Monday, July 30, 2007

Fallen comrade ceremony

A message over email. Fallen comrade ceremony.

Check the details. There is the time.

Here the announcement over the Giant Voice "There will be a fallen comrade ceremony at . . ." One hour. Enough time to eat.

Finish dinner. Walk out to the road. People are starting to line the road. Spot a buddy and walk over next to him.

People chatting about anything and everything.

"There will be a fallen comrade ceremony in 15 minutes"

Still chatting, but finding our spots along the line.

No words spoken, but then the chatter dies. Lines of men and women. Looking across at each other. Legs spread, hands behind back. Silent and serious.

A car comes by. Snap to attention. A second car. With the coffin and flag in the back. Salutes from the men and women in uniform. Hold it. A third car comes. A camera films the lines of men and women at attention. Soon, someone will see this video. And they will know that their son/daughter/husband/wife/brother/sister was remembered with honor.

Salutes are dropped. And we disperse. Back to do our duty.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Second-story man

I locked myself out of my hooch today (our rooms are padlocked)

Me: Could you do me a favor?
P1: Yeah, sure.
Me: Could you open my door when I pass my key out? I'm going to hop the wall
P1: *confused look* ok

So, I jumped the wall, and passed my key out. And he opened my door.

I wonder if I have a new career option here?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Saturday marked the release of the final book of the Harry Potter series. Any my base exchange had a stack of them. Now, I did not get around to buying it until after dinner, but with the time difference, I figure I did not do too bad in getting to it.

There were a lot of stories about the book. One was a logistics company who arranged to get a couple cases on the first flight to Kabul from Dubai after the book release. The TV shows were marveling how they got the book into a war zone on the first day. My favorite story has to be about the Clackamas Town Center (OR) Barnes & Noble that was in the New York Times. They offered the first spot in line to a teacher, who was getting married that night, and was going from the reception, not to a hotel room, but to the bookstore. The plan is that the honeymoon would be a week from then, presumably giving her time to read the book first. Priorities.

Like the other Harry Potter books, this one has a theme of choices over background, that
you are not a product of your environment, the labels that are on you, your parents, but you are a product of your choices. And as promised, this book continues the darkening tone that has been progressing since the Goblet of Fire. Yet more people die. Evil is ascendant. And in a sophistication completely unexpected, the book gives a description of people involved in an honest-to-goodness-insurgency in their proper english shopkeeper sort of way. I found that particularly entertaining

But even so, this is definitely a book aimed at younger (teenage) readers. The Harry angst that got really annoying in Half-Blood Prince is still in full form, but at least JKR let other characters join in the self-destructive attitudes in the midst of something deadly serious. The jealousy and child crush side plotlines in the midst of serious hazard would have been pathetic if I did not know people like that (and not just kids, fortunately, not where I am now) I also don't like dream sequences in general, and the chapters where we go through the memories in the Pensieve seem like cheating, alot like the holodeck episodes in Star Treck: The Next Generation. Although, the scenes where Harry and Voldemort connect in each others minds actually comes across quite well, probably because of the heavy toll it takes on Harry (and apparently Vodemort as well.

But what makes this book work is the steadily growing sense of doom. That evil is growing ever stronger and the heroes and their friends grow deeper into peril at every turn. Learning that at every page the enemy has attained another victory, has gotten stronger, and has gotten closer to its main goal, while our heroes are more weary, discouraged, friends are lost or fall away out of despair. With just enough successes not to fail, we reach the last desparate end. And we actually do not believe that any character or cause is immune from being lost.

JKR did seem to have to tie up too many plotlines, including some that probably would not have been noticed if they were not tied up. The Snape plotline was too clever by half. It probably entertained (no toyed with) those who got caught up in "Snape Friend/Snape Foe" marketing. But JKR probably hit her audience right, this is a children's/young adult book.

The ending was satisfying. Grief, resignation, pain, joy, gladness, healing and hurt all rolled up in one, like many other grand endeavors. Not super deep, but very entertaining. as intended. And I did read the whole thing that first night. Also probably intended.

QOTD: water pressure

P1: That was cruel sir, saying there is hot water pressure when there really is cold water pressure
P2: *chuckles*
Me: You realize (P1 was obviously young, and new) that the key word here is "water pressure"

Monday, July 16, 2007

QOTD: On mission

I was on a flight back to my home base, going through the mountains (this IS the Hindu Kush afterall). Clear skies. beautiful weather, but going through the mountains was rather bumpy.

P1: I hope the next time I do that is never.

P2: Well, we certainly got our money's worth
Me: Yeah, they even through in the free sauna (A/C was not working too well)

At the air terminal checking back in. Me being rather tired, disoriented and slightly dehydrated after loosing 10 lbs in the sauna/flight

Clerk: Were you on R&R, leave, or on mission?
Me: On mission

Looking back on it. That felt good.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Cellist of Sarejevo

At this time, I have my iPod on, listening to Yo-Yo Ma playing "The Cellist of Sarejevo" by David Wilde. During the 1990's Siege of Sarajevo, a group of civilians in a breadline were killed by a mortar attack. Vedran Smailovi?, principle cellist of the Sarejevo Opera Orchestra, spent the next 22 days playing his cello in the crater of that mortar attack in their memory. In the open, amidst the mortars, bullets and debris of war. During the seige, he would play at funerals, in an environment where snipers hid in cemetaries to target those mourning their dead. This was a turbulent time. A Yugoslavia, which to the outside world a model of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nation, fell apart after the death of its strongman. And after two generations of being a nation together, they set upon themselves in an orgy of destruction. It was a time when soldiers went in under the UN banner, and were themselves targeted by those who wanted nothing of peace. And then the Americans and NATO went, and people who were facing genocide saw a future.

