Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Holiday in Wartime

Received this email from a friend a few days ago. When I asked, he told me I could share it. And, as you'll see, it's certainly worth sharing.

This is from one of my 'brothers' from the Gulf War - he was a platoon leader and I an XO/FSO at the time - who is in Iraq right now. Brings back memories. How things have changed there, but also how similar we all are, no matter where we come from or what we have done.... Most of all, Peace on earth and goodwill towards all. May you have the best Christmas ever. B

Sent: Friday, December 23, 2005 8:54 PM
Subject: FW: Holiday in Wartime

So, this is Christmas. My 'home' is one half of a modified steel shipping container. Holiday decorations-wise, there is not a while lot that you can do with that. Mistletoe would only freak out my Georgia-born good ol' boy roommate 'Rusty' and tinsel is not available.

Moreover, in central Iraq it can be rather a bother to find even the smallest of pine trees. Accordingly, on Dec 25 my trailer will look pretty much the way it looked on July 25 or Feb 25 for that matter. My day will begin as every day does, with white steel walls, relieved only be a few pictures of my daughters and my fiancée, and a map of Baghdad.

Coffee, on Christmas morning, is what really starts my day. I head over to the headquarters where I work, doff my 'battle rattle' and start in on my list of tasks. Within minutes three things will have occurred: I will notice that I have emails from fiancée, but not from my children; I will see that my convoy through Baghdad for the next day is scheduled; and I will seek out my friend and sometime translator, Achmed.

I was 23 and an infantry platoon leader in the first Gulf War. Achmed was the same age, and doing the same things, on the other side. We both advanced in opposing armies - though being a Shia, Achmed could not advance beyond a certain point in Saddam's Army. All of our adult lives we faced each other as enemies, though we did not know each other. Our lives were, however, parallel in ways. We both taught at our respective military academies, for example: I at West Point, he at Rustimayah. On April 9, 2003, Achmed was on his way to his post at the Iraqi military academy. Some of the lieutenants I trained, doubtless led by American soldiers, shot his vehicle and cost him his arm. By the same token, some of those he trained have certainly been leading elements of the opposition these past two years. We find this amusing, in the dark humor common to soldiers of all armies.

We will sit down over a table of cigarettes. I will have coffee, Achmed will have tea. Achmed will talk about his two boys. I will talk about my three girls. I will explain an American Christmas, specifically as I knew in Northeastern Ohio, near the small town of Chagrin Falls. He will compare it to the 'Feast', the celebrations that come at the end of Ramadan. We will smoke too many cigarettes. In comfortable silences we will think of a different life, and perhaps of a future when neither of us need carry our rifles anymore. Then we will return to work.

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