I’m not going to lie, this series of posts may be difficult to read for some of you. Parts were certainly less easy to read for me for sure. I an thankful that my brother is willing and knock on wood, alive to share his words and experiences with us. If he’s been writing consistently, there may be a book in it.
For now, I present to you the second installment of Excerpt from a Soldier’s Journal. I currently have one more. The first one is here if you didn’t see it.
I sit here at FOB Shank, Afghanistan late on a Sunday night, watching football with some of my Soldiers in our tower facility. I might be the commander, but sure enough, I am in the worst seat in the room. Football is all we really have at the 7-month mark. Thankfully, we have something to take our mind off our business; between the NFL, fantasy football, and the US government approval to continue AFN for us- even though they’ve shut down- we can ride the last two months out.
And a moment of clarity hits me:
“From now until the end of the world, we and it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother!” – William Shakespeare, Henry V
I look around at these young men I have led for the last 10 months. It’s humbling. But these real people are who defend your freedom. They aren’t nameless or faceless; They have hopes and dreams, problems just like everyone else, but devoted this portion of their lives for a greater purpose.
I sit next to Chief. He’s about my age, and we get along very well. He once told me that we would be good friends if I wasn’t his commander. I look forward to that day. He operates far above his pay grade, and has made these 7 months much easier for me than I could have hoped.
Next to him in the corner is V. V-man is an interesting character. Technically and tactically proficient, but made those dumb mistakes that forced us to bust him in rank. He may be the hardest worker in my company, but I wonder if we can even keep him in the Army. On the couch, playing X-box is Lil’ Rob, and Bones. Lil’ Rob is the archetype of ADHD; far smarter than his actions let on, wild, loud, and can never focus on something longer than 15 minutes. He recently told me he wants to join Special Forces. The kid works hard for me, so I want to support him, but I had to tell him that his lack of focus will be his downfall. Probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to tell someone. Bones is a perfect description of this Soldier. Tall, lanky, gangly, and with an awful mustache that rivals the M*A*S*H* character BJ Honeycutt. He is trying to move his wife from Korea. His marriage is ill-advised in the first place, but he continues to try and be a good guy. When I say kids, I mean it.
In the recliner is Mr. Black. Mr. Black is older than most of the Soldiers, and is truly one of the finest Soldiers and future leaders in the company. He has a degree, and is planning on going back to school to become an officer. Mr. Black has worked engineering magic for us during this tour, fixing holes in our flightlines from indirect fire damage. Every day I am in awe over the things he accomplishes.
Finally, on the far side of the room is the LT. LT is a smaller, quiet guy. We aren’t authorized LT’s in our company, but he distinguished himself time and again, and our commander rewarded him with sending him to my company – the red-headed step-child of the battalion. Our dysfunctional family took him right in! He is young and impressionable, still believes in the proverbial Easter Bunny, and is learning the ropes the hard way. There’s a sadness to him. He worries excessively about me when I fly. When we got here, two of our officers – and good friends of his – were killed in a rocket attack, and I don’t think he can handle losing someone else he cares about. He’s brave and good, and every bit of naïve I was as a young LT. I think that’s why I like him so much.
I think of 7 months ago and notice the change in each of these young men; the trials and successes of each, and how much I have grown to care and respect them. These young men who became my brothers.