04.MAR.12; Forward Operating Base [Heartland]

I lay in bed for hours with my earphones in, unable to sleep.  The daytime world hammers on outside the tent.  Saws and hammers.  Rotary wing.

I can separate Chinooks, Apaches and Kiowas by sound.

I roll in my bag, lingering in that drowsy state between exhaustion and sleep.  My eyes are closed, but my brain won’t stop.

I forgot to take my pills again.

“Sir . . . “

One of my tent-mates.  I pulled my sleeping bag off my head and looked at him with drowsy, squinting eyes.  I slept through my alarm.  I reached over, in the dark, and grabbed the unopened RIP-IT sitting on my Contego box.  I didn’t even open my eyes before drinking it.

I fell into my uniform and shuffled to the chow-hall.  Dinner chow is my first meal.  I miss it more often than not.  My head swam, still drowsy and out of focus.

I stood in line, eyes closed, surrounded by people from an incoming unit.  They just arrived, and they will leave with us.  Shortened deployment.

I passively eavesdropped on their chatter.  Some fat-body POG behind me was louder than the others.  High-speed.  Airborne.

“The fucking Hajji shop here sucks.  He doesn’t have any movies or nothing.  This base is bullshit.”

All static in my ears.  I tried to tune him out.

“This doesn’t even feel like a real deployment . . . “

I turned to look at him.  A bloated young sergeant, E-5 type.  1 each.

“This AO has the highest concentration of SIGACTs in the country,” I told him, softly, “And two guys from your unit just went into body bags two days ago.  If that doesn’t feel like a real deployment, lucky you.”

I trailed off.  His face went slack.

“Roger, sir . . . “

He hung his head.  I turned back around.

[Originally Published Mar 14, 2012]

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