Sunday, January 6, 2008

Third Time's A Charm...


"Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man." William Shakespeare, "King John", Act 3 Scene 4

There's just no good way to write this. How does a meat and potatoes, midwestern "guard guy" convey his experiences already encountered in the Middle-East, through two previous deployments, in a way that hasn't already been done? This "twice-told tale" now reaches its third, and hopefully final, act. But how can I take this new Middle-Eastern adventure and make it even remotely captivating to the reader? At this point, I'm just not sure... Heck, does anyone even remember that there is still a war on terror going on?...

"Yeah, we peaked on the phone." Claire Colburn - "Elizabethtown"

I'll begin with a brief history... When I was in Kuwait & Iraq in 2003 for what some of us in the military still refer to as the "major combat phase", I thought I had seen it all. Or at least as far as the human experience goes, I really thought I had "peaked!" I mean, how many old men have you heard tell tale of their wartime encounters?... those moments that changed them... that defined them - often speaking of those days in the same way a small-town barber still reminisces about the glory days on his high-school championship basketball team. How many books have been written about war?... the anxiety?... the turmoil?... the excitement?... the agony of losing friends?... the exhiliration of success in battle?... All of these experiences bundled up into one big testament to the generations of soldiers to follow - and here I was witnessing it all firsthand! To me, this was IT! I was there! In my mind I thought, "It doesn't get any better - or worse depending on one's viewpoint - than this!" But in the end, it was but a blip on the map in a life that had so much more to see and do, and just as soon as my tour to the sandbox had begun, it was over just as quickly. Life went on and I came home a changed man - certainly! - but one who had so much more to experience... so much more to see.... so much more life to live.

"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." -
Nathan Hale, 22 September 1776

The excitement was not over yet. In December of 2004, my unit deployed yet again to the Middle-East, but this time to Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. I went this time with the expectation - or hope - of having a fairly boring tour, at least when compared to my experiences in Iraq. But you know how they say, "Be careful what you wish for!".... my initial stay in Afghanistan was just that! Boring!... But then again, I felt like I had used up all my 9 lives in Iraq and somehow still came out fairly unscathed, so "boring" in Afghanistan was good, right?! Well, I must admit, I am not one to sit idle for long. Sure, my mission was first priority, but even with the usual hiccups that happen when you first take turnover from the outgoing unit, I was able to maintain the computer systems & communications equipment there with relative ease. So, because of the absolutely poor conditions I witnessed in Iraq two years prior, I began to seek out any humanitarian effort that was taking place to offer my help. I was also going stir crazy, and was convinced I'd hexed myself somehow by making the "boring" prediction to alleviate friends' & family's concerns when told to "keep my head low" and "be safe" as I departed for Afghanistan. I had to DO something!... It was groundhog day, every day! *smile* I was simply working, eating, and sleeping - day in and day out! Ahhh!!! I soon came across CW5 Layne Pace, an Apache pilot from the Utah National Guard. He and several others in his unit were working with the Egyptian & Korean hospitals on base offering humanitarian goods to the Afghanis who were being treated there. I signed on to help, and loved every minute of it. That soon led to another opportunity to fly out to the remote village of Jegdalek to provide humanitarian supplies there too. That day began with an all-night shift - on my birthday! - and then a two-hour helo flight out the next morning to Jegdalek with the others. I did not sleep and spent the entire day at Jegdalek, but in the world's biggest understatement, that experience was one of my "defining moments!"

"That was then, this is now" - The Monkees

Those that know me realize that I just took two combat tours, and the countless, separate, experiences from each - that could have kept everyone entertained for days on end! - and whittled them down, somewhat impossibly, to only two short paragraphs. :-) As Micky Dolenz eluded to in the song above, those events were all in the past and if you were lucky enough to live through them with me by reading my emails, then you understand how much I left out for brevity's sake. But this is now! - already 2008 - and I am sitting here in the hotel room, just hours from rotating out of the States.... wondering..... marveling!... at what this tour may bring to the table. Better yet, what will "I" bring to the table with me? I won't naively make the same mistake by wishing for - or assuming - a boring tour because I...... ummm... well..... I just can't help myself! I'm not one to sit idly by and watch the world go 'round while counting down the days until I come home again. As cliche as it may sound, I want to leave this place knowing I've made a difference somehow... whether it be in the lives of fellow soldiers, or perhaps in the lives of the orphan children of Afghanistan. Either way, I am convinced that this tour will not disappoint.


"Try a thing you haven't done three times. Once, to get over the fear of doing it. Twice, to learn how to do it. And a third time to figure out whether you like it or not." -
Virgil Thomson


Well here we go!.... My third tour to the Middle-East in 5-years' time. Like Mr. Thomson's quote above, I got over my fear in the first tour..... I felt I "figured things out" in the second.... and well.... for my third?.... time will tell I suppose. But I suspect - quite predictably - that I will like it. Through an already-established collaboration, I hope to be assisting The Afghanistan Orphanage Project (
TAO Project) while in-theatre and you just never know what other opportunities may present themselves! *smile* I believe that these deployments - like "life" - are what you make of them, so I'm ready to make this one memorable, meaningful, and with any luck, instrumental in making life better for the Afghanis. Maybe I needed those first two deployments to "get it" - to be prepared for this time around... *shrug* Either way, sit back.... listen in.... and enjoy the ride through the blogosphere as we travel this uncharted road together, because I believe that great things are about to happen!


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4 comments:

Janie said...

Good luck with your new adventure!Please let us know things you are going to need so we can get them to you!

Shay said...

Hi Ken, Nice to see the blog up. I'll be keeping tabs on what's going on. All is good here so you just look after yourself ok. If you need anything let me know.. Shay

Anonymous said...

Ken
I'll be checking your blog daily. If there's anything I can do for you from this end; let me know.
Stay safe, my friend. Hope to see you soon.
Jim

Kelly said...

As a military wife going through a deployment, I say Good Luck. Stay safe and know that there are so many of us back in the states that pray daily for your safety. Keep up the good work.