Last week I changed out of command and officially do not have a job in the Army. It's still a little strange, but in a good way. Soon I will begin clearing from the unit and turning in all my issued gear and shortly after that I will be on terminal leave. I'll still technically be on Active Duty until the end of May, but I'm basically done from here on out. Crazy.
I've been thinking lately of some of my more memorable experiences in the Army and most of them occurred during my one year deployment to Afghanistan. As a human resources officer my job was basically the same over here (stateside) as it was over there. But what stuck with me the most from the deployment was the experiences I got outside of the responsibilities of my job.
I volunteered at our aid station (I would do things like record stats (heart rate, Bp, etc) every few minutes when there was a casualty or just help the medics and docs when they needed an extra hand) and I really enjoyed it although it wasn't always easy. One time a family came in after their little girl had been hit by a car. There were plenty of people there to help, so I just sat back with the mother who was frantic and crying. I remember wishing that there was no language barrier and feeling fairly helpless. Eventually she calmed down and sat on the floor while she waited. I held her hand since I didn't know what else to do and couldn't communicate much with her. She was very pregnant and at one point she grabbed my hand and put it against her moving belly. I actually think that was the first time I touched a pregnant belly. And I remember feeling like sitting there, holding her hand, was the most important thing I could be doing at the time. She kept speaking to me, talking beneath her burka, but I have no idea what she was saying. Eventually a translator came by and I asked him to help and he explained that she was having some pain that sounded like heartburn. We got her some tums and I remember thinking that while our lives were so very different, I could completely understand her. She was a mother, worried for her child, she was a pregnant woman experiencing discomfort. Differences aside, she was a woman, just like me and it was a wonderful experience for me to just sit there and try to provide even the least bit of comfort and support. I think the little girl ended up getting taken to a bigger hospital, but I can't even really remember how she was transported or if she was ok. I just remember the mother. Eventually her family left and I smiled at the woman as she took off and remember her squeezing my hand tightly before leaving.
Another one of my more memorable experiences was when I got to travel with my boss to attend a Shura. Shura's are basically meetings that commanders will have with local leadership to discuss things that are important to the locals, projects that we (coalition forces) are working on to improve their way of life, etc.
I had no role in the meeting itself, so while it was going on I went with a few other people to pass out candy to some of the little kids in the area. As soon as the kids know you have any goodies on you (pens, toys, candy) they surround you like a mob and hold out their hand. I remember one boy saying something that sounded like "maud-a-kay" over and over, but never knew what it was he wanted. My naive American mind assumes he was asking for a marker as we would often pass out markers and pens and things for them to write and draw with. Anyway, before I unloaded all of my pockets of their sugary contents, I made sure to walk over to some little girls who were too shy to approach me. Most of the boys backed off at this point and I took my sunglasses off so that they knew I was a female and hopefully didn't look too intimating (ya know, cause I'm such a Rambo). I had to hold out my hands first, but they eventually came over and seemed really excited to get a little treat. That day was really special. It was something so little, but so rewarding for me and I remember thinking that I hope it made a difference. I hope these kids will remember the good and nice things American Soldiers would do for them, even if it was something small like handing out candy or toys, and maybe they will carry it with them as they grow older.
The FOB (Forward Operation Base) I was stationed at was co-located with Czech Soldiers. A few of them were eager to learn English and had asked me if I could teach them. Fortunately they already had a pretty good foundation, but I helped them with some reading, writing, and vocabulary lessons. We also covered military terminology. The picture below is when my friends Peter and Daniel were getting ready to return back to the Czech Republic - as a going away gift I ordered them Vocabulary for Dummies :)
Lastly, I will remember the times I got to spend with Miles while we were deployed. We weren't stationed at the same FOB, but we were fortunate enough to get to see each other a handful of times during the deployment. It will be neat to one day share these pictures with our kid(s) and it's part of our story that I'm proud of - although I can think of way more romantic places to spend your first wedding anniversary. . .