Friday, June 05, 2009

Our Excellent Adventure

So this last mission outside the wire on Monday turns out to form a nice 'inclusio' with one of our first missions: We got stranded away from 'home' for days, rather than being gone only a matter of hours. Rather like what happened last August, though at a different destination.

One of the biggest bummers for me this time was that instead of having four helicopter flights, we only got two. Rats!

I suspect one of the biggest bummers for others was my lack of showering and my not having clean clothes to change into... Ewww.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, I hadn't brought along my extra bag (with change of clothes, and portable DVD player), so I only had my high-speed "Army Combat Shirt" to wear (it's worn without an undershirt) for the three days we were gone.

Need I mention that it's been over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day now for a while? And that it's not cooling off all that much at night?

Add to that the moving around and then par-boiling in body armor at the helicopter landing zone (HLZ) for hours on Monday night, then Tuesday morning, then Wednesday morning....

(I'm very glad to be 'home' as I'm writing this!)

I was especially disappointed on Tuesday morning, because SFC McG had managed to arrange a for a convoy (link-up time = 0830) to take us where we next needed to be, but we wound up not going with them. We were traveling with a priest recently arrived in country (he'd not even been gone a year since his last, 15-month deployment here, and he's an Active Duty priest!), and his Chaplain Assistant had arranged for a helicopter to pick us up at 1130, so we removed our names from the convoy manifest.

The helicopters arrived 45 minutes late, and having arrived at the HLZ an hour before the scheduled departure time, we were all pretty warm. I'd sat inside the concrete bunker, reading "Theology and Social Theory" by John Milbank (I'm *still* not done with that damn book, but am finally on the last chapter. CH J will owe me for the rest of his life for subjecting me to this!!) in an effort to distract myself from the sauna-esque nature of the experience.

SFC McG is happy as can be in the heat, and sat there outside the bunker in the direct sunshine working on his deployment tan -- just his head and his hands. (You should see how dark he's gotten just in these last few days!)

When the birds finally arrived, they only had room for two of the four of us, so SFC McG and I stayed behind, especially given that the new priest outranks me, and will be here for the next year.

(Considering the wag-bag-only latrine option at the next destination, it was far better to be stranded where we were, than to wind up stranded there!)

Gratitude is a delight, and really does improve any situation.

Little did I know that I'd have lots more opportunity for gratitudinous intentionality over the rest of that day and into the next!

In short: they gave me back the keys to the CHU I'd slept in the night before, but when I went to go to bed around 2200, there was someone already occupying the space; I wound up spending the night in the POW (that's right: prisoner of war) tent. The air conditioning in there kept the temperature in the 80s -- even when it dropped into the 70s outside that night.

Every so often a puff of dust would come belching out of the thing, so that I spent the night hacking and coughing.

On top of everything else (not being able to connect to my Army email program from an Army computer, for example), my prescription glasses disappeared from in front of the mirror in the latrine while I was busy about other things in that place. Given that I paid for them myself, and I'd be needing to wearing eye protection (EYEPRO) in order to board the aircraft the next morning, this was something of a huge annoyance and concern.

I made a bunch of gratitude lists over that one!

Fortunately, the person who had them got them back to me a bit later, so that turned out OK, but was pretty disturbing for a while.

I basically did not sleep at all that night, which in the past would have seemed cataclysmic. Nowadays, however, situations such as this become occasions for really focussing on gratitude, so I spent the night making one list of ten after another.

The next morning when the birds landed, the crew indicated that they could only take one of the two of us, which was a bit disconcerting, to say the least. It was very hot, again, and I *really* wanted to get back so I could shower and sleep.

SFC McG worked his voodoo (or whatever it is, perhaps Jedi mind control....), and the crew of the other aircraft moved around a bunch of civilian luggage so that I could board that aircraft.

It turns out that the "Raiderettes" were on that helicopter, so I was greeted with very beautiful smiles.

Gratitude is actually easier in the face of beautiful, smiling faces.

Why is that?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

dodobrowns said...

Oh the lovely Raiderettes. Why not me...

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