I think I was born a Stoic before being subjected to formal religious practices. It was rather early in my existence that I began privately questioning the reasonableness of the God I was taught about. I didn’t really have a whole lot to go on outside of the words of preachers and family members. Based on their words though “He” sounded a lot like a pimp to my young mind. Bear with me here. There was the ever-present watchful eye to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to do for God. Don’t put any other gods before “him”, even though an omnipotent being that knows no other gods exist wouldn’t be so insecure in its Godhood. “He” has eternal love and care for you, but he’ll send yo ass to hell for even small infractions. Go out there and work your ass off, even if ends are barely meeting for you, I want my money by Sunday. Those are just some of the highlights that stuck out to me. That’s not the point here though.
Despite my questioning of religion, my conditioning still won sometimes. My nature was constant, but when placed in really bad situations that conditioning kicked in. When I was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, we called the team I was on the Wolf Pack. Sounds badass, and for office workers we probably were, but our job was 100% thinking and 0% shooting. We were in a war zone, but not doing stereotypical soldier stuff. Every evening and most times for lunch, we piled into a Toyota Hilux 5-seater and went as a team, to one of the 4 dining facilities on base. Dining facility is the term for what people assume to be the mess hall or chow hall…to make it sound more gangster though, it’s commonly called the D-Fac now. We usually only went to 3 out of the 4 because one just sucked in every way.
One evening, for no other reason than “we never go to this one” we went to the one that sucked in every way. It was more crowded than other D-Fac’s and the table set up was rather annoying. We were still having a good time laughing at someone’s expense. Suddenly we felt the impact of something hitting nearby…shortly thereafter, the rocket attack alarm went off. In this moment, I was pissed because I was trying to enjoy my meal, but because we were in here with thousands of people, I had to get under the table while my food got cold and shat on by flies. The conversation under the table centered around how ridiculously close it sounded. Typically, the rockets would over shoot the base or not get close enough, but this was the first time while I was there that it landed where the action is.
When we got the “all clear”, we all got up and threw the remaining food on our plates in the trash and left. The fly situation over there is bonkers. The all clear seemed to take forever, but when we went outside the fire trucks and security police were in the trailer city across from us and to the right. In actual distance it was less than a mile away from where we were. It didn’t take long to find out the rocket landed in one of the dorm units and killed a member of one of the coalition forces. Apparently, he was the only person in the building, in the shower, and that’s where the rocket landed. When we found out the details it was a sobering moment knowing that we weren’t that far away from this happening. The general sentiment among us all, “thank God it wasn’t one of us” the Wolf Pack roams again.
Another evening, relatively late in the evening a few of us were sitting in the office, which was a tiny trailer with zero hope in an attack of any kind. I was working on an assignment for whatever college class I was in and everyone else finishing up work and watching tv. The loud thud and vibrations of something heavy landing nearby rocked us again. We knew again that this was far too close for comfort. We were realists though, so only one guy got under the desk…it wasn’t me. My take on it was simple, if it’s my time to die I’ll die, if it’s not my time, I need to finish this paper. Once we received the all clear we realized it landed about 300 feet away from our trailer, in this parking lot on the other side of the barriers. Another “thank God it wasn’t closer than that” moments.
Another day that I wrote about before, it was about a month before I was due to leave so I was trying to get back in shape. The gyms were always packed before and after work, and I’m not a fan of crowds, so I went during lunch. The entire time that I had been in Afghanistan up to that point there was not 1 rocket attack during the day. Well, I was leaving the gym after a pretty good pump and decided to take a shower instead of getting something to eat. The rocket landed right on the other side of the barriers from me. I could hear the rocks hitting the metal roof of the gym overhang that I was under. The sirens were going off urging folks to get in a bunker, I refused. I stayed where I was because if everyone else was doing what they’re supposed to be doing, they wouldn’t see me anyway. Given the timing and distance, my choice to shower instead of eating saved my life, and that’s not an exaggeration in the least bit. This was a “thank God I’m a clean guy” otherwise I’d be gone moment. That rocket landed less than 100 feet from where I was, and 0 feet away from where I would have been.
These days, I don’t usually find myself in obvious life or death moments, and I’m not looking for any just so we’re clear. My reactions to danger have typically been muted. Yeah, I still get out of dodge but not in a fearful way, more of a commonsense way like avoiding scalding hot water or looking both ways at intersections. I don’t attend church or do anything one would expect of a Christian or any religious adherent…I live and let live, and to the best of my abilities try not to be a hinderance to those living around me. Whatever one chooses to call my current existence, lucky, fortunate, blessed or whatever, I fully agree with them. I have been closer to being a memory or severely impaired version of myself than I even captured in this post. So, despite not praying, or turning in my dollars on Sunday, I count my blessings and I’m thankful for still being here to share.