Wednesday, May 2, 2012

War Story Wednesday: On the Rack

Sitting on the rack at Al Asad, and the light shines in through gaps in the fabric. It is like like glowing beams from heaven that fill me up and replenish me. A slight breeze blows in and the whole tent breaths and groans like it is alive. I'm laying still, listening to borrowed music through headphones, hopelessly lost in my thoughts. Like, where did this old tent come from? It is a dull tan canvas, coated in some kind of chemical to make it water proof, and they've strictly forbidden smoking near it because the water proofing agent is so highly flammable. It must be an old Iraqi U.S. tent would have such fanciful designs, swirls and floral patterns, on such a utilitarian shelter.

It starts to rain just a bit, the damp moisture lending its scent and weight to the cool breeze that flows through the flaps as the tent lists and sways. I think to myself "cloudy skies, a cool breeze, and now rain...this is hardly the harsh and desolate desert I'd imagined". Not like I've seen much of the country though, just the runway in the middle of the night, and the area between our tent and the chow hall. My mind gets away from me, imagining all of the adventures to come, inserting myself into remembered news broadcasts, harrowing internet clips, second hand war stories...


I find it fitting that they call your bunk, your bed, that they call it a 'rack'. I feel stretched and pulled in opposite directions. Wasn't this why I signed up? To come here, to the war, to do my part? But then it has only been a handful of days in-country, and already my heart longs for home. Already I am looking forward, past the struggles and trials of the deployment, to a great homecoming. I feel caught in some kind of purgatory, not yet fully arrived though certainly no longer in the comfortable and familiar.

I wonder if maybe it is just jet lag. How long was the flight? What is the time back in the 'states? I try to figure the time in various places: Camp Lejeune, on the Carolina coast; dusty southern Arizona, which bears a striking resemblance to this place; the snowy mountains of northern Utah, still firmly in the cold grasp of winter. My cluttered mind confuses the it 18 hours ahead here? Eighteen hours ahead of East Coast, Camp Lejuene time? As I am thinking of all these different places that feel so far away, and wondering which one is really, truly home...

...I wake with a bit of a jolt. Am I back in one of those lovely, idyllic, remembered places? No, I am still here. Right here, in an old hadji tent that could burst into flames at any moment. There are a few of my fellows playing cards, but most are racked out like I am. Are they exhausted just thinking of the magnitude of it all, like I am? I contemplate how old I feel, then stop myself as I see some of the actual older guys; guys in their 30's, hell their 40's for some of the senior staff. They actually have homes to go back to, families, sons and daughters and wives and mortgages and maybe a promotion, hell maybe even retirement. Some of them are getting on...Is that where I'll be in fifteen, twenty years? Another old salt Devil Dog, out on his fifth or sixth tour, counting down the days until it's time to go home. Really go home, for good, with a nice military pension, a chest full of medals - hang the sword over the mantle and kick up my feet and reflect on a life spent in service?

A different borrowed song comes over the headphones, one I feel like I've heard before, but can't place. I wonder - maybe this is my home now? But the thought doesn't stick around long, sucked out in another great breath of the tent as it groans and wheezes, the dance of the raindrops on the flammable canvas lulling me down to dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment