Wednesday night, I hung out with my friend John P, a contractor who works with the local prison guards. We relaxed in our chairs with the door open to the evening cool, listening to jazz and smoking cigars. I don't know if it's partially because I lost my own father a few years ago, but I sometimes really like spending time with good guys that are in a similar age bracket as my dad. I think American culture, with its focus on youth and the immediate, sometimes neglects the valuable lessons age and contemplated experience can give. Also, as a Latino and former Army officer, John has an interesting perspective on so-called "race relations" in the service. (We both agree that the important thing is not what sex, color, religion, or sexual preference you are, but if you'll get online with me and put fire on the enemy.)
After I left John, I spent some time with Peter, a German Lt, and Cynthia, an airman. (Would that be "airwoman"? "Airperson"?) I'd met them both the first night I came to Black Horse after leaving the SF camp, and wanted to say goodbye. Peter was pretty discouraged, and mentioned some things that had happened at an ANA parade that day, that just underscored the hopelessness of the task of making this a free and stable country. I gave them each a small gift, and showed them a picture of Jordy and I. I think they were both happy that I would be back with my loved ones soon.
I left Bl*ck Horse Thursday morning. I rolled out of Pol-E-Charky (the larger ANA base that Black H*rse sits in), cheerfully yelling national insults from the open back of the 5-ton.
I think perhaps combat troops are naturally pessimistic. (Hodges told me he was going to shoot anyone that even looked suspicious, and I agreed. Too late in the game to screw around.) It should have come as less dire than the many things I feared when our 5-ton, driven by its new-to-country guardsman, hit a berm en route to Phoenix, almost tossing me over the wooden rails lining the truck's bed. I think Hodges may have been even more alarmed than I!
After a bumpy and uncomfortable ride, we made it back to Phoenix. Fortunately, I haven't had to carry all three of my duffle bags plus job box and assault pack by myself yet. I've been mailing every thing I possibly can, trying to lighten the load I'll have to take back. I've also bought a smaller, lighter chest with wheels that are actually, you know, attached. We'll do our customs layout in about four hours, stuffing what we think will take us through the next few days in a solitary carry-on, and in a few days, we'll be on that big Freedom Bird, back to the land of All Good Things (former service types can substitute more specific Things).