The things you miss.

 

Soggy, foggy, wet and chilly Afghanistan in the morning. This is actually pretty good visibility for this time of day.  These type of days just make you feel worn out. You never really get dry. You are chilled and damp and tired. All those things make you wish you were somewhere else, like home.

Here on the other side of the world the days are normally pretty busy.  This goes for me as well as all those that share this little corner of conflict with me.  Many things are really the same here as they were at home there in Texas.  The morning starts here just like it does there with some small differences.  Those differences, when you think about them, bring into sharp focus just where we are.  You get up, get dressed and go to work.  No real difference there, except those small things again, things as simple as the clothes you wear.  It starts with flame resistant t-shirts and shorts because explosions tend to have fire associated with them.  Then there is of course the outer layer with all the patches and identifying logos because it would be a real bad thing to be mistaken for the bad guys. Boots to protect the ankles, rock and stuff you know.  Kevlar vest with ballistic plates, about 40 pounds.  Gloves with hardened knuckle caps are a must.  Ballistic eye protection and this is not optional at all. They look like pretty cool sunglasses actually.  At night you have to wear the clear ones as they are required anytime you are outside. Ballistic headgear (helmet), water bladder, flashlight, knife, camera, writing pad, flex cuffs, chemlights, in both red and green to mark positions for the medevac and something you really hope you donít need, a radio, foldable water bowl, 30 foot leash, 6 foot leash, and a Kong (dog reward for when he finds something).  Of course my four footed partner has his own gear to wear. Depending on the mission there may be more but normally he will wear his own Kevlar vest, doggles, harness, and collar.  After you get all this gear on and situated it just reinforces what a strange place you are in. The sights and sounds all remind you that you are here and not home.  But, as I said you stay pretty busy so you just go on and do your job like normal, but it really isnít.

Something that is the hardest for all of us is the separation.  I see the young soldiers, compared to me they are all pretty young, struggling with being away from home, being away from normalcy and family. The young couples separated before they have even started their lives together.  Speaking strictly for me Iím lucky.  In fact Iím more than lucky, Iím blessed.  When I took this adventure my wife and I talked about it a lot.  We had a choice to do or not do this.  We had a choice to be apart for a time where most, if not all, of the service members here donít.  They are told to go and that is it.  They have to deal with it and many times they are sorely unprepared.  Yes it is a volunteer force and one of the best prepared, best educated, and best supported force we have ever had, but still, these are mainly young people that have to deal with very very adult situations.  It is a lot to ask.  Once again for me, I was lucky.  My wife Katherine and I saw it as just another deployment.  I had been out of the army almost 16 years but the skills we had honed when I was active duty came back quickly.  I say we had honed because family members that are left behind when a soldier deploys are just as much on the mission as the soldier is.  It may be different but they are part of the mission just the same.

Birthdays, school plays, proms, births, holidays, anniversaries, vacations all get missed.  All are celebrated apart.  Katherine and I have decided that the day is not important.  What I mean is the actual day like Christmas or a birthday is not really important.  We will celebrate it when we can.  It is the celebration, the event that is special, not the date.  It is a coping method that has worked for us. Speaking of that, May first is a special day. It is our 29th anniversary. Iíll be here, sheíll be there, but we will be together none the less and we will celebrate it when we can.

Yes it is the small things and sometimes the not so small things we miss.

Well, it is 0 dark thirty and raining here. Time to put on my gear and go to work.

From here in soggy Afghanistan,

Iím Jon Harris and this has been another Dispatch from downrange.

PS:  Good night dear, sleep well, and happy anniversary.