We hope you'll enjoy this exclusive look at Kabul, Afghanistan's Green Zone through the eyes of a writer serving there, presented as special, long-form feature in four parts.
1. BEING DEPLOYED – THE JOURNEY BEGINS
Ever wonder what you’d say if someone came up to you and told you it was time to go to a warzone? Most people don’t have a job where that’s an issue, but what if it was? Think about it for a moment. What would you think? What would you say?
More importantly, what would you do?
As I sit here in Afghanistan, I can't help but think about those things that brought me here; the events that occurred to make this a reality. Thinking about it takes me back to the day I was voluntold.
For the record: volunteer + told = voluntold.
It’s a sacred military term we all come to love... and sometimes hate.
“You’re being deployed,” my boss said. Although he grinned, his eyes watched me closely. This was part of the game. How would someone react when they were told they were going off to war? How would I react?
“Sure I am.” I laughed and waited for a reciprocating laugh from my boss, or the deputy, but neither gave in. “Oh, you’re serious.” I looked from one man to the other and felt it for real. Fight or flight. My heart fluttered. My face might have even paled. A tsunami of concern broke in my stomach. This was it. This was that moment. How would I react? How was I reacting? Whatever was happening to my body, my mind was flash-banging through a thousand images of war and fighting, both Hollywood and real.
The dead stared back at me with as fierce a stare as those levied by John Wayne and my grandfather, waiting for my answer. It seemed as if minutes had passed since I’d realized I was actually being deployed. In this all-volunteer military, I was being voluntold to go to war. I could get out of it. I could make up some excuse. Hell, I could tell the truth. The Veteran’s Administration had already established that I was enough of a disabled veteran that I deserved money—as some sort of monetary apology for fucking up my body. My mouth moved and the words came out, “Where are you sending me?”
“Afghanistan,” my boss said.
I realized only a moment had passed. If my face had revealed any of my internal ruminations, I couldn’t tell by looking at him.
“Do you know where in Afghanistan?” I asked.
“Don’t know.” He snatched a yellow sticky from his desk. “Call this number and they’ll fill you in.”
As I took the paper, the phone rang. He answered it and I stood there awkwardly for a moment.
I didn’t know if I was supposed to say something or not. Finally, tired of staring at the back of his head, I turned and left the office. I had a phone call to make. Check that. I had two phone calls to make. I had to call deployments branch and I also had to call my wife. After a moment’s consideration, I took the coward's way out and called deployments branch first.
It's funny. As I look back on that moment, I wasn't scared. This was something I'd wanted to do for so long. Twice before, I was set to go, and my deployment was scuttled. I was beginning to feel like it was never meant to be. Then came the notification. Was I scared? Not the way you think. I wasn't scared for my life. I was scared for all the things I was going to miss. I was scared that something might happen in the life I'd constructed, and I wouldn't be there to see it, to fix it, to be a part of it. This is the hardest thing to get over. It's a hard lesson to learn that life goes on without you. Once you get that, then everything falls into place.
I think I’m really ready to go.
Let's get this party started.
[Because that's just the sonata...]