(For my Facebook readers, Facebook is horrible at displaying pics with their matching blog posts. Please click the “view original post” link below to see pics properly.)
Being in a combat zone was a unique experience. There were lots of days of stress, confusion, boredom and tension. Deployed servicemembers often found ways to deal with the situation … of course, people dealt with it differently.
Some went to the gym a lot. (Kind of like a prison sentence … go in a 90-pound weakling, and come out a 175 bench-pressing machine.)
Others played music in their spare time. (For some reason, guitar players are abundant in combat zones … I guess because drum sets and xylophones are a bit more difficult to carry in a backpack.)
The younger folks immersed themselves in video games. (I always found it funny that we couldn’t get wireless internet at our FOB, but some crafty Soldiers found a way to network multiple XBOXs so they could play Call of Duty.)
Me? I created and updated this website and blog. No matter how crappy my day was, I liked having to think about how I was going to write about it later. Even a bad experience gave me some good material, so I didn’t mind it as much.
I was fortunate enough to work with two young, energetic lieutenants while serving as part of our Provincial Reconstruction Team. Graham “Rotten” Auten and Anthony “Riff-Raff” Raffaele were the driving force behind our team (which was kind of an impressive statement since there were several officers senior to them, including myself, on the team.)
But, the way Rotten Auten and Riff-Raff dealt with being in a combat zone was the way everyone else was SUPPOSED to. They went to work.
While others were thinking of excuses to go to Bagram (to get away from the filth outside the wire,) the lieutenants were working.
When others forgot they were in Afghanistan and were adamant about trying to maintain “office hours” in a combat zone, the lieutenants were WORKING at all hours of the night.
While the “good-idea fairy” was busy trying to do everyone else’s job (and simultaneously sucking at her own,) the lieutenants were working.
You get the idea … I admired how Rotten and Riff-Raff were the lowest-ranking officers on our team, but served as good examples for everyone (even senior-ranking officers) to follow.
Like most men, when they WEREN’T working, they were talking about their loves back home. The lieutenants and I often swapped “women” stories at night. I shared stories about Muna; Riff-Raff entertained us with stories about Carmen. (I bet that as soon as Muna and Carmen finish reading this sentence, they’ll run to us asking: “WHAT did you tell those guys in Afghanistan about me?”)
But Riff-Raff and I were all ears any time Auten was talking about his fiance’, Jessica. Auten and Jessica became engaged prior to his deploying, and many of his phone calls to her included discussing wedding plans. They planned to be married when he returned.
Riff-Raff and I would listen in on his phone conversations, snickering as he talked with her about seating arrangements, guest lists and other trivial wedding details. Sometimes, we would silently make rude/crude/lewd gestures to see if he could keep a straight face while talking with her on the phone. (Hey, it’s what guys do, okay?) Other times, we would just interrupt their conversation by chiming in with our opinion of their plans (as if we had a say in the matter.)
That’s how Rotten Auten got through the ‘stan … working hard and planning his wedding. And, just by the rest of us listening to them talk, their wedding became OUR special event. It was as if we ALL had something to look forward to when our time in the ‘stan was done.
Graham Auten married Jessica Kinley 26 June, in a ceremony that I assume had all the glitz, glamour and flare that was the result of those many late-night conversations we heard him having. Mission Accomplished. I was really sad that Muna and I weren’t able to make it, but were honored we were even invited.
Your marriage to Graham is not only declaring your love for him, but it is a declaration of your commitment to the Air Force. You may not realize this, but you have just signed on to join the military. (Even though your new position doesn’t come with rank, pay, or a uniform, you’ll share the same experiences as Graham as he travels on his journey.) My sincerest thanks to you for signing up for such a commitment, and my best wishes as you start your new lives together.
To “Rotten” Auten: You’ve already proven you know how to build things … I hope you use your tremendous work ethic to build a life full of happiness for you, Jessica and your new family. Kink! Kink! Kink! Kink!
To Riff-Raff: What are you waiting for?