Look at the pretty fireworks…
Last year was the first year since coming back from Iraq that I actually enjoyed watching fireworks. Granted, it was from a distance, behind glass, with music playing while holding my kids on my lap, but hey, I will take whatever wins I can get.
My first deployment we received mortars steadily. To put it bluntly, they suck. In that deployment, our particular flavor of mortar attacks was even harder to swallow since we could not return fire. Somehow, when you get to shoot back, you feel better because at least there is a remote chance of catching the bastard trying to send you the mortars.
At one point we were mortared every night for a week. By the end we averaged an attack every three days. Receiving mortars is one of the most helpless feelings you can have as a Soldier with the worse style coming when you lose a friend because of them. The reason for this post is that those feelings come rushing back when you are caught off guard by some celebratory fireworks, and sometimes even when you prepare.
When a mortar attack starts you hear, and sometimes see, the “flash”. Seconds later, with the “Bang”, all hell is breaking loose in a whirl of screaming metal. As I reviewed my journal from my first deployment I re-read entries about the mortar attacks, and having nightmares about mortars. With fourth of July coming I have been trying to think of witty ways to approach and describe what it feels like to be mortared. Unfortunately, I am at a loss. It is, like love, something that needs to be experienced. Once you have, you can stumble around for the rest of your life looking for the words. You can read Shakespeare, but until you know love, you will not fully appreciate his words. I can write about it. You can read it. But, full appreciation is not reached without experience.
I will say this, when you have been mortared and they land next to you, you can truly say you know what terrified and helpless feels like.
An aside for a Charmin Moment..
(I can also add with with respect to mortars, they are most terrifying when you are trying to take a shit. All of my journal entries exploring mortar attacks revolve around wanting to die with my boots on and my rifle in my hands. And I quote, “I just don’t want to eat it with my pants around my ankles on the shitter.” We even had an Air Force guy in a neighboring camp get knocked out when a mortar landed two shitters down from him. Most guys, for this reason, try to time their movements away from the mortar attack trends. But I digress…)
Still give me the shakes
I was riding my bike not a week ago and rode past, without seeing them, some people setting off fireworks. When the unexpected fireworks go off, my first thought was and continues to be “Mother fucker!”. (See, there is that anger again.). If I know they are coming and I can prepare, I can tolerate the noise and the feelings. Unfortunately, living in the burbs, there are not fireworks announcements or advertising like at a baseball game.
Look, I’m all about celebrating our nations’ Independence. I love BBQs and sparklers. I’m not going to bash, criticize or suggest that people are insensitive to Veteran’s when they start lighting those fireworks off. It’s just that when the fireworks start going off,especially the mortar type, I would rather be inside.
Knowing this, I am going to take the time this year to embrace my avoidance of fireworks. Hell, I may even go buy some. I will count this as my In Vivo exposure for the weekend and report back later.
So, for all you fireworks fans out there, let’em fly! (and I’ll be sure to try and schedule my “movements” during the day.)