Tag Archives: patriotism

Two Sides of the War Coin

Two Sides of the War Coin

“We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but we must not enjoy it… Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not so bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good.” ~C.S. Lewis

I am a white female, and as such, have rarely been subjected to ethnic or racial degredation. Even in places like Hawaii where white military men are sometimes looked down upon, being a white woman has usually given me a pass in life…until now. Unless you count that one time when I bumped into a big, local Samoan woman on the Senor Frogs’ dance floor in Waikiki while making fun of how she danced…I almost got beat up that night…but I digress. Because I am stuck in limbo waiting for violence outside this base to settle enough to drive to the other end of this city to the base at which I’ll be stationed for a year, I fill my days with recreation. One day I challeneged a newfound friend to a friendly game of ping pong in the military rec center/tent. We were playing and jumping around chasing stray ping pong balls and having a fun time when I suddenly caught the most evil look being directed right at me from a local man who was doing some repair work inside the tent. I never understood before what someone looked like who hated or wanted to hurt me, but this was most definitely that look. I froze and a chill ran up my spine because I’ve been taught to keep an eye out for anything out of the ordinary that may cause danger inside the base here. My ping pong opponent noticed my immediate stiffness and calmly said, “Eh, no worries mate (he’s Australian), these men are Pashtuns and to them, you are the quinessential definition of sin and evil right now.” Wait, what?? He went on to explain that A. I was a woman B. I had my bare arms and head exposed (wearing a polo shirt), and most importantly C. I was playing a sport…apparently the triple whamy trifecta. I know I come off as some sort of sheltered little puppy as I write this, but I know that in life most people have experienced being the target of hatred for no other reason than they are just being themselves, and I can now sympathize. We continued to play ping pong, but I took note every time the construction men passed me with their haunting, warning looks which pierced right into me, as if they wished their eyes were actual knives. I am new to this hatred, but the brief exposure I had was the darkest, scariest thing I’ve witnessed.

Later as I was mulling over the concept of hatred of enemies, an interesting discussion came up with a solider here. He’s been a soldier on the front lines for over fifteen years, and he has seen and done it all. The topic of hatred came up and he looked at me squarely and said, “You know, as a soldier I don’t hate my enemy. I don’t hate that man out there that I’m ordered to shoot. On the contrary, I understand that we are merely opponents in this war and I know he is probably fighting his fight for good and sincere reasons. If I get killed at the hands of the enemy one day, I only hope he is a worthy opponent that gives me a run for my money.” He even had a sense of reverence in his tone about his enemy combatants – both past and present.

So in the span of a few days’ time, I have witnessed both sides of this war. I have seen the raw, generalized hatred directed at me becuase of the people I come from and the people I represent. I will never be anything more than that symbol to those men. They will use my ping pong as additional fodder for their own bitter resentment of an entire civilization. Then I see through the eyes of a calm, experienced soldier who knows no hatred – even of the men who have taken so many of his fellow soldiers and friends. He stated matter of factly that he doesn’t fight this war for his country alone, but for the safety and security of all countries who are threatened by the sort of hatred that breeds exponentially here. I’m grateful to men like him and all the soldiers in this fight who are fighting hatred with cool and collected experience and understanding that this war for us is not about hatred, but instead about the love of all those back home who should never ever be subjected to the sort of raw hatred that exists here. How is it I have found a glimmer of hope in the midst of all this?

Incoming!

Incoming!

Day three here in Afghanistan. I posted a map because people keep asking me where this country is…which makes me smile because it parallels how bad I am at US geography – I’m pretty sure I couldn’t fill in all the states if given a blank map. I’ve been in limbo in the southernish part trying to get to my base where I’ll be working a little north of here, but flights keep getting cancelled due to the violence going on there right now. (Mom if you’re reading this, I’m fine!) Again this morning I got up early to pack up my three big bags and have them outside to be picked up by 6:30…or 0630 in militaryese. No sooner had I unloaded everything at the airport did the announcement come on that yet another flight was cancelled and that I would have to wait a minimum of two more days. When someone tells me my flight has been cancelled because a helicopter was blown up yesterday at the base I’m flying into, I don’t try to argue back. I say, “Sounds like a plan! I’ll get more iced coffee and write a blog!”

