This article was originally published on Point of Decision on April 25, 2016. Thank you to Point of Decision for continuing to publish my work! Note: The first part of this article may be viewed here. The second part of this article may be viewed here. The third part of this article may be viewed here.
While sipping steaming hot coffee during our morning meeting the briefer said “Oh and by the way, the Taliban is supposed to attack the base with seven rockets today.” Someone in the group then asked “Seven rockets? Not six? Not eight?” The briefer responded “Seven is what we were told. Stay frosty and be ready to move to the bunker if necessary.” We were fortunate since our bunker was also the bar, the place where we watched movies, and where we could call home. Rockets forcing me into the bunker? No problem!
While returning from the chow hall that evening I stopped by the bunker to call my then-girlfriend. “Hello my love! How are you doing? Everything is fine here. I am in for the night.” I said.
“Phil, what is that?!?” my then-girlfriend asked.
“Oh nothing honey. We’re receiving some incoming rocket fire. It is loud but inaccurate. It will be over shortly.” I replied.
People slowly began filing into the bunker. They were angry that the Taliban had disturbed their evening.
“Three! Ha! Ha! Ha!” someone in the bunker yelled.
“What is that?” my then-girlfriend asked.
“Oh it’s nothing honey. My friends in the bunker are counting the incoming rockets like the character of The Count on Sesame Street.” I replied.
The inaccurate rocket fire continued and our group continued to count them until once the attack was over everyone yelled “Seven Taliban rockets! Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Nine years and a wife and child later…
I sit outside with my wife and child. We are eating dinner and I am reading a Sesame Street book. I turn to a page with The Count on it and get a big smile on my face. My child asks me “Daddy, why do you like The Count so much?” I respond “I like The Count so much because he reminds me to count my blessings, like you and your Mama.” My child smiles. We continue to read.
We went to a far away place, we did what we must, and it stayed with us. Though it is indescribably challenging, whenever you can, try to rebrand / reimagine / redefine those wartime experiences and use them for good. Your friends and loved ones will appreciate it, and I feel as though we owe it to those who didn’t come back.