It’s a frigid morning. The roar of the generators powering the combat outpost recedes into the back of my head as a constant, persistent hum. Flashing intermittent lights from FOB Loyalty’s Aerostat are a constant reminder that big brother is always watching. The moon has perched itself amongst the rooftops in hide; waiting patiently for the sun to break the horizon and assume its duties. The embers glow bright as the smoke slowly escapes from the end of my cigarette. The exhale waits in calm serenity as the slim fog rolls to camouflage the little bit of death exhumed from my lungs. It’s only 2 minutes off my life per smoke, right? That’s much better odds than an IED or 7.62mm sniper round. The “bombs and bullets factor” is what I call it.
It’s just the start of another day boring in Baghdad. The platoons on mission cycle are slowly waking up, piecing together at the briefing room. Faces are still half asleep, still coming to the realization that yes, they are still here – still in Iraq.
Still lukewarm, spare ribs and fried chicken are on the menu for breakfast this morning. “Appetizing” isn’t an opinion we get to make on our own these days. It could always be worse though. No matter how bad we think things can get, there are always comrades out there living worse than we are. Comrades who are actually dealing with the ugliness, the violence of war, and are not hidden in an area that almost seems like the suburbs back home safe.
Luck has had more than its fair play for us so far. One IED strike that has been fruitless for the enemy and indirect fire has only originated here. We’re beating the house in a takedown of Vegas.
So we wait patiently through the day, only sighing in relief when all of our men are inside the wire. The retreat back to our albums is what I call it. It’s when each soldier can revisit the pictures he carries of his family. It’s the only time he can be whole again, like they’re family after all. Smiles are freeze-framed into a frail eternity, and the moon can once again sigh as it perches itself amongst the rooftops of Baghdad. We’ve made it to tomorrow.