he left Vietnam to publish this book. I wonder what we will learn about our wars and from our warriors in twenty years.

"Nothing can repair the damage caused by war, but returning to the memories and pictures has connected me to those experiences, which, in spite of my efforts to ignore them, have done so much to shape the rest of my life (143)." ~Dick Durrance

08 October 2010

Continuing and Beginning Again

Bestie is back is the sand.

The weight that I felt lift when he called and said he was out of the country and on his way home for leave has settled again on my shoulders. I am sad that he is back there, away from his wife and all of us who love him. I am already miss not being able to pick up the phone and harass him with the the trivial details of my day.

War is freaking painful.

I spend a lot of time trying not to think about the possibilities and the emotions. I want to ignore risk, fear, and the ache that settles somewhere in my heart. The one that will persist until he leaves Afghan airspace for good and touches down on US soil.

At the same time, it is easier this time than other times. Maybe I have toughened up. Maybe it is just a internal protection mechanism that makes me think that. Maybe it is because I know he has more support this time around and that makes a substantial difference.

What I do know is that even if it is easier, it still hurts.

The lump in my throat as I told him to "travel safe" as he prepared to reenter bad guy land was the size of a softball.

That hasn't changed.

He is my best friend. My brother. I love him and want him to be safe. To be happy. To not carry the weight that I hear in his voice.

We are halfway done.

So much time has passed.

Yet so much remains before this one comes to a close.

Miss you brother bear.

Be safe.

07 October 2010

The Silly Things

I have a bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans sitting in my room.

The bag is two thirds empty but plenty of jelly beans remain in the bottom that I never got around to eating. They've been there since Christmas, so they are rather stale at this point.

The bag itself is getting ragged, the plastic starting to pull away from the zip lock top. It is covered in duck tape which prevents any holes from forming.

It still holds the sweet scent of sugar when I sit down to the computer or pass it as I grab my make up bag in the morning.

I really should throw it away. After all, isn't that what you are supposed to do with stale jelly beans that have no hope of being consumed? But I can't bring myself to put it in the waste basket because Bestie gave it to me.

A bag of jelly beans from my best friend who is so far away.

Is it superstition? I'm not sure. I don't really believe that changing the location of a bag of jelly beans will, like the mystical butterfly that flaps its wings in China, alter the course of events across the world. By holding on to that bag I am not keeping him safe from harm. But isn't that an awesome concept...a magical bag of jelly beans blessed with the powers of protection.

Yet I cannot get rid of it. I can't throw it away. Not yet.

Maybe not until he is back for good.

Because he gave it to me.

He gave it to me.

So the Jelly Belly jelly beans bag remains on the desk.

A reminder of one who is away.

01 October 2010

R&R Leave

The Bestie is on his R&R leave, enjoying a vacation with the Bestie-in Law.

I am hoping that this time away recharges his spirits and allows him to get some rest. It has been so good to hear from him consistently and to be able to talk to him whenever I want. I don't have to worry where he is, what he is doing, or what is going on in his part of the world.

He sent a picture. His smile said it all.

I wish that this was it. That he was home for good. But we are only halfway done.

When he goes back, my phone is going to feel unloved with out all the texts he sends.

The thought of him going back makes me miss him all the more.

Love ya Brother Bear.