Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Fourth of July and Other Good News

We hold these Truths to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness –

This weekend we pursued happiness on the Fourth of July with a party to remember. A lot of effort went into the day’s festivities and I have to hand it to those who put it together – it wasn’t bad.

Our day started early with the July 4th 5k race. Half of my company got up with the sun and headed to the start line before the sun got to intense. Most of them just wanted the free t-shirt, but found out that they had to actually run first. The race had about 140 people come out and everyone seemed to have a good time. After the race I headed off to work because there was work to do. By 1500 (3:00pm) we were done with work and went back to the compound to change into civilian clothes. Yes, we were allowed to wear civilian clothes to the party.

The clothing was the biggest surprise of the day because day in and day out all we ever see of one another is ACUs or PTs (Army shorts and t-shirt). The freedom of expression in personal attire was interesting. There were Goths and punks, gangsters and cowboys, Hawaiian shirts and "wife beaters". And for the first time since they got here the women were allowed to let down their hair and wear make up – and did they ever. Let’s face it; guys look the same in uniform or civies. There’s not much you can do with the quarter inch hair. Women on the other hand just look different when they are not in uniform.

We all rolled out to the main brigade area, which we call “the quad” because it is surrounded by four long buildings in each direction, for a formation, a short speech and the start of the events. The quad had been transformed into volleyball courts, arm wrestling tables, RockBand contests, Near Beer Pong tables, barbeque pits, and the infamous Slip-n-Slide.

The slip-n-slide was put in late last month along with a thirty foot long, two and half foot deep wading pool. This is what they were making the day they cut the main power line to my building. The excavated dirt made up the ramp for the slide. The dirt was covered with a heavy tarp, then plastic sheeting, and then a coat of baby oil. Water was pumped through a 5,000 gallon water truck. It wasn’t pretty, but it was fun.

The party got rambunctious when water balloon and water guns were introduced into the fray. No one from the lowest Private to the Brigade Commander was immune to the random acts of water fight violence. Then, because all parties with a pool end this way, people were simply thrown in.

Of course the night ended with a bon fire and the obligatory fireworks which were handed out to the troops just like on New Year’s. And just like New Year’s it’s a wonder and a miracle that we didn’t burn any of the plywood buildings down.

In other good news we began to ship the first pieces of military gear back to the United States. It was loaded, labeled, lifted, and trucked to Baghdad where it will be inspected by U.S. Customs before being flown back to home.

Having less gear in my room is another reminder that “this” is coming to a close, that we will be home soon.

I wrote in my daily report that we are reminded on the Fourth of July that the freedoms we enjoy come at the price of eternal vigilence. I didn't make that up, its a quote that's stuck in my head. I went on to write that like millions before us we take up an oath with the full knowledge that we will go into harm's way for a people who can seem less appreciative than we expect, in a country inhospitable with heat and dust, and where complacency can can kill. We hope that one day the people of Iraq can celebrate their own independence as we celebrate ours.

1 comment:

Annemiek said...

Sounds like a fun fourth.
Good to see some of that gear go home, and you to follow soon!