The year was 2002 and the place was Afghanistan. Back then, we had bombed any of the major military targets back into rubble. Although, I am pretty sure in hindsight that the Taliban had not really done much in the way of rebuilding since the fall of the puppet government left behind when the Soviets had left.
My initial descent into the “country” was a rather corkscrew affair. No, really. The C17 that we were flying in corkscrewed down rather rapidly. Now, I was seated next to a lot of heavy machinery that was attacked to the aircraft aluminum by chains and specialized hooks. All this was rattling and shaking and straining in the red glow of the aircraft’s tactical lighting. It was a sphincter tightening affair to say the least.
We landed and disgorged the plane at the ungodly time of 0100 after flying for approximately 10 or so hours from Kyrgyzstan. Needless to say, I was glad to be on terra firma even if terra was Afghanistan. It was early in the war and I was young, so it was a grand adventure and I was sure that the Afghanis were happy to be liberated from the vile Taliban.
After un-assing the plane with all bag and baggage, we were shown our bunk down spot for the night: it was a blown up and partially rubbled warehouse somewhere in or around Kabul. I still remember seeing the stars through the hole in the roof. I also remember rather distinctly the sound and flash of the rockets and mortars that someone began to fire at us. Interestingly enough, we were in the safest place that we could be, given that bunkers or the like were not available. So, after about 40 minutes of contemplating my ignominious death in a dusty bunker by 122mm rockets or some other ancient commie weapon system, I feel asleep. Yup. I can fall asleep anywhere. I mean think about it? What the hell else are you going to do while waiting for death?
To this day, I am pretty sure that Afghanistan is pretty much all beige. It also smelled bad. I’m pretty sure that nothing has changed since then. However, every once in a while, you get a treat. I remember waking up and seeing the sun come up and it splashed a nice pink sheen onto the snow-kissed mountain tops around us.
It was an odd time and there is a lot of comedy in war. I remember standing and watching as locals were bringing in truck loads, wheel barrows, and buckets of rocks for the Americans to lay down, so that we wouldn’t get too muddy of feet when the rains came. I am sure that the locals must have thought us insane for buying rocks from them. To this day, even I think it amazingly crazy to have to buy dirt or rocks for yard work.
To me, it seemed that war was so far away there.
Even though things were crazy busy, attacks happened often, sleep was where you could get it, and food was mostly MREs, I miss those times. I miss those people. We had purpose, we had unity, and we had each other. It is said that history is an odd place because they do things differently there.
I miss THAT America. It seemed like there was less hate in that odd place. What is more crazy is that for the most part, we haven’t actually loss that many of us to history since then. So, what happened?
To me, it seems more like war here in this place, I call home.