Thursday, July 20, 2006

Friends

During my life I have had lots of friends. Acquantances, buddies, pals, and even some true friends. I laughed, loved, cried, and shared wonderful and tragic experiences with many of them. I have always thought that the measure of a man is reflected in his circle of friends.

Yesterday I was reunited with a lot of people here in the Sand Box because of a meeting. I saw some of my friends from here. None of us has ever had a beer together, gone to a movie together, skiied together, rode bicycles together, or even met each other's families, but these are the friends I care most about.

When I am at home I think about them all the time. I think about my CONUS buddies when I am here but not to the degree of compassion or caring that I do for these people. We are all part of something of profound importance and magnitude. We are all volunteers. We have some common experiences that will never be recreated anywhere else in the world and many which we do not or cannot share with our loved ones back home.


When I am at home I don't talk about any of this with anyone except in measured doses to my family. I can't tell them everything. Some of it they would not believe, some of it I don't want them to know and some of it I just can't talk about. When I run into others who have been here the same thing always happens. We get animated, we start to talk and share and those family members with us both can't believe how we open up. We may have never met each other but we are instant friends. We have had experiences no one else ever will.

In Jamaica last year on a family holiday I spotted a guy with a regulation haircut at the pool. We got to talking and discovered that we were both in Baghdad at the same place, same time, same mission, different commands. We talked for hours. We drank beer and toasted those who were not with us as both of us know how much longing there is for normality when you are over here.

His wife came up to me later the next day and thanked me. She said that was the first time she had ever heard him talk about it and that he told me things he had never told her. She also said that he cried that night and let out some long repressed emotion. It was catharic for him. He got it off his chest. You have to or it will drive you mad.

Since I am transferring to another place it was my last time to see some of my friends from Taji. I had a going away luncheon with folks there and it was hard to hold back the tears, especially when Big Lou hugged me in front of everyone. It was a real loving, brotherly hug. He and I have been through so much together. Being stuck in a convoy while rockets landed around us was terrifying but he and I have laughed about that many times. I was yelling,"GO! GO! GO!." He was yelling,"WHERE? WHERE? WHERE?" We took a$$ chewings from Generals, ate MREs in the rain, built construction projects no one thought we could, worked ungodly hours, had our material stolen, stole it back, put up with Iraqi and Jordanian contractors, suffered some hurricane management, and COL Tuna. I love Lou. In the purest and most brotherly way I love this guy.

At the luncheon I had to speak. It was hard to keep from choking up but I managed to do so. I told them all that I loved them and will miss them. I meant it. They are my friends.

I had another bear hug from a LTC from Taji yesterday. It was a real hug too. I won't name him but this man is a great American and a true defender of freedom. I am proud to know him and to be able to call him a friend. I love him too.

When he hugged me I looked over his shoulder and saw my senior commander looking on. He is another Army veteran who is well respected and bemedaled and he was smiling at this public display. He told me later that I had the qualities that exemplify the Army values. I just about busted at the seams with pride on that note. The Army value system is one of honor and integrity and is not mentioned lightly.

War does funny things to people. In some it brings out the worst. Unfortunately those are the ones who get media coverage. War also brings out the best in some people. There was no media at any of the other events and they don't know about any of it. Neither do the American people. It is something private that we share.

I can't say that this war has brought out the best in me but I can say that I appreciate the beauty of a sunset, the joy of music, the laughter of children, the smell of my wife's neck, the taste of a cold beer, the shades of green flora, the morning paper with a cup of coffee, and the smile of a friend more than I ever have.

When this is all over I will never, ever be around a finer set of people than I am now. I will also know that I have friends. Real friends; not phony, plastic people who are only interested in material goods and perception of themselves by other phonies.


I have known people longer, and I have had more varied experiences with my friends back home but my best friends are right here, right now. They are the best friends I will ever have. I love them all.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Don Cox said...

Impressive.

Thanks for writing that.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Fritz said...

I feel you Bro. Look forward and be proud of what you have done! Continue to give your best and never, never, regret what you have done.

7:31 AM  
Anonymous biglou said...

In all my years I have led thousands.It is what people like you and I do.In those same years I have been cautious as to who led me.Anywhere, anytime you call I would be proud to be your number one.OPA my friend and Brother.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wished I could have been there to lift up a pretend beer up and toast to one of the best bosses I've ever had the pleasure to work for.

Some supervisors are just OK and then there are others that you'd swim raging rivers for - you're one of the latter.

Miss you guys and can sure understand the separation. I still carry around all my Taji stuff - from a T-shirt the fire department gave me, to a coffee mug from Camp Taji, to an award I got one day that I'm still really proud of.

So cheers James. If your new work environment is half as good as Team Taji, you'll be doing OK.

Warmest wishes,

Marc

5:19 PM  
Blogger PelaLusa said...

I'm ecstatic that you have left Iraq unscathed and are now moving onto the next stage in your life. May God bless you, wherever you go! Robert

6:06 AM  

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