The Future Wave Of Humanity

, | Lashkar Gah, Helmand Province, Afghanistan | Hopeless | November 25, 2016

This is just a little something that happened to me when I was deployed to Afghanistan with the British Army in 2012. It’s not much, but I like to tell it.

I was working out of our base in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province. On ops, every soldier (and Marine, sailor, and airman) on the base had to stand sentry (‘stag’ in the British forces) in one of the many sangars dotted around the base perimeter at some point. With the amount of people on the camp it usually meant that you went on stag maybe once every two or three days.

Lash was fairly quiet at that point, not much going on in the city, and so stag rotations usually ended up being relatively boring, although being in the city proper meant that we got to see some interesting sights from inside our sangars, or whenever we went outside on patrol…

In this particular instance I was on stag mid-morning. It was hot for October, and most crucially, it was one of the days of Eid al-Adha, which in the Muslim calendar is the end of Ramadan, and a time of feasting, celebration and giving — think a combination of Christmas and Easter.

Now, usually the streets of Lash were fairly busy, but fairly drab, too — a lot of black and grey and white and brown clothing. Not during Eid al-Adha. It seemed to me, up in my perch, that everyone was out in their best clothes and off to visit friends and family. While there was plenty of security in place, everyone seemed happy and high spirited.

I’d had a busy morning (up before 0400), and I would go on to have a busy day (head down at 0200-ish, if I remember rightly) but for those precious hours I was doing a simple job with minimal distractions.

You watch everything on stag; you try and cram everything into your tired eyes so as not to miss anything, but one moment stood out for me as I was watching that day. A group of girls came walking down the side of the road that passed the front of my sangar, all decked out in lime greens and yellow and bright blues. I think they must have been anywhere between 10 and 20 years of age (as you may have guessed, I couldn’t see their faces beyond the eyes).

As they came past my sangar, they stopped and looked in. They wouldn’t have seen much of me, in the shade as I was – perhaps the shape of my body-armoured and helmeted form behind the GPMG in the sangar window, and even that through the slats of the RPG cage. But they stopped and I could see them looking directly at me.

And then they waved.

Me, a foreign soldier, not even distinct, not really visible. Just another man in a uniform in their country.

They waved at me, one of them called up to me and said ‘Hello’ in Pashto; whatever else they said I didn’t catch.

I said ‘Hello!’ back, waved back, and then they walked on and were gone.

Thinking on it, I suppose for them it wasn’t much of a thing to do. They were just taking advantage of the freedom of the Eid al-Adha celebration to doing something a little daring: waving at the foreigners. For me, used to the usual endless procession of almost uniformly dressed (and 95% male) people in front of my sangar, it was a beautiful bright spot of humanity in my nearly-seven months in Afghanistan — that those girls had chosen to make a small connection with me on such an important day. It is a memory I will cherish, and it pains me that I will never know who those girls were, or what became of them, but their simple act replenished my faith in human kindness somewhat, and that’s something precious.

No Rain No Gain

| Pearl Harbor, HI, USA | Working | November 14, 2016

Duty Section Officer: “Okay, let’s get sweepers out there and get all of this standing water off of the deck!”

Chief: “Sir?”

Duty Section Officer: “It can wait until morning! We have to get this water swept up.”

Chief: “Okay…”

(That night it rained heavily. At duty section turnover the Section Officer grimaced at all the water on the deck.)

Chief: “So, about what I wanted to say last night…”

Duty Section Officer: “Yes?”

Chief: “It’s going to rain again.”

Duty Section Officer: “…”

(I can only hope that officer learned to listen up when one of his chiefs tried to tell him something.)

Needs To Do More Basic Basic Training

| SC, USA | Working | September 26, 2016

(In the first few hours of basic training, my appendix has ruptured and I need to get emergency surgery to have it removed. After being cleared to travel, I am sent home, though beforehand, I speak to my slightly ditzy Drill Sergeant to make sure everything is in order.)

Me: “Anything else I should worry about, Drill Sergeant?”

Drill Sergeant: “Nothing major. You’re being sent home on convalescent leave since your surgery was pretty major, so just take it easy and try not to let it happen again.”

Me: “The surgery, Drill Sergeant?”

Drill Sergeant: “No, your appendix. If it happens again, you may be medically discharged.”

Me: *to myself* “I somewhat doubt the chances of it ever happening again.”

A Name In Bad Standing

| NC, USA | Related | August 5, 2016

(While stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, a senior officer in another unit is one of the worst people I meet in my entire military career. He is a small-minded, arrogant bully and epitomized everything enlisted personnel hate about officers, and junior officers hate about senior officers. Everyone who knows him loathes him. He also has a fairly uncommon last name. Once day I happen to call the training center for another service branch and have a civil service worker answer the phone.)

Civilian: “Training Command, [First Name] [Unusual Last Name] speaking.”

Me: *after introducing myself and stating why I called* “Say, that’s a unique name. Do you happen to have a relative in the Marine Corps?”

Civilian: “Yes, Lt. Colonel [Unusual Last Name] is my cousin.”

(There is a brief moment of silence while I try to think of something pleasant, or at least innocuous, to say about the bastard.)

Civilian: “I can’t stand him either.”

Who Knew ‘Chin Up’ Would Be The Best Advice?

, | Fort Devens, MA, USA | Working | April 22, 2016

(My mother works as a civilian contractor on an Army base, and is able to land me a temporary data entry job on base as well. I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety for years, and it often shows. I’m on break one day, roaming the halls with my head down when an older officer comes around the corner.)

Officer: *snapping at me* “CHIN UP! EYES FORWARD!”

(I yelped and obeyed, and we both laughed as we passed each other by. I started keeping my head up after that, and I can honestly say that is HAS helped me, no matter how minutely.)

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