Sunday, March 13, 2011

Winter or Spring?

So the warm weather is here. The last week has been in the 50's to 60's. When comparing that to the past month of 30's, 20's, and teens this is practically beach weather. The sun has been out and the clouds have been sparse. Beautiful weather. This is the weather I have been begging for and dreading. This is the weather that makes me feel selfish and selfless all at once. This is the weather that makes me smile and leaves me wanting to cry.

The month of February is the worst month for weather in Afghanistan. We had sub-freezing temperatures for 75% of the time. We had rain anytime it wasn't freezing and snow/sleet the rest of the time. That kind of weather weighs on you. I would open the door to my tent and be greeted by stone grey clouds, howling wind, and cold. Not a great way to start any day. There was no respite from the "under the weather" feeling. In a warzone like Afghanistan, winter means work consists of a lot of boredom. The insurgency isn't fought, from either side sometimes, in weather like that. The insurgents use that time to recruit, and rest. The coalition uses that time to refit, repair, plan, and plan some more. What this translated to, for me, was a lot of inner battles.

I was very close, on several occasions, to calling it quits out here. I wouldn't call it full on depression, but I absolutely hated my situation. I hate being away from my wife. I hated the fact that I couldn't walk out of our building and at least feel some sort of comfort from the sun on my face. I hated that I couldn't really do anything (not literally true, but it felt that way) in regards to fighting the bad guys. I didn't want to go to work, I didn't want to stay in my tent, I didn't want to spend time outside. I am sorry to all of you, but I didn't want to write about it either. My time at my computer was spent in worlds not at all related to the one I was living. I played video games (sorry, Margaret!!), I talked to my wife, and I read the news from back home. I did try to write a blog, though. I rambled on and on about the weather for about 3 paragraphs, then reread it and promptly deleted everything but the first sentence. Then I typed for what felt like hours and completed the first paragraph. That's when I shelved it. The weather was to blame. I told my wife that I just wanted the weather to change. That's all I wanted. I wanted sun and warmth because it would provide ME with enough comfort to get through the days. It's hard to imagine feeling guilty for something like that, but I did and I do.

A week ago the sun came out for good. I've found myself standing outside my office with my bearded face pointed at the sun. The warmth gets held against my skin by the beard and the breeze only hits me in the forehead and eyes. It feels so incredibily good. My attitude has improved tremendously and I have said at least once in the past week that I was confident that I would last a whole year out here. I've had some things go my way at work and so I've been excited to get into the office. I worked several 16 hour days and a 19 hour day. I felt better after those long days than I did for the whole month of February. I love my job. I love being a behind the scenes guy whose responsibility it is to assist the fighters in doing their jobs. It is on my shoulders to sharpen the tips of their spears and ensure that their shields are impenetrable. At least, that's how I picture it. It's that second piece that makes me feel selfish for wanting to feel the sun on my face.

Anyone familiar with the war in Afghanistan has heard of the "Spring Offensive." It is a term used to describe quite a few things. Firstly, it describes the beginning of the war for the new year. Both the coalition and the insurgency ramp up operations and don't let up until the winter comes back around. The coalition implements plans, hatched during the winter, to conduct operations that result in enemies being captured or killed. The insurgency does the exact same thing. Secondly, it describes a time of year. There is an unknown date that we all prepare for out here. It normally falls sometime in March. With it comes sunlight, cool breezes, and warmth. No one knows the exact date, but we all fear it because we know what comes with it.

In my line of work, I am usually one of the first to hear about rocket attacks, IEDs, TICs, and enemy and friendly KIAs. At 7pm everyday we have a meeting with all of the people in my office. The meeting is meant to bring everyone up to speed on what we, as an office, have done for the day. It's very informal and, like most things in the military, methodical. Sam briefs, then Tom, then Katie, then me, then... The phones in the office ring but the meeting goes on. People walk in and out, but the meeting goes on. Two days ago, a soldier was killed near FOB Tillman (where I worked in 2008). I knew as soon as anyone else that he was wounded, but alive. I knew as soon as everyone else that the medical helicopter was on it's way. I knew as soon as everyone else that the fighting was still going on around this soldier. And I knew the moment the soldier died. The meeting paused to allow everyone to utter their pain. "Dammit", "we lost one". Then the meeting moved on.

I hate it out here. I hate being away from my family. I hate that I have to pause at every loud sound. I hate that I live in a tent. I hate that I have to feel guilty for wanting warmth. But I hate that I lost a soldier. I hate the feeling I get when I think of what happens when they announce "blackout". I hate that I haven't done more.

I'm exactly where I want to be, everyone. I'm sacrificing by being out here, but I'm sacrificing nothing in comparison. I'm good at what I do and I'm going to keep doing it because the more I contribute, the less they have to. I'm not depressed. I'm not homesick. I'm steadfast. I'm not looking for support, because I've got all of the help I need from my God and my desire to help these men and women. I wanted to let you all know why I haven't written in so long. I love and miss you all. I will see you all again when my contribution out here is complete.


  1. Wow! Very moving. Praying for you.

  2. Mike, I'm sending you a very big sunshiney hug. Although I miss you very much, I am very proud of you and the work you are doing. I'm also sending you an Irish Blessing: "May the blessings of light be upon you, Light without and light within. And in all your comings and goings, May you ever have a kindly greeting From them you meet along the road." Love, Mom

  3. I got to admit that this was the first time have read ur blog, mike. And Its left me speechless because it reminds me of exactly how I felt when I was deployed. It's crazy how when we all look back to these hard and unbearable times that we miss it so much when we come back home. I hated being away but we love what we do. Oh....can't wait for Hawaii!!!!