by Cpt. Earl E. Weigelt
The dust! Friggin’
dust! “It’s enough to make a preacher cuss!”
I mumble to no one in particular,
picking my way across the yard.
And I must focus on my stepping,
careful to not turn an ankle
on the fist-sized hardscrabble
A slow-rolling MRAP squirts
out a rock in passing, narrowly missing my shin;
grinning ground guide watching.
In the DFAC line -- invariably
right after a bus,
Blue Man Crue, a uniform
ribbon bailing for the door;
smiling faces and acrid
cigarette smoke trailing, laughter and fast voices.
“How badly do I really
want lunch?” I ask, again, no one in particular
and decide that if I don’t
brave the line I’ll snack myself silly
on Girl Scout Cookies and
Pop Tarts and Salt Water Taffy.
“What will I do without
the roar of aircraft?” C-130s, C-17s, Chinooks, Apaches, and Blackhawks?
Tornadoes lighting afterburner
50 feet off the deck, giving all of KAF a reality check?
“It’s an airfield,
after all and we’re at war,” I remind myself as air power night shift
kicks into high gear at
Oh Dark Thirty, skittering my half-empty Near Beer
or wierd-sized can of Mountain
Dew along the steel rail beside my rack.
And those Warrior Warthogs
thumping out nighttime cannon music—Oh! But it warms my heart!
And the Jingles—those
colorful, carnival, outright comical conveyances, sometimes staging
(oftentimes not) and so,
much waited-for. Bearded drivers, frequently smiley, barefoot or booted,
rugs on the ground, rig-side,
sipping chai with flatbread and goat.
I say as I wave at them, convoy after convoy, “Driving thin-skinned white trucks
into who knows what, targets
if they do, hungry families if they don’t-
trusting our warriors with
their lives, and putting it all on the line.”
Yes, our Road Warriors—Mighty,
Precious brood of foul-mouthed, trash-talking, family-missing gems!
Sixes numb from CONOP and
mission brief, ringing for prayer in the Dome or out by the trucks
calling for Almighty protection—Ultimate
Route Clearance—by Warring Angels who screw with the
enemy in advance of their
approach, causing their evil plans to fizzle or recoil upon themselves, “…
everybody says, Amen!” Music pounding from Battle Wagon cab, and Ma Deuce all headspaced
and timed- high fives and
ass slaps, hugs and breakfast, armor and Kevlar, then “Let’s get it on!”
And they roll … Oh,
Sweet God, bless ‘em all!
Unwinding time with Captain
Black, Man O’ War, Gurkha
shooting the bull with the
best of friends in the dusty dark.
Heavy aroma of Honduran
or Dominican, or maybe Kentucky,
duking it out with horrible
whiff from the West – “Poo Pond’s in rare form tonight.”
Alarm sounds and garbled
voice mouths out a warning and we’re on the deck when the boom comes.
“Damn it! They made
me break off my ash!”
Then it’s out to the
airstrip at two in the morning, with a lump in my throat and a weight in my gut.
Big Bird settled solemn
on tarmac—the ramp is down, and “Charleston” scrip’t on the tail.
Warriors from a host of
nations marching and standing and lining the cordon-
Facing movements, Colors,
At Attention, then Rest. Spirit warrior has a say and a prayer.
Then on down they come,
carrying brother, with flag smartly draped, and footsteps in unison.
Colors dip and salutes snap;
some shoulders shake, and bitter tears fall. Then TAPS raises ramp
and we all bid farewell.
And so mark we the time—some
in months, some in weeks, others in days (and some geeks in hours).
followed on hard by Christmas and we all miss our loved ones—
our Sweethearts and Kids
and our Mamas and Papas.
And some miss that ground,
that so-sacred ground; those rivers and hills; those towns and both oceans.
But to keep it all safe,
we count it an honor and we lean on each other and we’re all driving on,
looking forward to greetings
and embraces and kisses and thankful that GOD has shed us His grace!
Capt. Earl E. Weigelt
is a recently deployed member of the Maine Army National Guard who grew up in the Northwoods of Maine and relied heavily upon
that upbringing while serving in Afghanistan. His poetry also appears in our poetry section.