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I’m not sure whether it was the mini-movie marathon, the introspective sounds of the late, great Fela Kuti, or a combination of the two, but I recently realized that I had suppressed some memories from my first and only tour of duty.
Upon reflection, I’m not overly surprised by my selection of culture. Of course, one of the films was essentially a war movie. (Side note: Shoutout to Amazon Prime for the student (sans Military?) discounts, and Pandora for the wide selection of Fela. At any rate, the first film was Denzel Washington’s version of The Manchurian Candidate (2004), followed by Will Smith’s Six Degrees of Separation (1993).
It only seems fitting that I would find two of my childhood heroes at seemingly low points, considering their current grandeur. Also, I believe that I have been craving the sounds of African drums since I first learned that my people’s history didn’t begin with slavery (shoutout to Brother Malcolm).
In any event, even if I could remember the sergeant’s name, who was with me on that miserable mission, I’d never reveal it publicly.
I still don’t know what he was thinking to listen to my hare-brained notion of a shortcut, or why I fancied it a fine idea to try and save time at the expense of our safety.
We might have had three mags, two rifles, and one cellphone between the two of us. That is to say nothing of our water shortage.
I will never forget the look of relief when we happened upon someone kind and adept enough to give us correct directions.
There was dread in the air initially when the gas light came on in the-middle-of-nowhere, Kuwait. The mission was reminiscent of the current popular trope, “Ya had one job!”
Escort the convoy from our base, intended for acclimation, to the one that would see them to their deployment base; report back immediately (okay, two jobs technically).
We had obviously done it successfully a few times prior, or they would’ve found someone to relieve us. I remember one occasion with a different sarge where I swerved to avoid a brick in the middle of the highway, only to accidentally destroy one of the infamous camel spiders, and I was promptly warned that I had a strong backhand coming my way if I managed to take our SUV off of more than two wheels.
Dire threats notwithstanding, I’d say that the rest of my trips largely went off without a hitch. I even received a coin for my efforts.
Regardless, that unforgiving desert in Kuwait will remain a personal low point rivaled by few others in my short, puff of a life; as noted by The Philosopher (“Everything is smoke!”).
Even now, I recollect that my increasingly agnostic beliefs could not prevent me from calling out to someone, prior to crossing paths with the Good Samaritan with accurate directions.
I’m pretty sure that I didn’t take any vows of secrecy regarding the nearly botched mission. Either way, it’s not like that one Navy SEAL raid that I may or may not have played a vital role in.
Seriously though, I reasoned that I would be terribly amiss were I to take such a poignant and palpable low point with me to the grave, despite many an opportunity and platform to pursue being heard; especially if there’s even the slightest chance that it could prove beneficial for my Little Monster’s Gerber fund (shoutout to WIC for being so clutch, by and by).
In closing, I don’t know if I ought to take my own advice about using culture to combat writer’s block or heed the warning of a random sage, “Culture is not your friend.” I think that I will “make my decision, no decision” as the ploy goes, or at least sleep on it for a fortnight.
Anyways, keep your bearings, and don’t be afraid to “adjust azimuth.”