Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Two Hugs and a Hooah!

You’ll find many characters while on a deployment overseas.  Though the military will try to rid you of personality in basic training, most people regain their individuality sometime during their first assignment.
The kid who always told jokes will soon be joking.  The one who likes to read will find a book.  Everyone’s character starts to show after a while.  And of course, many of our deployers are civilians here and haven’t had their character suppressed.

Speaking of characters, we had a few leave for home in the last few days.  Some folks stay to themselves, others find a friend or two to chat with or eat meals with.  Other folks go out of their way to touch the lives of those around them.

One of these leaving us was a somewhat strong willed woman who ended up being the honorary "Mother figure" for many of us here.  Shopping was one of her specialties.  

She spent hours of her time interacting with the local vendors, and helping everyone who accompanied her to get the best deal.  Don’t feel too bad for the vendors though, she probably bought enough stuff to support an entire village.

Where she really excelled was in her ability to coordinate the production of “Shadow Boxes” to commemorate people’s sacrifices by deploying to this corner of the world.  A Shadow Box is a deep picture frame set up to display certificates, flags, medals, ribbons, coins etc...  

She worked to determine what the most appropriate contents of the box should be for each person, placed the orders and oversaw the final assembly of each presentation piece. 

Truly, people have had tears in their eyes as they considered their new wall art, though some were probably crying as they realized how much it would cost to ship the shadow box home!

All in all, she made this a better place for many of us.  Of course, she was intent on ensuring that everyone got their final hugs before she left.

Gun Bunny left as well, so I spoke with her for a minute or two before she loaded up.  She already had her body armor on, so the quick hug we shared felt a little funny.  Like holding onto an ice cream sandwich, you feel the hard outer shell, but you know there’s a soft gooey center in the middle.  It caused me to ponder our conversation from a few days earlier.  I wish her the very best in her next adventure.

I actually missed the departure of the “knife warrior,” though I had said goodbye the night before.  He was a soldier with an obsessive affinity for cutlery.  At any given moment, he would be carrying half a dozen or more knives in sheathes and pockets and on clips all over his body.  Two large fighting knives and a variety of smaller throwing and stabbing blades… 

He actually was a very personable and friendly gentleman who just happened to be very knowledgeable on martial arts and fighting with knives.  A hug might have prompted a discussion about close combat cutting techniques, so my farewell ended with a simple “Hooah!”

“Hooah!” for those of you who don’t know, is a multifunctional and multipurpose word primarily used in the Army to signify an affirmative response, or to describe a motivated individual. 

“That soldier finished first in his class at Ranger School.  He’s Hooah!”
“Do you want some Ice Cream?”  “ Hooah!”

Their replacements have arrived, with their own stories and personalities, and I'm just starting to get to know them.  We've all shared a common experience that relatively few Americans have.  We've left friends and family behind to work in another part of the world, hoping that it becomes a better place.

Some come for duty, or adventure.  Others for the paycheck and the sense of accomplishment.  All of us have come together.  So ironically, by leaving friends and family we've gained new friends and family.  We'll all go home at some point and have to say our goodbyes.  At least until we meet on the next deployment!


Geoff said...

What you didn't say, but I'm sure is more than true, is that you have impacted the lives of your fellows there as much or more than they have impacted yours.

Deb said...

And I second that "emotion!" Geoff's right!

Mike Sweezy said...

Thanks, Folks...

Actually, I know that you're right, as a few folks have told me so. I appreciate that direct feedback, but I really like it when I hear third hand how someone's talking about something I did for them... Then I know it had a lasting impact on the person. Making people happy tends to make me happy too!