:: Monday, April 23, 2007 ::
I'll never forget it. It hit me like a brick. As soon as we landed at KIA and they opened the door to the plane, the smell crept in. It wasn't too bad at first. Just a little interesting to say the least.
Then we started on our way to Camp Phoenix.
As we left the gate at KIA, we drove down the road, through quite a dreary village. That was my first glimpse at the poo-creeks and the "sewer" system. The Afghans just throw trash out their door and once the pile gets big enough, kids use it as their castle. The smell was unbearable. Or so I thought.
Today I was walking along the road and I realized that the air had a horrid smell to it. Then I realized that I hadn't smelled that horrid smell in a while. I guess it is bearable after a while. Now, I must warn that Fridays are unbearable no matter how long you have been here. That is burn your trash day.
There isn't a way to describe the smell either. Just rancid. It's Afghanistan. I can't compare it and I can't describe it. Just stink. Some places in Kabul actually smell quite nice. Downtown there is a nice place that cooks some very sweet smelling meat. As soon as we passed I couldn't stop taking deep breaths to get in the good smell. Then ten feet down the road, while I was still breathing in the sweet aroma, I caught a huge lungful of diesel exhaust mixed with poop and burning garbage. I gagged for a good minute or two. That's the pains of being a gunner.
The Ministry of Agriculture has a definite rank smell to it. I don't know if that is because that's the nature of the establishment but I do know that is one smell I never want to smell again. It almost reminds me of the Katrina stink. That just gives me shivers. I would say the two smells are close.
Then I had my final realism of the day that still blows my mind away: I will miss Afghanistan.
Why in the world would someone miss this place? I have no idea. I don't know if SGT Dub can share in this revelation, but I know it's true and that's disturbing. I'm so ready to go home, but yet part of me will miss this place. Don't get me wrong, not one part of me wants to stay or come back, but I want to remember this place. All soldiers do in a way. We all tell stories about basic training because we want to remember it. We all tell stories about filling sand-bags and driving through flooded streets of New Orleans because we want to remember it. We all tell war stories about our time in the sandbox because we want to remember it.
Why, though? Why do I want to remember this place?
I'll never forget the kid at the front gate of KIA that had one arm tucked in his shirt so he could trick me into thinking he only had one arm. I'll never forget my first look at Camp Phoenix (I was horrified; definately not what I expected) or my first glimpse at the Kabul River (Kabul sewer). I'll never forget the Afghans in the green zone yelling at my convoy because we hit a HESCO and ripped a hole in it. I'll never forget the chaplain getting us lost downtown.
I'll never forget Camp Blackhorse, Camp Kobra, or the Alamo (remember the Alamo!). Herat is burned in my brain and so is the nightmare of the Italian C-130. I'll never forget the one legged man I helped at BAF when he fell and scraped his hands. I'll never forget that kid that threatened to cut off my head. I'll never forget Malik or Hamed.
I never want to forget this stuff either, but I have good memories. I can't imagine coming back from war and having such horrid memories that I couldn't share them with my family. Having nightmares about my time in the sandbox. I still have a few nightmares of me driving away from the VBIED we ran into on a trip one time. I can't imagine having those every night.
The life of a soldier is hard. There's just some things noone at home will ever understand and that's what makes all the memories hard. Once we go home, we only have ourselves to share the memories with (until drill when we all sit around the drill floor and talk war stories). And then there is the part of all the inside jokes the family has that we missed out on (why so blue panda bear?)
This is definately no fun; however, I have made many friends this year. Some friends I call my brothers. That is the life of a soldier. We all live the same life, experience the same things, and fight the same fight. Memories are what ties us all back together on those long drill weekends. I'm glad I came on this journey, this chapter in my life. I would have much rather spent the time with my wife at home, but God has a plan for all of us. He knows the plans he has and they are for good and fortune. Not money but memories.
:: Ben 12:44 PM [+] ::