NOTE: Pictures to come.
As I suspected and as I hoped, today has been a flurry of activity. It has made the day go by quite rapidly and I haven’t had time to dwell on the fact that I’m not at home celebrating this holiday with my family. I’m hoping Christmas will be the same.
Why am I so busy today you ask? Well I’ve been in Jalalabad for the last four days but I’ll write about that later. And as you can imagine, being gone for four days makes the work stack up.
Subject A is going to trial on Monday so that has required my attention today. I’m conducting some training with my hero, not Aaron, my ANA hero, on Saturday and since the ANA take Friday off, I had to make hurried arrangements to get over to the KMTC this morning to meet with him regarding what we’ll be training.
Then it was mail day. I had a few remaining presents I had to box up and get mailed out. I was unsuccessful in that mission and still have two more boxes to go to be complete with my Christmas mailing. Oh well.
So with that said, let’s talk Thanksgiving.
For starters, the chow hall staff outdid themselves with dinner. They had decorated to the nines. Paper turkeys, streamers, table cloths, placemats, everything. In fact when I went to grab my plastic bag of utensils, the dispenser was gone. The staff had placed the bags of utensils next to each place mat on the tables. I was duly impressed. Spaced out on the table were bottles of sparkling cider. It was an impressive sight.
Dinner was exceptional. One of the “chefs” was carving prime rib – it was delicious, then on the serving line you had the choice of turkey, ham or more beef, “real” mashed potatoes, complete with lumps – yum! – cornbread stuffing, broccoli (your obligatory green vegetable) candied yams and I’m sure there was something else as well. On the salad bar table there was chilled shrimp along with an ice sculpture of a dolphin, two giant cakes, homemade rolls with a lite-sweet sort-of crunchy glaze on top (they were wonderful!) and the salad bar with an assortment of tempting dishes. I must admit it it was delicious and memorable Thanksgiving dinner.
Steve and SGM Larry Hansen were serving dinner. Each hour, a senior officer and a senior NCO are assigned to serve. Ken was supposed to serve but he was at Phoenix on official business – BG Wilson is in country and several went up to see him.
I had dinner with Merrill, Aaron, Andy, Damon Harvy and SPC Christian, a SECFOR guy. Of course we had to share what we were thankful for, which is a Church/Durfee family tradition. We sit around the table and each say one thing we’re thankful for. You’re not allowed to repeat what someone else has said. They can tell you what they’re thankful for. Let me tell you what I’m thankful for:
First and foremost I’m thankful to God for keeping me and my family safe while I’ve been here. I have seen His hand evident in so many things. Just today I had an opportunity to thank Him for His blessings. I was at the KMTC and needed to meet with someone. I knew that the US personnel were on a down day and would not be in their offices. Nevertheless I had to look for this officer. To my surprise, as I walked into the main building he was walking out. Coincidence. Maybe. But I said a quick prayer of thanks that he was right where I needed him to be. So thanks to Heavenly Father for hearing and answering my prayers and the prayers of my family and all of you.
Second is of course my beautiful, wonderful wife. Without her, I couldn’t do this. She has been a rock through all the challenges that have been faced at home and has met each one with courage and strength. She has never complained about my absence. Instead she has done nothing but support me and tell me that I’m here for a reason and that I need to be here to complete whatever it is the Lord wants me to do. I love her more now than I did before I left and if for no other reason, this deployment has been a blessing in that respect.
Next of course are my handsome sons. They too have been an incredible support in their own way. It’s been so hard being away during this critical year in their lives but trust that the Lord has a purpose and will bless us for our sacrifice. They have been doing so well in so many ways that I have to thank the Lord for his tender mercies in their lives.
You guys, my friends and family who read this page, you who leave comments – hint, hint, but mostly those who love us, support us and pray for us. I cannot tell you how many times I have literally felt something tangible with me and I knew it was the Lord’s blessings. I knew it was a direct answer to someone’s prayer on my behalf. I know that today literally hundreds of you will be praying for me specifically and all of us collectively. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for those prayers. I wish I could tell you what it’s like to be the beneficiary of so many prayers but suffice it to say that it’s an amazing, wonderful, comforting feeling. Again, the Lord’s tender mercies.
What’s next? Well it would have to be my fellow brethren who are here serving with me. I consider them to be brothers and have grown to love them as much as I love my own brothers. You know who they are, Aaron, Merrill, Steve, Ken, Andy, Damon, Steve, Larry, Steve, Ron, and Jimmy and those are just the ones serving here at Blackhorse. There are so many others scattered across the country for whom I’m grateful, but these guys are my family here. Each one, in their own way makes me a better person, keeps me on my toes and makes me grateful to know them. This morning Ron came into my office to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. I know it was a small thing but I really appreciated it. Of course we gripe and complain, we tease and harass each other, but I know that everyone of these guys would do anything for me and I for them and for that I’m grateful.
A very tiny, almost impossible to see part of me is grateful to be here. OK, maybe it’s a little bit bigger but I’ve learned so much since I’ve been here. I’ve learned about my self and what I’m capable of. I’ve learned that we are so blessed to live where we live. I’ve learned that it’s possible to be tortured, to be beaten, to have your daughter murdered in front of you and still have a positive attitude towards life and a love of country. I’ve learned what it means to really love your family and to appreciate what you took for granted. And I’ve learned to love these guys that I work with. If it had not been for this deployment, I wouldn’t have learned any of these things.
I know I could go on and on, but let me finish. As I mentioned above, I am so grateful for the country in which we live. You there at home have no idea how blessed you are. Well maybe some of you do, but so many of you, myself included, take for granted what a tremendous blessing we were given by being born in the United States. Your children do not play in congested streets. Your front door does not open onto a pool of mud and raw sewage in the dirt road. You can go to the grocery store and not worry that flies have been crawling all over the meat that’s offered for sale. You don’t have to worry about whether or not a police officer is going to stop you on the road and threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay him a bribe. Our children get a great education, albeit it could be improved, but they have teachers and schools who try and instill a sense of morality and decency. But the biggest thing to be grateful for is that you don’t have to take your life in your hand each time you go out the door, constantly wondering if a roadside bomb is going to explode right when you’re there. Again, I could go on and on about how great we have it at home but I think you get the idea.
Tonight I’ve been well fed and will be well rested when I finally climb into bed, a real bed with sheets and blankets. Some of our soldiers won’t have it so well. They’ll be sleeping in foxholes, in sleeping bags with tarps overhead. While I’m not asking you to forget me in your prayers, remember those of my fellow soldiers who are truly roughing it in order to make the ANA a better Army and to make this country free. They are the true heroes.
So that’s been my Thanksgiving. It’s been a good, busy and thought provoking day. My prayers will be with you and hope that you to take a moment to reflect on the tremendous blessings we all have been given.