As the heat slowly dies away, they march single file towards the approaching helicopters. They came in low and fast descending from the skies above, birds narrowly escaping the rotor wash. For a moment it seems if if they will slam into the tarmac yet at the last second the pilots raise the nose of the birds and nearly simultaneously touch down. Clouds of dust obscure my vision only for a moment, the sounds of the rotors rips through the air every second breaking the sound barrier with a whipping sound that pierces the night air. The whine of the engines decreases for the moment, as the soldiers deplane, others are eagerly waiting to take the now vacant seats. From my perch upon the roof top I watch this clumsy dance. Soldiers returning from leave, awkwardly move into the night in temperatures that are nearly 70 degrees hotter than where they just came from; home, now but a distant memory. As soldiers pass one another I see two friends shake hands, the one who is returning smacks the other on the back, his smile fades almost as quickly as his friends...his brothers widens.
I have seen this repeat for nearly 2 months now, I climb to the roof, and gaze at the tarmac. Even in the darkness I can see the heat rise from the apron of the airfield. In the moonlight the convection of the rising heat makes me feel like I am standing above an ocean of liquid concrete. The Earth beneath me seems alive, I hear the squeaking of the bats around me, I have invaded their space. The moon is high above me, and fills the night sky above with brilliant light, so clear, seemingly so close all I need to do to touch it is stand on my tip-toes...almost but not quite enough. I fell almost like a child again staring up at it. So many questions, still. Still no answers.
Behind me, the sound of the helicopters changes, without looking I know they are preparing to take flight once again. The whipping of the rotors grows more pronounced, and the turbines begin to whine. Dust begins to rise, dashing away from the birds fleeing as if afraid. As the dust rises it is caught in the wash, and swirls about like an inverted tornado. Then without warning the birds lurch from the ground, noise; howling fury. Heat; engine exhaust, jet fuel, and displaced convection. Then as quickly as they'd touched down...the night fell still leaving me alone with my thoughts, silence all around.
For them, freedom... a brief pardon from this sentence. If only for a while, they will be free once again to choose or not to. But for 21 days those kids...men...soldiers, will be able to love, laugh, drink as if it was the last days of their lives. For some it may very well be.
6 more full moons and I will no longer be here... Not long now. 6 full moons.
Rumors... In the military rumors fly faster than light. Take a line of soldiers and as you pass by say something nonchalant such as. “We will be home by Christmas.” By the end of the day, pass by that same line, and soldiers will be making plans for New Years Eve. Here, now, this war is no different. Much has been going on behind closed doors, and in private sessions of men senior (much) to myself. Yet, RUMINT (Rumor Intelligence) is a powerful thing; I like it to a knitting circle. Gossip... I suppose it is mostly harmless, yet I try to ignore it. Being an intelligence officer, I have a reputation for honesty; albeit blunt, and often viewed as arrogant, aloof, even cruel. I find that I am usually among the first to hear of these new rumors. Usually someone seeking to confirm or deny. Only 6 more months. 6 moons to go.
HUMOR IN UNIFORM: A coffee shop opened up on the base a couple of days ago, it isn't Starbucks, but to me...it may as well be. I am not a coffee fan per se, but working for hours on end, a steaming cup of Joe (for me espresso on ice) does the job. It has tables, chairs, biscotti, muffins, sparkling waters, and even gellato. The men who labour to serve us this deliciously caffeinated nectar, are proficient and friendly. Yet, as with many things here in this land, there is a typical communication problem. You order one thing and it gets lost in translation. Thus you end up with something else entirely. As was the case with Private Doe (not his real name). He ordered a tall Mocha frappe, he got a tall cup of drip house roast. I looked at him looking at the clerk, who was smiling (expecting his tip). He was looking rather confused at this point. So, I asked him if he realized that it was 130 F/55ish C? He said yes but this wasn't what he'd ordered. The clerk was still smiling. I looked at the soldier, then the clerk, then back again. Clearly this problem wasn't going to start WWIII, I looked at the kid and said with a smile. Good luck with that... walking out of the store I sipped my iced vanilla frappe, about 8 steps later I dropped it, exploded all over the ground and with a hiss, the sidewalk began to devour it. Karma. FIDO, I kept walking no point in looking back. God speaks to us everyday you just have to look for the subtle ways in which he reaches out.
“If it is not the right thing to do, never do it; if it is not the truth, never say it. Keep your impulses in hand.”
Marcus Aurelius (nearly 2000 years ago)