Pieces of My Career
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 (NIV)
TOUCHING THE VOID
I held two bricks in my hands—once clay, risen to the top of the Shomali Plains from the deep igneous rock of this region, eons ago, mixed with sand, and formed in one of the dozens upon dozens of brick factories that plumed great black smoke cauldrons. Those rising stacks that we would fly around—like a giant slalom race in the skies in our helicopters—were erected, pointing upward amongst the people of the greater city of Kabul, a millennia after this clay was birthed to the surface. Molded and shaped for utility in time and the two bricks did not seem heavy, but I knew they would grow in weight the farther I ran that morning.
War is a strange beast. It is the most intimate encounter I’ve ever had in my life. More than love for my mother. More than love for my wife. More than sex. It will forever be a part of me.
There are four Afghan girls living in India who are now 16, 15, 13 and 12 years old. They have not seen their father in five years. They do not know if they ever will again.
It took a long time to get here. It took destruction and creation; and, in the end we beat the enemy of time and action and reaction, my wife and I, we survived on our own terms. But at the start, it all began with irises—dilating.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
The hangar, already smoking like a southern cooker, was also on fire; and the flames that emanated from the sides of the highly flammable skin of the helicopter blurred my vision as I looked out into the daylight—to life, to safety, to survival. My Colonel, Jack Whalen, stood just outside the entrance to the hangar. In our distance from him, the finish line—he seemed so far away. The infra-red of the flames on our aircraft dazzled and shimmered and made him look as if he, too, were afire. His hand outstretched, as if to shake mine in encouragement and congratulations. An illusion of inferno-like jelly about his body, his arm and hand dripping with flames, like the cover of a Pink Floyd album, beckoned to us to keep pushing.
We flew into the fortified compound, in Hezarac, it would take six passes under heavy fires, harrowing, taking dozens of rounds of 7.62 into the belly of our single ship aircraft, six attempts to land, before we finally made it; and, we had launched in the mid-morning light from Kabul—racing towards the city district forgotten to the Taliban and tucked away between Nangahar and Paktia along the mountainous Pakistani border—a district hidden from God’s eyes, an afterthought, given up on some weeks before by the Afghan National Police (ANP) headquarters in the capital. But a lone and few, a gaggle, of Afghan National Police remained in the fire base in Hezarac. It had been surrounded on all four sides on the high ground by the Taliban for eight weeks. Barely any food left, and little water, it was a siege.