Friday, August 14, 2009

I called my cousin yesterday. I wanted to give him a heads up about my trip back home to visit before we report for the mobilization. I occurred to me that every single time I have spoken to him in the last ten months or so, it has been because we are trying to dispel some of the rumors we have heard regarding the deployment or we are both in uniform.

The last phone conversation we had, we joked about being old men and talking about our war experience the way Vietnam vets do. Just a coupe of old men still reliving our days in the sandbox, talking about the things we did and reminiscing about the friends that were there with us. I could vividly picture us both old, gray, grumpy, with beer bellies and grand kids crying in the background. We are sitting on a porch somewhere, wearing our faded Iraq war era army jackets with a cold beer in our hands, laughing at the humor only he and I would understand and reflecting about the things we have seen. The thought of both of us hanging out forty years from now made me smile.

We even joked about shooting each other in the foot after a shitload of beer and a few cigars just to avoid going.

"Dude, we are going to get drunk and start crying and shit. We are going to end up shooting each other in the foot."

I was laughing so hard I could not get a word out. Leave it to my cousin and his hilarious sound effects, "Paaaa," simulating gunfire, "now shoot me"!

We were both laughing so hard I was fighting back tears. The truth behind it all is that we are both glad that the day is soon approaching. We both just want to go overseas and do our thing. It has been tough putting our lives on pause for our duty and as much as it sounds like a cliche it truly is the price we pay to play the game. We both feel the same way, we are glad our turn has come but we know the difficulties that lie ahead are unprecedented in our young naive lives. We both look forward to the day we can come back and hit play on the remote control.

He never lets me forget the first conversation we had after I got back from my Basic and Advanced Individual training almost three years ago. It was more like a few words than a conversation and he remembers it better than I do. The first things out of his mouth when I saw him were, "I heard our window for deployment is sometime in the next few years."

According to him my cold and unscripted response was, "I don't give a shit, I want to earn my strips."

Conversation over. He says it made him feel like a shit bag when I said that. He had been a Joe long enough to let the reality of an upcoming deployment set it, even if it was a few years away. I, on the other hand, had not even given it a second thought. He must bring up that verbal exchange every other time we visit and we both laugh every single time. I am sure we will do the same when we are drinking that cold beer sometime in the future.

I can only imagine what is going through his head. His baby will be four months old when we leave for MOB platform. If life was tough before, it just became exponentially more difficult to the n-th degree. He casually mentioned how he was going to miss the baby's first birthday and how he feared the baby would not know him when he returned. I could not offer any consolation; I could only sense what was going through the walnut in between his ginormous ears.

Those ears, we would kid and joke about those ears all the time when we were younger. The size of his ears were only dwarfed by the size of the umbrellas my brother called ears. At least my cousin grew into them and they are in no danger of getting shot off.

The last time I saw him we were both on a night qualification firing range and we had finagled our way into being each others safety during the qualification. Just to put things in perspective for you it was the night after I met the NCO that gave me all the advice about packing my gear. I don't remember how well I did but on the qualification range but the conversation was classic. During all the downtime we talked about things that would make a Somali pirate blush, maybe I'll tell you about it someday, but for now I'll save it for that day forty years from now.

Our phone conversation this time around was a little more business and little less bullshit. He was en route to his family readiness event with his unit and I was getting ready to go out with a couple of friends. Our conversation kept getting interrupted by what I assumed were calls on the other line. He told me how the sheriff's department he worked for was planning an "Off to War" party that same weekend I would be in town and that we would get together at some point. At least we will get to hang out outside a military environment one last time.

The sheer reality of it all is this; we are both about to make enough memories to last ten lifetimes. Some good, some bad, most of them somewhere in between but we both just want to sit on that porch forty years from now and watch the grass grow.

It's go time.

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