I think back to another time, another place when the severity of some things in this world felt as if they affected me more and I realize now in this war zone how they affect me less. My answer will soon be coming. We catch a chopper ride outside the wire and rocket across deep, green expanses of desert land. I sit in the heat nearest the cargo and I’m all dirt and sweat. It’s just me and my buddy R.S. We’re five feet away from the crew and I feel solitude yet I know why. He stays to himself, lost in his thoughts perhaps like I am with mine and we both gaze out our window panes onto a world coming fast towards us.
Our hot ride brings us outside the ring of protection, our castle keep. We journey forward and on this short mission we will be missed… by our brethren, by our families, by our lovers and inside the cover of a dust filled sky I wonder how it will be when we ride. We’re battle laden with gear; combat loaded with more than just ammo and knives; enough to engage a man and possibly kill him, but there’s a lack of safety back here as we fly. I’m tucked into the rear of the bird with a burden on my back; slow moving, boxed in, heat weary; my armor heavy. We shuttle across villages and towns in order to meet our team and re-supply. The landscapes peppered with the multicolored remnants of a thousand corporate advertising expressions of consumer success; junk piles in the making, one day their junkyards will be as large as ours. Fallen brick and melted plastic join the confused mess of broken glass and sand, and where an odd thousand cars have been blown into uselessness lay near it all I see a soccer team play.
We’ve been flying for an hour now, shuttling with soldiers onto different bases. These moments to get away from my home base is opportune for me; gather myself, regard myself in a different view a different light; necessary to kick off old doubts like filthy sand and get renewed. Head in the game. I’ll leave my dislike for certain people and certain parties in the rear. I’m going forward now.
It’s our fourth ride now and the weather is unbearable. Just the 6 of us rather than 15 but I’m burning up. Some room to move in the cabin but to me it’s just not enough. Early on at our last base we face the prospect of eating dinner and being late. The choice is made to stay and for the short duration we ‘stand by’ and eat a quick meal while the pilot relays by radio the flight plans for our day. The door gunner tells me to push the yellow colored latch forward in order to slide the side door open and with the quick flip of my fingers the deed is done. He removes the narrow, square panes, of our odd little protection, to lessen our discomfort and soon into portholes the wind will blow through. RS holds out his fist and slams down on mine with the cool salutation of ‘hello brother we’ll watch each others backs and we’ll do fine’. I give him a nod because he can’t see me wink through my heavy black shades. Lost in thought again, prayer for safety again, never know about the lucky, angry shot which brings an animal like ours down into a meadow. The pilot closes our doors and we gaze through the portholes as the bird flies.
Our chopper rises into the air with easy motions and now we glide, banking across a grid zone known to the pilot until we slide along the air lane and join with another ride. Two Black hawk choppers cutting through the sky and we feel it now, the comfort, the coolness upon our brow which shoots the sweat off our face and the heavy aches from our bodies. The sun is setting and I pocket my eye pro and track the green matrix of lights from the dashboard as it illuminates the pilots faces. Nothing but emerald colored light dancing spectrally across their blackened helmets. Night vision goggles are on them while their face shields are tucked down. I can’t read their expressions but I do know they made this machine do the sweetest climb. The wind makes us alert enough to see the world below and as the bird banks I see a different horizon. Iraq comes to me in a different way and into my eyes rushes this panoramic view.
She comes, not distilled, nor separated through, my eyes yield to her view. Here arrives real life, and damn it…she’s beautiful.
Imagination, shaped by the common and the obscure. Through the t.v. or through the ether, something divine or something plain but it comes. And into my eyes I see Iraq like never before. The picture is strong and it’s like nothing I’ve seen on any news channel or picture book. I’m excited. This feels like I’m going to experience the longest, good, night but I know there will be others. The blackness of the evening sweeps around me and I drown in the thought that I’ll be able to say hello to a beautiful tomorrow. RS patrols the landscape then he looks back at me and gives me a smile. I don’t know how long our moments of being this green will last…
pic from www.3news.co.nz