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February 14, 2005
Laundry Day (Part 2)By Greyhawk
(Continuing a story begun here.)
A hundred days had made me older
But all the miles had separate
I'm here without you baby
- 3 Doors Down - Here Without You
"I'm getting a sandwich. You want anything from Subway?"
"No thanks. I need to get back to the shop."
"Well, thanks for the ride. Oh, hey, don't forget my level 4 in the back..."
"Your armor? Yeah, I'll turn it in to supply, no sweat."
Funny - one of the previous times he thought he was on his way home he'd turned his armor in, only to have the flight cancelled, so back to supply to get another set he went. Joy joy.
"Safe trip back." He said, starting the truck.
"Yeah - Have a safe tour." Then louder as the truck backed out. "The time passes man - just keep busy, don't count the days."
Beneath a million stars he waited in the line that stretched outside the Subway doors. Struck up conversations with others waiting. Always tricky to ask if they were headed home. If the answer was "no" then usually the question came back at you, and he felt like a jerk for saying "yes". So the answer became "hope so" instead - a nod to the unpredictability of flights out. Hell, there was a joke going around the shop. He was Ulysses - his war was over but he just couldn't get home.
Philly steak and cheese, chips, Snapple. The last supper in Iraq, he ate it on a picnic table under the stars. He wandered back in to the pax terminal. It had been an hour since they said the bag drag would happen in five minutes, so now this a good time to see how far out it was now. "Hey - I'm checking on bag drag..."
"Oh, yeah... right. The flight to al Udeid. Um, yeah, we'll get that going here real soon; uh... we'll call shortly..."
"Ok, thanks" He smiled. Half hour. Back to his book. The one he was reading, not the one he was writing. A couple chapters later the call went out, he stacked his bags on a pallet with the others. Figured it was safe to strike up the "going home" conversation with those guys who were stacking their stuff out there too.
"How long were you here?"
"Just a month. Medical problems - I'm being shipped back stateside."
Damn. He thought back to the trip in, a conversation with another guy waiting on the same plane. He'd said he was coming back to Iraq.
"This your second tour?"
"No. I was just sent home for a couple weeks. A day after I got here my brother killed himself."
There were a lot of stories being written in Iraq, and most were a lot worse than his.
"Well" he said to medical problem guy, "if you're leaving Iraq, a C17 in the middle of the night is the only way to fly."
A few minutes later they were called to the bus, and the bus took them to the plane, and the plane took them up into the night sky.
Just before takeoff, this over the speakers: "Hello and welcome aboard C17 airlines, you're non-stop service to Qatar. We're taking off shortly and if insurgents don't shoot us down immediately after launch we should make it in just a couple hours..."
He laughed. But some of his fellow passengers looked around nervously under the glow of red cabin lights. He noticed they were wearing armor and helmets - required by regs, he thought, though he wasn't wearing any - and also carrying their weapons. Whatever.
A half minute later, different voice: "Uhh... our apologies. That was a stowaway. We'll be off in a minute and on our way to al Udeid. Please sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight."
The thrust was pretty strong - there was some consideration given to those insurgents after all - and the climb was steep. Always a bit of a pain when strapped in to jump seats facing sideways in the plane, but that was a minor discomfort compared to some places he'd been recently. This beat hell out of a C130, he thought, apologizing to all herc crews everywhere. The plane leveled out, the ride was smooth. He had no idea how long he might be stuck at al Udeid, but no matter how you looked at it with every mile they flew in exactly the wrong direction he was moving closer to home.
On the ground at al Udeid: "Would you like a ration card"
Ration card meant beer ration. "Yes. I hope I never get to use it, but sure." Man, if he was going to be here long he'd have to remember to get that load of damp laundry out of the bag and into a dryer soon...
"Okay, here. Any questions we can answer for you?"
"Where's the pax terminal? This place has changed a lot since I passed through last..."
"Right next door"
At the pax terminal: "I know the answer, but I'm going to ask anyway. Any flights to Germany tonight?"
"No. Well... wait. We've got one going to Germany, but it stops at Balad first. C17 flight... after that nothing on schedule for the next four days..."
Balad meant back to Iraq. "Get me on it."
"We'll try... the rotator just came in and we've got a lot of folks going in to Iraq. By the way, do you have armor? We can't allow anyone to fly in to Iraq without body armor."
Posted by Greyhawk / February 14, 2005 1:11 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
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