What’s really struck me is that despite that fact I’m right here where all the news is coming from, we find out very little of it until at least a day or more later. The internet suddenly got shut off here yesterday for a few hours – then I found out today is was because of bombings up in Kabul and they were putting a stop on information leakage. It absolutely broke my heart to hear that the victims of one of the bombings yesterday were children…children! What kind of savage, numb-hearted animal do you have to be to intentionally kill children? That’s a rhetorical question, because that’s the sort of enemy that we’re facing and the sort of future we cannot allow to affect or get anywhere near my future children.

We’re three for three for the incoming enemy fire (IDF=indirect fire) for each of the days I’ve been here. I’m starting to get used to the sound of the sirens and alarms sounding out over the whole base. Yesterday’s was a bit of a dilemma though because I was in the shower when the sirens went off. My thoughts: “Hmmm, so I can either go out naked in my towel right now to the bunker sitting with lots of other female-starved men, or I can dry off and quickly put clothes on and then go to the bunker – but by that time the incoming fire will have already impacted somewhere, in which case I’d already be hit by the time my clothes were on if it indeed landed near me.” I chose to stay in the shower and hope for the best…if it got me, at least I’d be clean. So I guess I learned from myself that if it comes down to it, I’d rather be clothed and dead than alive and naked. I never knew that would be my line in the sand (plenty of that stuff around here) until yesterday. Lessons being learned every day here!

In the spirit of my love for quotes, I’ll end with this one:

“Never tell your problems to anyone…20% don’t care and the other 80% are glad you have them.” ~Lou Holtz

I REMEMBER.

I REMEMBER.


It’s September 11th. It’s both an honor and a reality check that I find myself on my second day here “in country,” as they say. Looking around, you would have no idea that today is different from any other day here on base. Soldiers get up, eat breakfast, and head to work. I hear sirens in the distance as I write this, but from what I’m starting to understand, that’s a pretty normal thing around here.

Yesterday I found some shade to escape the HOT HOT sun and was drinking an iced coffee smiling to myself at the two songs that played through nearby speakers – “Walking on Sunshine,” then, “Come On Baby Light My Fire.” Haha, real funny, I thought. Suddenly an all-base alarm went off and all the soldiers around me calmly but without hesitation laid down on the ground. I’m learning to follow the crowd in learning the ways of life here, so I followed suit. Though I knew it in my head factually, it struck my heart for the first time that I was in a war zone and that this was no drill. Somewhere on the base there was some sort of incoming fire from a distinct enemy outside the base. We all laid there quietly and upon some cue I missed, they got up all at once and walked calmly to the nearest bunker. I must have looked confused because a couple of them directed me with them. We sat there baking for a while in the concrete bunker – me thankful for my rapidly melting iced coffee – until the “all safe” announcement blared throughout the base.

Today of all days I’m reminded of this decade long face-off we’ve had with this enemy, and the fight in which we find ourselves to help make this world a safer place by not succumbing to the enemy. As I look around me in the chow hall (aka cafeteria), the majority of soldiers I see are very young…so young, in fact, that 9/11 was probably not a big moment in their young lives when it happened. There are guys as young as 19 and 20 here, which means they were 7 or 8 years old on 9/11…hardly a life-changing moment for them…yet here they are serving their country far away from home trusting that there is reason behind their work. I believe there is, or else I wouldn’t be here out of my own volition.

Last night I had the honor of laughing and letting loose with some of the soldiers. Every Monday night here is karaoke night. There is no alcohol allowed here, and cause I generally like to have a little liquid courage to belt out my very bad singing voice, I snuck in and sat in the back to watch the brave souls getting up on stage. Some were bad, some were good, but none of that mattered because everyone was smiling and having good time. My favorite songs were a young, skinny white kid belting out “Baby Got Back” complete with dance moves, and another guy singing the entire “Come Sail Away” song in an Eric Cartman voice. I haven’t laughed so hard in weeks.

It’s a great privilege to wake up in Afghanistan on September 11th and to look around first-hand with appreciation at the work being done. To see these men and women serious when they need to be as during the alarm, and then laugh when they can while belting out “Livin’ On a Prayer” in unison.

I’m proud to be here on this day, proud to serve my country, proud to be surrounded by soldiers doing the same thing, and honor all the innocent lives lost 11 years ago today. May their deaths, and those of the people who have died in this fight since that day not be in vain. I send out a warm prayer of love and peace to all the families of those lost in this war.

God Bless.