Saturday, November 01, 2008

Halloween party...

Last night, I was invited to a Halloween party that one of my NCO's threw. It was an odd situation for those of you not in the Army because, in general, it is frowned upon to drink with and/or go to a party with NCO's and soldiers if you are an officer. In this case, however, I felt it was OK to attend, because it meant so much to this NCO that I attend. His parents would be there, as would my whole team, and we are going to deploy in a week.

So, I went to the party (with a last minute Halloween costume of "worlds biggest deuchebag" wearing two polos with collars flipped up, a temporary bad tribal tattoo, artfully ripped jeans and spikey hair). The party was fun, and reminded me a lot of myself six years ago, when I was a Specialist. But, more importantly, my admiration for soldiers and their families, which has never been low, increased.

To see these kids (and yes, most of them are kids), with families of their own--husbands, wives and children--all of whom were going to spend a year in Iraq, not knowing exactly what that would hold for them, many of whom had already spent a year in Iraq, celebrating one last holiday together was inspiring. They were all in good spirits and were, frankly, more certain of themselves and confident than even I.

I've written before what an equalizing effect the Army has on people. That when you strip people of their shallow identifiers, they begin to act as, and judge one another on, their character and what really makes a person a person. That being the case, you can take almost any group of soldiers and see an amazing cross section of America that, I believe, you will not find anywhere else. What other group of 18-22 yr olds will you find today in any profession, job or club, that has hackey-sack playing hippies from Sacramento, musical theatre buffs from Arizona, low riding Mexicans from Texas, hunters from Georgia and prep schoolers from the northeast? And, where else would you find such a group united in purpose and caring for one another? They watch each other's backs, not just in battle, but in life.

My NCO's and I shared a beer and had a shot and talked about what next year will hold. They are counting on me, and I on them, and while I'm scared shitless, I'm also excited. There are very few times in life that I've faced such a benchmark. With the guys I'm going with, I'm sure I'll be fine...they won't let me fail.


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