(From left to right) Cookie Monster (in the helmet,) Burt Schtickem, Old Blue (myself,) Coopage (removing the .50 from the turret,) The Colonel, and Gonzo.
We thought we were going to eat Thanksgiving dinner at the most dangerous firebase in the province, but that plan changed before breakfast due to a late night email barrage between two Colonels. It's not important what it was about to anyone but us. The end result was that we took a nice long drive in the land of sandcastles, policed up some Joe's, and returned to Bagram for our Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanksgiving dinner with the Fobbits. Nice and safe. It's amazing how we can go from potentially having Thanksgiving in a place that was rocketed yesterday to dining as guests of the Fobalonians.
This morning before we rolled out was for our moment of thanks. I looked at the small group of soldiers gathered around for our now perfunctory convoy brief and thanked all of them for the privilege of serving with them. We gave thanks for the fact that none of us has died. We gave thanks for the brotherhood that we have found in our tiny group. We gave thanks that our families are safe at home.
Then we said our prayer, which we always have before we roll out. The Reverend Cookie Monster said it for us, as he does most mornings. He's very good at it, and he nearly always thanks God for the talents and abilities that each of us brings to the table.
I thank God for the presence of these men. I look around and I see some of the best men that I have ever known. They are not supermen. They are a slice of America, and they cheerfully serve under what may not be the most uncomfortable of conditions, but certainly under difficult conditions.
I thank God for the humor that they bring to their jobs. We laugh a lot. We make fun of ourselves, our foibles, each other, the Afghans, our officers, our terps, and the weapons that have been shot at us.
I thank God for the privilege of serving my country. I thank God for being blessed with these soldiers that are grouped here.
We thanked God together for each other.
Then we went out and did our jobs.
I lost my brakes today and found out that I could navigate the mountain switchbacks by using the transmission and the transfer case. I was grateful for not smearing my humvee down a mountainside.
We toasted our families at dinner. All of us miss our families, and we would much rather be having dinner with them. We all reminisced about what Thanksgiving is like at home. It could have gotten maudlin, but it didn't. It was bittersweet to share, each in his turn, about how this day usually goes when we are home.
Instead of getting weepy, we shared our experiences and gave thanks for what we do have. We have each other, and we feel damned lucky and truly blessed.
Next year, we will have our families, and a small part of us will miss the other men who sat around the table today. We will, in a small way, miss the comraderie and the familiarity that comes with pain shared. Not enough, though, to give up the time we will have with our loved ones. We will have already paid that price.