I'm listening to Yo-Yo Ma play Wilde's lament, and I am around some of those who, as young men and women, went to Bosnia in time of war. I'm listening to the sadness of a musician mourning the death of friends, while earlier this month Americans and Bosnians celebrate the transfer of Tuzla airbase in Bosnia, once the main NATO base in Bosnia, celebrating the end of that suffering, and a hope that a war can end, even as others rage.

Americans have a much deserved reputation of not listening, as a rule. But there are exceptions, as the Bosnians in Tuzla bear witness to as they celebrate. I don't know if there was a young American in Tuzla in the 1990s who did as I am doing, listening to a cello lamenting the Siege of Sarajevo while serving in their defense. But for myself, to listen to Yo-Yo Ma play, or a piece of Tchaikovsky, Beethoven or Ravel, is to listen to stories they have to say. And my world would be that much poorer and smaller if I did not have it to listen to.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Word of the Day: Geobach

Geobach: short for geographic bachelor. Person on an assignment that separates him/her from family for a period of a few years. Usually, done so that the spouse and children are spared the burden of a move that would last only a few years. Note: actual deployments do not count, only moves that involve a change of address.

Quote of the day:
P1: If there was a jeep in Barbie pink, would you get it?
P2: You better believe it. If it is Barbie pink or hot pink, I'm all over it.
P3: What about your son?
P2: Well, he just has to suck it up or he walks.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Flag raising July 4, 2007

Flag raising July 4, 2007
Originally uploaded by LugerLA
"No better friend, no worse enemy" "First, do no harm" These were the orders given by Marine General James Mattis, on his second tour in Iraq. And these are words that make being an American different then the great powers that have gone before.

Afghanistan is a poor country, surrounded by giants. The Hindu Kush has been invaded on conquered by the Medians, the Persians, the Macedonians of Alexander the Great, the Kushans, the Mongul Khans, Tamerlane, the British and the Soviets. Each of these empires eventually found the land too much trouble to keep, and not even worth the effort to wipe out the population (as the Khans and Tamerlane were known to do). And none of them bothered to invest in the population. Until the Americans came. For the first time, resources are being invested in the population. People are given skills, children are educated. And we wait for this generation of children to grow up and take their places in the villages, towns, cities and institutions. While others hope we tire first, and they can continue to use this as a place to hide, filling the population with fear of punishment, and tales that the world has turned their backs.

So, is this American (United States) venture worth it? A friend of mine once asked, "why do we care if there are atrocities. Isn't all fair in love and war?" And the question is, what kind of world do you want to live in? It may be true for most people that in force is power, that perception is often more important than truth, that noone can be trusted. But there is a large part of the American experiment that wants to say that the truth does matter, that force is made stronger when it is driven by justice and protection, that the bonds of a people who chose to be bound together in a varied nation can be strong, such that it can be trusted alongside bonds of kin, and there is no need to set one against the other. It is, after all, a grand experiment. And there are enough people who believe it to have failed or want it to fail so that hoping for its success is an affirmative act. And I am glad to be a part of it.

Soldier's Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough,
Trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.

This is of course, a misnamed post, as I am not a soldier.

Atlanta Peachtree 10K

Today is July 4, the traditional day of the Atlanta Peachtree 10K, held in the capital of the south, Atlanta, GA. The biggest race on the Atlanta race calendar. Something that everyone looks forward to as part of the sunny southern summer. Well. It is sunny here anyway.

Let's see, there were over a 1000 people here today. A lot more than ran the marathon 2 weeks ago. We had a banner from Atlanta. We were "Time group 11 - Afghanistan"
My unit was in charge of organizing this, and we had a lot of runners too. Atlanta even sent us their super-secret Peachtree 10K t-shirts, and made us all promise not to put up any t-shirts until the folks in Atlanta run the race and get their shirts later today.


P1: What's the plan?
Me: Stay in the back and not get run over.

P2: I couldn't even think about doing a marathon here.
Me: That is the general idea. If there is any thinking involved, you would not do it.

P3: The heart is willing, but the knees are weak.

P3: Airborne. All the way. Airborne. All the way . . . (these are standard call and response slogans for the main unit here)

P4: Everyone taking your malaria pills? (as a group of us reached a flooded out section of the course)

Soldier Enters an Atlanta 10k run from Iraq (NYTimes article about our sister race. But we were before them :-) )

The Peachtree comes to an Outpost in Iraq (Atlanta Journal Constitution article about Bib #1. Bib #2 was in Afghanistan)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

QOTD: overachiever

P1: (on seeing the contents of a care package) That is not fair!
P2: What can I say? I overachieved in the wife department.

Greetings from Kevin & Kell Readers Overseas

From Kevin & Kell, a sketch. If anyone is going to Anthrocon this weekend, say hi to Bill for me :-)