Tall pines and stunted shrubbery surround an open meadow full of waist-high grass and wild wheat. The music of birds drifts from the nearby canopies. The inciting smells of rotting wood and moss seep from the forest floor. I feel the cool dirt under my bare feet and a warm breeze blowing my hair. I stand there, thinking this must be heaven.
Then I hear it, softly at first, but growing louder as the seconds flow by.
I pull back to reality and refocus my eyes. My boss is trying to get my attention.
“Is there something more important than what’s going on here,” he asks.
Before speaking, I think, ‘to me, yes,’ but I say, “Negative sergeant, I just got lost in thought for a moment.”
As he walks away, I take in my true surroundings. Poorly constructed brick and mortar walls encase old wooden desks and worn linoleum floors. A half empty energy drink stares at me, while the work I’d momentarily forgotten teases me, forcing me to realize this place is my existence.
I haven’t been here long, this time. Only a few months and the pain of missing home has already set in. Afghanistan. My previous tour here, I didn’t mind, but then again, I didn’t know the beauty of home. I hadn’t been aware there was a better world.
I look to my left, to my lists of things to accomplish today, and for the next six months. The lists seem endless and useless. I’d rather do anything than sit here for another day, wasting away what may very well be a short life. Who knows?
I turn back to the computer in front of me. There are 4 different projects open, and some I haven’t even glanced at yet.
I’m told that my mission here is of the upmost importance and I’m helping win the fight every day.
I don’t see it. I’m just one Soldier, not even a real “Soldier” by the true definition. I take no enemy lives; I see no blood shed. I sit here and write. I travel and take photos and videos of the real Soldiers, the ones who give everything.
I’m preserving memories. Memories don’t win wars.
I pick a project to attack, but the memory of my wooded paradise lingers. The work occupies my mind, but my soul is still in that place.