An unusual title for a post, you might think. But most of you reading this Blog know that our oldest son, Damian, is a doctor in the Navy and is currently in Afghanistan serving with the Marines in the Helmand province. It's been in the news quite a bit. Well, I had a phone call from Damian on August 1st--a real treat, I can tell you. I was the only one available, so I had him all to myself and got to ask questions I've had for a while. I thought you might like to hear some interesting things about what's going on with him.
1. It's incredibly hot there right now. I mean REALLY REALLY hot, frequently over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is summer time. He is in the head quarters of the C company, running the BAS, or Battalion Aid Station along with two others. I didn't quite catch who the other two were--officers, or corpmen? Not sure.
2. Because of the heat, he sleeps outside. One time, he said it was on a hammock. He's drenched in sweat by morning. The air is humid as well, because there are many canals in the area, used for irrigation of the [poppy] crops.
3. While we were chatting, he saw a mongoose? A squirrell? A ferrett? He wasn't quite sure what the thing was, but he saw something darting around. And it concerned him a little because he does sleep out doors. I assured him that if it was a mongoose, he had nothing to be concerned about since they are NOT nocturnal.
4. About those poppy crops. That's what the goal is--to get rid of the source of income for the taliban folks. Damian said that besides opium and pot, the ground is good for growing other things like watermelon and wheat. That sounds more promising. However, he ate one of the watermelons, and reported that it was NOT very tasty.
5. This particular BAS is a good place to be because he does not have to wear uniforms and can wear his PT gear. He speaks in acronyms and I have to ask him what everything stands for. Physical Training. THAT one I could have figured out on my own, however. BAS would have taken me some time. ;-)
6. Besides not wearing a uniform, he also doesn't wear a watch. Time drags slowly there, and it's depressing to see just how slowly it DOES drag by.
7. Being a bored doctor in a war is a GOOD thing. Really. The morning he called me and said, "What are you doing?" I answered that I'd been doing the crossword puzzle in the paper. "Oh," he said, "I just finished a book of those." YIKES! That's a lot of crossword puzzles! And he's partway through a sudoku book, too. That's a lot of down time. And he couldn't bring much of anything with him, remember.
8. The reason the soldiers enjoy having baby diaper wipes is that they don't get to shower very often and it is very dusty. One day, Damian had just taken his weekly shower ( a treat, I'm sure), but then they had to throw sand bags out a window and got all covered in dust and grime.
9. Their previous post had been an abandoned school house. They were moving across the street to a different building (thus the tossed sandbags), freeing the school for upcoming elections. Damian and others feel like the trust level will go up significantly when the people see that the soldiers are still there after the elections are over.
10. Mail takes a LLLLOOOOONNNGGGG time to get to him because his address is the battalion that he's assigned to, and those boys are out in the field. He's at HQ in the field, not with those IN the field. Anyway, he's not in the same place as his address, so the mail goes out to his battalion, then since he's not there, it comes back while they figure out just where that LT Liebhardt, Damian really is. And they hope that the truck doesn't get blown up on the way. He wasn't aware of any trucks containing mail that had been blown up.
11. I asked him about church, members, etc. The chaplain had been out to their arean just once. There seems to be not much interest in meetings of any religious nature, but he felt like there were probably some nice young Catholic boys who would share similar values.
12. He does not allow smut in his BAS. He said there is quite a bit of the favorite term, "That's bad a__" and he always says, "We don't say that here. We say BA" . And they are having a T-shirt printed that says so. ha. "We don't say that here. We say BA."
13. Food that survives the trip from the US-- NOT BANANA BREAD. Tandy had put some in a seal-a-meal bag, the ones that vacuum pack the food items. It turned rotten and yucky. However, brownies and cookies did quite well and were much-appreciated. So, those of you who have food-saver machines, make a batch of brownies and send it to him. I'm sure it will be greatly appreciated.
14. I asked if there were real cooks there, or if they just ate MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat). He said there are cooks, but they heat the MRE's. So the spaghetti and green beans are just mushy spaghetti and green beans. He doesn't have much of an appetite. He's lost quite a bit of weight since being over there. Besides all the water weight lost, and no more fast food or soda pop (good habits to be rid of, for sure), he said everyone pretty much suffers from at least one bout of the runs at least once a week. Bad water? Maybe. Sometimes even that is rationed, depending on the deliveries. If he unbuckles his belt, his pants fall down. So send the boy some brownies! Or cookies. But not banana bread. Yes, the brownies get a little smashed, but they still taste good.
15. He's sad to be missing the entire college football season and there is no way to get reception even on a satellite TV. He was actually looking into pooling money with the fellows and purchasing one that is self-contained in a suitecaise, but it wouldn't have worked over there, drat.
16. He's dealing with the heat and the dirt, grateful he's not busy with casualties, but not grateful to be so bored. We are grateful he's safe and healthy. Thanks for remembering him in your prayers.