Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Week 23--Soldier On

During these slow weeks it's hard to think about anything to say in the blog. No drama and just the regular trauma, another hot summer week in FOB Salerno, Khowst Province, Afghanistan. It's weeks like this where we just Soldier On, doing our jobs and waiting for that magical day when we can redeploy.

Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time planning our redeployment, our return home. No matter how many times the Chaplain tells us not to idealize things back home, we do it anyway. When you are separated from home and family it's easy to remember everything through rose-colored glasses. It's great for getting through the deployment, but it can make things harder when you actually get home. Despite the fantasy, life goes on at home just as before; children grow up, spouses become independent, coworkers and friends move on. As we idealize life back home, and as life goes on back home, the gap between the fantasy and the reality grows larger and the transition becomes more jarring. It's all just part of the hidden stresses of war. Not all wounds are visible. Not all pain is obvious. Not all casualties of war are Soldiers.

But as we Soldier On we find ways to mark the passage of time. For me, I watch the new hospital construction and think about the day when we have a clean, dust free work environment...and indoor plumbing! It continues to progress quickly, and I continue to be amazed at how hard the host nation crew works every day in the heat and dust and rain and mud.

And even in the heat, there's always a fire, and kettle, and tea. Chai tea is popular in the US (at least it was when I left, almost 6 months ago!) but here it is just part of the diet; everyday fare. Whenever I eat with the locals, tea is on the menu. Even at the construction site, tea is served!

And of course, we always have our patients. Azad has been with us for almost two months. Wounded by shrapnel from a mortar round, he spend 6 weeks in our ICU. Now that he has recovered from his wounds he must now recover from the ICU. I never knew how hard it is to recover from being in the ICU; on a ventilator, paralyzed and sedated. Our nursing staff has done wonders with his rehabilitiation. We are not set up to manage these patients, but we do it anyway. My nursing staff is second to none when it comes to compassion and caring and competence. And Azad is a special case. His family is from a Kuchi tribe, a nomad tribe. His family raises sheep and moves between the mountains and the valleys, depending on the seasons and the weather. It has made for some interesting challenges; Azad has never used a western toilet, he cries if you try to make him. He prefers to squat in the trees. He eats with his fingers. He's not used to toys, so he mostly just stares at all the toys we give him. But he loves his father and he can't wait to go home. I guess some things are universal.

And finally, I decided to try some local clothing options. Here, I am dressed as a traditional Afghani man. Not the hat and vest over the loose-fitting pants and shirt. But, unlike almost every Afghani adult male I have seen, I have no beard or mustache. A definate mistake if you are trying to blend in with the locals. I guess I'll never be sent into town on an undercover job!

As I approach six months on this deployment, and almost 9 months away from home, I know there are many more opportunities for me to Soldier On, and for my family to hang in there waiting for my return. I'll keep blogging, even during the slow times, so you can see what we are experiencing here and in all the places where Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are serving this great country of ours.

Happy 4th of July! Happy Birthday USA!

Phillips, out.


Margo said...

Thank you! Even when you feel you have nothing to say your blog is an exceptional read! It is so good to see the other side of what is going on over there.

Rejenia said...

I read all you are able to accomplish with so little, and all your amazing stories. I am so thankful you are blogging, It keeps a record of all the good FOB Salerno is accomplishing. The people you are touching are your stars in Heaven, and the skys above Salerno are becoming brighter because of all of you. Thank you so much for shining for America. With every firework display, tomorrow (4th), I'll smile a little knowing smile, and continue my prayers for all the deployed service memebers and their families. Thank you.


David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 07/03/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Hubert II said...

Just read a story on ABC about how the Afghan army is beginning to run its own combat ops. That is a very hopeful sign for the future :)


mikentexas said...

I am trying to visualize you with a beard and moustache, or even long hair. Just isn't working.
Life does go on back here, but don't think for a moment that you are forgotten. Not for a single minute.

N. said...

Thank you for continuing to post on life at the FOB. One of my friends is there but doesn't have reliable access to the internet although it may be getting better for him. Your blog helps me to try and understand just a small part of what he is having to go through during his deployment. Once again thanks for blogging and have a happy 4th of July as well.

Anonymous said...

Please read our comment in regards to the information you put out about the mother and baby who was shot and "Sal treated"

541st FST

Katrina Reid said...

Hooah! That's a Soldier! Soldier on, Sir

BrianFH said...

Any accounts at all of the cases you handle, even if they are routine for you, will be of intense interest to your readers. Believe me. That kind of "ongoing" participation-at-a-distance is hard to find and precious.

Give it a shot. You'll be astonished.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rich, It's been a while since I've read your blog, as always I enjoy reading your view of life in Afganistan. I just finshed reading the book Kite Runner about growing up in Afganistan it's quite an amazing book. Although it's fiction I think/hope it is an acurate glimpse into what life has been like in that country. As you know those of us back here at OUMC run a fireworks stand and I have to say working with your family at the stand has been a real pleasure this past week. Deb B.

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