Thursday, August 11, 2011

Soldier Story

I had a couple of encounters with soldiers recently, which made last weekend's tragedy in Afghanistan really hit home with me.  I will admit - I am a person who tends to live in a cocoon and if it doesn't affect me directly, I don't pay much attention to it - things like politics or stuff that happens in the Middle East or even Europe.  Part of me thinks, why get all worked up when its not going to affect you or there is nothing you can do about it.  Its not admirable, I admit.  Just being truthful.  In the past I really didn't like when my husband would get all worked up about stuff like that - what's the point?  

Anyway... so I went to a work conference two weeks ago in Chicago.  Yes, the one where I got my face painted at the Museum of Science and Industry.  The keynote speaker was Marcus Luttrell, a Navy seal who was injured in a mission called Operation Redwing.   He wrote a book called Lone Survivor because the other three Seals with him were killed by those nasty bastards of the Taliban and 16 other servicemen were killed in a helicopter crash, trying to rescue them.  Before this weekend, it was the worst accident during wartime.  He wrote the book to memorialize his fellow Seals.  Yes, I know.  It happened in 2005 and I didn't know anything about it.  The speaker, Marcus was, well, how can I put this.  Adorable in a big hunky, Texas quick talking way.  Engaging is probably a better description.  He's 6'5 and has the power that comes from being a soldier and a Seal.  And he explained all that he did to become a Frog and how many guys didn't make it through the program, which makes this weekend's event extremely painful to the U.S.  We basically lost 10% of our Seals.  And he talked all about the mission, in a way that was horrifying and interesting all in the same moment.  Incredible bravery.  I left the speech feeling proud and grateful with the hope that I would remind myself every day when I started whining about something to realize how I really have nothing to bitch about.  
On the flight home from Chicago, we were packed and loaded on the plane - ready to take off and then taken off because of weather delays in Houston.  Told three hours which actually only was two hours.  Across the aisle ahead of me a guy threw an Army sack in the overhead, saw his name stitched on it.  Somehow we started talking and I learned A.V. had just finished his third deployment 24 hours before and left Iraq to go to Kuwait, told he had to change into civilian clothes, gone to Frankfurt and then Chicago, on his way home to Pearland to see a waiting wife and daughter, mother and father and family.  He was contained excitement.  Third tour.  First one was 16 months, second one 14 months and this one was "only a year".  He has a four year old girl he barely knows but from Skype.  I spent two hours listening about his experiences and it was truly fascinating.   I really wanted to get on the P.A. and let everyone know we had a real soldier with us.  The stewardess comp'ed his first beer, a Corona and then a second.  He was so polite and yet he talked about the power of being a soldier, the difficulty of being  a soldier.  He had to hit a woman with the butt of his gun and it really bothered him.  He fought every single day during his first deploymnet.  No breaks, no days off.  They drink Red Bull constantly just to keep going.  He had trouble with anger management when he got back the first time.  And guilt for surviving. This tour he lost 8 men from his battallion, including his commander.  He talked about going to visit their wives.  He is afraid but he knows he has to do it.  How much packages from home, or anybody really means so much!  Of course he didn't have a cell phone so he called his wife and mama using mine, several times while we were waiting - to tell her where he was, about the delays.  And so when we arrived in Houston, we said our goodbyes but agreed to stay in touch.  He wants to go to a Texans game and I have a friend with tickets. He invited me to go with them.  He's called twice since then, just to chat.  And introduce his wife.  The Army helps them with counselors during re-entry.  First 4 days at home, 4 at work, 10 at home, 10 at work - in Fort Hood.  He's dealing with re-entry pretty well but its still all so new and vacation-like but he's ever so grateful for this chance to be alive.  And I'm really grateful that I've gotten to get to know him.  It's so interesting to me when God puts certain people in your path.  Not really sure why or what they will teach you but I've finally learned to pay attention to it. 
I'm going to Creative Escape (the last one) in a couple of weeks and then Creative Connection after that so I'll be back with lots of photos of projects and good times.  I love Phoenix and very excited to be back but it also makes me miss the people who helped create such fun times there.  These will be new fun times, different but still fun.  Talk soon.
And in June I was in Banff, on a Sunday before a work trip in Calgary.  I love Canada.