Sometimes I wonder how I got to where I am. Not how did I get to Afghanistan, but how I got to be where I am, doing the things I’m doing, working with the people I’m working with, seeing the world in a way that so few get to see it. Some might think it’s weird for me consider myself lucky to be here, in a war zone, away from many of the comforts of home, away from my family. I do count myself lucky to be able to serve, even here. We do have some of the comforts of home, though not near as comfortable as being home. And while I miss my family back home dearly, these that I serve with are my family here. Putting it all into this perspective, I like this life’s adventure I’m on.
One of the things I have experienced recently is the memorial ceremony at ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) held each week in front of the headquarters building there. I mentioned this in a Facebook post a short while back, but I’ll go into greater detail here. I should note that my chaplain did the most recent ceremony and will do a few more as a fill in to the usual chaplain. The ceremony is only about 10-15 minutes, held outside. The back drop to the podium where the chaplain speaks is the Afghan flag, the NATO flag, then the flags of the Coalition Forces that suffered a loss. The chaplain starts the ceremony, then a senior military leader from each of the Coalition Forces reads the names of fallen from their respective country, an Afghan National Army leader says a prayer for his fallen and states how many (too many names to read at the ceremony), the bagpipes play, and chaplain concludes the ceremony.
It’s fascinating to me to be standing there with so many other Service Members from all over the world paying respects to the fallen. Up close to the center of the ceremony there are a couple of foriegn units in formation, but for the most part, we just find a place to stand in the background and watch. We all come to attention when called. We listen to the prayers and words of comfort. Then, seemingly as quick as the ceremony started, we all go our separate ways, back to what ever it is we are assigned to do.
The United States was the only Coalition flag up at the most recent ceremony. Five American Service Member’s names were read. The first time I attended the ceremony it struck me how quick it was. I remember thinking to myself, “How can we pay proper respect to the fallen so quick?” Not just for the U.S forces, but for who ever gives their life in such a manner. As I pondered this in the week in between ceremonies I came to a conclusion.
We stop here only long enough to recognize the fallen. We have a job to do. While our hearts are heavy and we feel a loss, we have to move on and complete the mission we’ve been given. If we stop too long we get distracted. We don’t have time to memorialize, grieve, morn, or reflect. At least not all at once, not here. It has to become a background thought. It can’t be foremost in our minds lest we lose track of what we need to do to get the rest of us home safely.
Even though I didn’t personally know any of the names called at either one of the ceremonies I’ve been to so far, I still feel a connection and a loss. Maybe it’s the kind of connection that only exists for those that wear or have worn the uniform, I don’t know. But it’s a sobering reminder of where I am in the world today and what’s going on around me. Each time I go outside the wire I take it all in. I look at the people on the streets, the shops, the traffic, the advertisements. As I file it all into my memory of life experiences, I make sure to find a place in there for the ceremonies so I don’t forget we are still at war. Sometimes it’s easy to not think about it from the inside of the walls, and forget what’s going on the outside.
Take the time remember the fallen and their families. Pray for them. Pray for us. Pray for our families back home doing all the hard work of keeping homes running. We will continue to do what we do until our job is complete.
Good day and God bless.