Friday, November 27, 2009

A year ago

Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here, and while it was (sort of) nice to eat turkey twice (lunch AND dinner), it was not quite the same as being home! This second Thanksgiving in a row away from family and friends proved to be more challenging than I'd imagined.

For one thing, I was up a LONG time yesterday.

One of our squads had to go out on patrol yesterday morning at the crack of dawn. I decided that if they needed to be up and working in time to leave by the time they did (at least a couple of hours, and more usually three if I can swing it, before I get out of bed), I ought to get up early to be there to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving, and send them on their way with my thanks and a prayer or two.

So I dutifully set my alarm for four hours later than I went to bed, and went to sleep. As an aside, now that I have a room of my own, I'm generally sleeping better than I have for most of the last four months of training -- essentially, since I returned from Iraq. (The 'kennel cough' which has dogged me since shortly after I arrived isn't helping me sleep, but at least I now have my own room!)

I awoke on my own, looked at my watch, and said to myself, "Self, shouldn't you be up already?" It was five minutes after the time I'd set the alarm to wake me. Or so I thought.

I guess I was so tired Wednesday night by the time I turned off the light, that I'd actually set the alarm for an hour *later* than what I'd intended. I rushed to throw on my uniform and coat, and then double-timed it over to the motor pool, hoping I'd not missed my guys.

They were there, and mighty surprised to see me. I gave them a bit of a pep talk, which included my sincere thanks for their service. We said a quick prayer, and they took off on their way. I made my way back to my room, with detours to the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and Company Command Posts (CPs) to check in with the night shift in each of those control centers.

They were pretty surprised to see me, too. I guess they don't get many visitors.

By now, since I've done this before, I'd have thought they might be coming to expect it of me to show up in the dead of night....

They're great guys.

I didn't really get back to sleep, unfortunately, and then got about the business (and busy-ness) of my Thanksgiving Day: Mass, followed by an interfaith Thanksgiving prayer service; lunch with other Unit Ministry Teams (UMTs) and our Albanian- and Serbian-language interpreters; office hours; a trip outside the wire to visit an Orthodox priest on the Feast of St. John Chrysostom; supper; and an attempt to connect with family and friends over Skype.

I'm hoping today will be fairly quiet; it would be nice to get a nap, if that be possible!

But as long as we don't get mortared, as we did one year ago today when I was in Iraq (the mortar destroyed a Containerized Housing Unit (CHU) just down the row from my own quarters, and a dud landed on the doorstep of the room next to then-SFC McG's quarters; it would have destroyed his CHU had it detonated), no matter what else might happen, it should be a great day.

I won't miss the shopping frenzy in the States, either.  I've never quite understood the fascination, to be perfectly honest....

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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