No matter how you feel about the war or the military, there is a lot to love about the 4th of July. You don’t have to be an uber-patriot to enjoy and celebrate.
Today was not the first time I’ve spent a holiday away from home, but it is my first holiday in the ‘stan.
During war, the military doesn’t ever have a real “day off,” but they do try to observe all special occasions. Although I spent a little time learning more about my job in the ‘stan, our team took some time today to have a little barbecue and throw the football around.
The experience is not quite the same as you might expect back home … for example, back home, I would play games in the park or backyard in the grass. But, there is no grass here, so we’re throwing the ball while standing in gravel. At home, we used to always have a DJ to play music at the party. Here, we hooked up someone’s iPod to a PA speaker system and just let it play.
At home, my mother (who is celebrating her birthday today, by the way,) would always barbecue lots of different meats … ribs, chicken, burgers and hot dogs. Here, the chow hall provides pre-cooked burgers and hotdogs, and then we throw them on the grill to give ‘em an “outdoor” flavor. Back in the day, we would end the celebration by playing with fireworks in the day, and going to watch a big fireworks show at night. Here, there are no fireworks (unless you count the occasional IED explosion.) The nighttime fireworks show is replaced with the loud roar of military aircraft. Sadly, there is nothing to see in the sky, because aircraft flying into Afghanistan usually turn off their lights at night so they don’t attract gunfire.
The biggest difference between a 4th of July celebration at home and one here is the absence of family. Part of the fun at home sometimes is the reunion with family, and experiencing those family quirks that often surface during the holidays (like your drunk Uncle Jimmy.) But, the cool thing about the military is that everybody is your family … even if you’ve never met them before. (I don’t mean to sound all “Band-o-Brothers”and all, but it’s true.) It doesn’t feel the same as being at home, but the feeling of family is still there.
Still, I miss Muna and Taj (as always.) Muna went to New Orleans to attend the Essence Music Festival this weekend, and got to see a lot of big-time celebrities like John Legend and Beyonce’. Wish I could have gone! (A soul singer by the name of Ledisi performed there … I’m really diggin’ her music right now.)
Taj hasn’t really experienced an old-fashioned 4th of July celebration like the old days. Since most military bases don’t allow fireworks, his experience with them is usually just watching a show. But, he likes the “snakes” … you remember those, right? (They’re the little round black pellets that you light and then they grow into long, ashy-looking snakes.) That stuff was FUN back in the day! I wish I could have done that with Taj today. Maybe next year.