Returning brings back memories. My final flight out of Kandahar is one I cannot forget. A C-17 was leaving westbound... west toward America, toward home. So I grabbed my bags and jumped a ride. Little did I know that my knees would be 16" from a row of flag draped caskets for the next three hours. "Sobering" doesn't come close to describing it. Deeply moving, profound, desolate, angry, honored. Those are a bit more accurate. The loadmaster and I were the only two souls in the back, no doubt each thinking about life, the pains of war, our mortality, families, and this fight.
I told myself, "I'm not coming back to this shit." It made sense at the time. But five years later, I get the feeling it's a different fight. Is it? Back then it was the Taliban, Pakistan-backed insurgents, the Haqqani network. Those a-holes are still there. But now it's the cancer on the world that is spreading beyond national borders. Peddling something worse than drugs: a violent, intolerant, radical caliphate that would rule the world if they had their way.
So I join my American sisters and brothers; do my little part in the big puzzle. Let's roll.
Packing begins. I actually like packing. It reminds me of getting ready to leave on a big mountaineering trip or international adventure. (This is an adventure, right?!) I'm pretty lucky to have a wife that is making breakfast burritos for me right now, so I can be well fed for the 24hrs of travel that begins tomorrow.
My goal is to pack light. Not have a lot of crap to weigh me down or distract me. Work out gear, books, and a computer. Plus lots of uniforms/military stuff. I've got some new flippy flopies that should keep my feet free of shower scum (thanks Combat Flip Flops!), but more importantly looking chillaxed when cruising the gravel paths of the Middle East. I meant to get a light-weight travel hammock... damn, forgot it. But otherwise I think I'm GTG.
There isn't much time in the day, as we've got big plans for my last night here. We're off to the Northwest Avalanche Center Snow Ball- a charity event to raise money for a super important resource for snow-loving mountain people. It'll be a great way to say adios to the PNW. So I'll cut it here and get back to packing. --RMM
(Maj. Marshall's blog is hosted by USAF50Summits.com as part of our mission to tell the story of military members who are also avid outdoorists. Stay tuned in for more adventures.)