- The Rock River Times - http://rockrivertimes.com -
A Path with Heart—Afghanistan, part 15
Posted By Staff On December 16, 2009 @ 12:00 am In News | No Comments
By Sergeant Thomas Bauschke
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! The holidays are coming fast. My year in Afghanistan is nearing an end. Rumors of extensions and political intrigues aside, I am coming home in January 2010.
Where has this year gone?… To the Dawgs (bad Army joke—I’m in Dawg Company). All the excitement this long year, and now it comes down to these last few holiday weeks. Looking around FOB Fortress, it seems like an anti-climax. We remain busy with missions, endless taskings and details while packing out to go home. Even though we’re largely distracted from personal matters, spending the holidays far away from family and friends is never easy, no matter how tough you think you are.
I’ve been deployed nearly a year now, and it feels more like a decade; as if time has moved slower for us here and life back home has simply sped on without us. Many things have changed—as they always have to. But deployment has changed us as well. Most of the men and women I serve with are half my 44 years young. I’ve watched some soldiers grow up a little. Meeting many only a year ago as immature teen-agers, some soldiers now mask the gaze of an old man. Such are things when a lifetime of experience is teemed into a single, dangerous year. For better or worse, not one of us will return home the same as when we left last January.
I think back on this eventful year. I am thankful for the opportunity to come here and do my part. Regardless of political or religious differences, I’ve had a richly rewarding time of service here. Afghanistan is certainly a very different culture than ours. I may disagree on how they conduct their business, but most people I’ve met are indeed much like we are: they get up every morning, raise their families, worship the same God many of us do (albeit in a different way) and simply make their way through life as best they can.
This very, very old man with six donkeys came down the road in front of us one day on his way down to the village of Kudu. Donkeys can be very willful creatures. After they all passed our patrol base, the donkeys got away from the lumbering old man and fled around our hill. A half-hour later, they all came back to the road with the old man limping behind them. But the donkeys didn’t continue on to the village, they headed back up the hill. The poor old man yelled and hobbled back home, shaking his walking stick after the stubborn animals. I laughed out loud, watching all this unfold in front of my eyes like a sitcom skit. The next morning, I wasn’t surprised when the old man came to see me, the “doktar.” He was in a lot of pain from the donkey chase. I gave him a bottle of aspirin, a bag of humanitarian aid rice, and doctor’s orders, “No more playing with donkeys!” With a toothleth grin, he thanked me, “Manana.”
Some of my best days here have been spent with children. To be sure, I’ve often complained about how much they scheme, lie and steal to get anything they can from us, sometimes trying to sell back candy and such they got from us in the first place. During one of my “tailgate” medical missions (prescribing medications for common ailments to local villagers), a smart-alecky kid told me he couldn’t see when he slept. Silly me, with no sleep the nights before, took him seriously and wanted to examine his eyes. It was all in good fun once I realized I had been duped. I would get upset, though, when they’d try stealing medications that I brought for someone who might really need them. I understood they are kids living in isolated, Third-World, Bronze-Age poverty. Their bright-eyed gazes have made some of my days here. Children are our future—always and forever. The worst moments I’ve had here were seeing young kids in a lot of pain. Luckily, none of the children I myself treated was injured by combat.
I wish somehow we had made a better world for them. But decisions about the world, and fate or the will of God, are not made by simple men like myself. I simply do the best I can with what I have. Better days do lie ahead, even for Afghan children! I’ve treated so many kids here, I feel connected with them, even though there is rarely any such consideration in return. Soon after I leave, they will forget I was ever here. I’m just another soldier who comes and goes in this latest of wars spanning thousands of years. No matter. I came here to serve my country, which I have done proudly, professionally and honorably. More importantly, I also came as a medic to serve humanity. And I am thankful for the joy of having touched so many lives in positive ways.
Most holiday seasons I often feel claustrophobic. I don’t like being told to be happy, especially during years when I myself was not so very happy. But this year is different. I am thankful for just being alive. Serving here with my comrades in arms has been my greatest honor. These are truly the most professional and dedicated men and women I’ve ever worked with. Seeing the poverty and harsh way of life here has moved me to more appreciate life and its simple pleasures.
I am thankful that I’ve spent such a long time away because coming home in January will remind me just how blessed we are as a country. With Christmas upon us now, it’s perhaps too easy to get caught up in things we want and don’t have or lament unachieved goals over the past year. Be happy with what you do have is my life lesson. There are many, many more who have virtually nothing in this world. My Christmas 2009 won’t include presents; no fireside naps after feasts with friends and family. But the very greatest of gifts await me when I return to American soil—and those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Less than four weeks to home, dear reader! I truly hope my lips don’t freeze to the runway when I step off the plane in upstate New York in January and kiss the frozen ground of my beloved United States of America.
From the Dec. 16-22, 2009 issue
Article printed from The Rock River Times: http://rockrivertimes.com
URL to article: http://rockrivertimes.com/2009/12/16/a-path-with-heart%e2%80%94afghanistan-part-15/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://delicious.com/post?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F&title=A+Path+with+Heart%E2%80%94Afghanistan%2C+part+15
 Image: http://digg.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F&title=A+Path+with+Heart%E2%80%94Afghanistan%2C+part+15&bodytext=By+Sergeant+Thomas+Bauschke%0D%0AInfantry+Medic%0D%0AHappy+Thanksgiving%2C+everyone%21+The+holidays+are+coming+fast.+My+year+in+Afghanistan+is+nearing+an+end.+Rumors+of+extensions+and+political+intrigues+aside%2C+I+am+coming+home+in+January+2010.%0D%0AWhere+has+this+year+gone%3F%E2%80%A6+To+the+Dawgs+%28bad+Army+joke%E2%80%94I%E2%80%99m+in+Dawg+Company%29.+All
 Image: http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F&t=A+Path+with+Heart%E2%80%94Afghanistan%2C+part+15
 Image: http://www.reddit.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F&title=A+Path+with+Heart%E2%80%94Afghanistan%2C+part+15
 Image: http://www.stumbleupon.com/submit?url=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F&title=A+Path+with+Heart%E2%80%94Afghanistan%2C+part+15
 Image: http://twitter.com/home/?status=http%3A%2F%2Frockrivertimes.com%2F2009%2F12%2F16%2Fa-path-with-heart%25e2%2580%2594afghanistan-part-15%2F
 Image: http://rockrivertimes.com/2009/12/16/a-path-with-heart%e2%80%94afghanistan-part-15/feed
Copyright © 2009 The Rock River Times. All rights reserved.