Imagine having the honor of being one of the first to go forward and defend this country. There are so few, you find the little things to be a luxury. Like toilet paper, cigarettes, coffee, magazines and newspapers and most importantly, letters from home.
Imagine you took over a city, it’s airport and the surrounding area. Your team secured everything now waiting for replacements. One night, just before Christmas, you wait for the Marines to arrive. Over the horizon from the surrounding desert, you see the rise of dust as the oncoming armada of “Devil Dogs” approach the city. Leading them into your area, you release this group of warriors to take over. It’s here you finally find a break to catch your breath and rearm/refit.
Christmas 2001, weeks following 9/11 at Kandahar, Afghanistan. On the brink of divorce, my son’s mother and I overcame many infidelities, barely holding on to our marriage. That year we left our son Little Man (Age 5) behind in America with relatives and separately made our way to Oman and Kandahar, Afghanistan. As a surprise for both of us, other warriors set up a trip where my ex-wife met me in Kandahar. We shared Christmas where she brought with her this Enya song. A bizarre mixture of Irish music with scenery of war in Afghanistan. I will never forget this song. It rings over and over seared in my mind. Memories of war seem frozen in time forever carried in your brain.
I remember Christmas night she and I shared a dinner of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) of Spaghetti and hot chocolate/coffee. We found ourselves talking all night long about our Little Man.
That night at the Kandahar, Afghanistan Airport, we cleaned out a bombed out building at one point laying in the middle of the night on top of broken glass from a window. Despite the crunching and crushing glass, we found ourselves alone for the first time in almost six months. That night we stayed together making love all night. After weeks of fighting, that night was our first source of peace in months.
The following morning, as she lay asleep, I remember having head phones on listening to this song. Staring at my ex, I had hints of falling back in love with her. It appeared from our view point, the experience of 9/11 and our work brought the two of us back together. Despite all the conflict, arguments and hatred for each other, we always loved each other. Watching her sleep, I was alone to contemplate what the future was bringing our family.
What was supposed to be an overnight visit turned out to be six days together. For just a year afterwards, we enjoyed a return to a strong family. However, follow on deployments led us to barely hold on until two years later we eventually divorced. The final straw, our marriage ultimately collapsed under the strain of war. We screwed ourselves going into battle, yet we worked hard to make it work. Due to our choices we became a casualty of war.