In Bagram: Four Takes

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.14.02 PMBill:  Lee and Terry have by now made their way to Afghanistan via Frankfurt and a staging area, and suddenly those of us — myself and Susan, Terry’s wife — who have stayed behind while our mates careen around war zones find ourselves somehow even more intimately involved in this project. I can only say that my empathy for those whose husbands, wives, relatives and friends are in combat over there has gone from intellectual to gut level.  Watching the slight figure of my wife disappearing into the maw of Atlanta’s airport security, I felt as though the oxygen had been sucked out of the place; I found it hard to breathe.   It’s easier now that she is in place, embedded, and we can talk on the phone and send e-mails, but the anxiety always lurks in the background.

 

Susan:  Terry has called twice from Bagram, both late night calls that woke me up but reassured me.  He isn’t sleeping much, and although “coms” (military speak for communications, i.e., phones and internet) are up, it’s either hard to fit into his hectic schedule or they’re heavily used.  As of late Sunday night (let’s make that early Monday  morning), he was still in Bagram but expecting an imminent departure.  I hope that he can handle the gear, the pace, and the altitude.

It’s odd how relieved I am that he is Afghanistan, rather than Iraq, given the increasingly terrible news out of Iraq the past 2 weeks.  I know we’re still waging war in Afghanistan, but it’s a less violent, more subtle form of war — on both sides.   As Bill emailed me, let’s cling to any straw!

 

Terry:  I’m in Bagram, Afghanistan. Tomorrow morning I’m flying with the Commanding General on his chopper to a Forward Operating Base (FOB) in the mountains on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. I’m riding with him to film a brigade memorial service for two members of the 82nd Airborne who were killed this week. I’ll be staying there for at least a couple of weeks going on security missions with Combat Assault Groups (CAGs) and traveling with “circuit riders” — chaplains who chopper from one FOB to another to check on troops. The military has been very cooperative and supportive of our project. They’re giving us amazing access.

 

Lee:  The days begin and end in Bagram as elsewhere around the world: birds  enliven tree branches with chatter and twitter as the skies lighten and darken.  It is in the in-between that life is  different here.  In the cafeteria-style dining halls there are no  coat racks or cubicles for briefcases and books; instead they offer stands designed to hold automatic weapons.  The loud rumbles are  almost never thunder, but jet fighter planes taking off.   And the names on street signs and signposts are fallen heroes except that, here, they are young men and women killed in battle  since 2002.   It  is in this world that the chaplains operate.  They preach to  congregations on Sunday, hold Shabat services on Friday, lead a prayer group on Wednesday, but it is in the in-between times that their life diverges from that of home- based clergy.  So far we have covered the services, having arrived in

Bagram  on Friday at 5 am.   This week we start to explore to the in-
between.

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