Friday, December 28, 2007

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Today was a difficult day. Today, I bid farewell to Jeff, who has been sent on a (possibily) temporary mission to FOB Salerno. It's a good job that Jeff's going to, and we've heard very good things about the command there. I know that Jeff is going to do great, and I wish him safety and good tidings as the new year quickly approaches.

Jeff and I go way back. We met at the M16 range at Fort Jackson during my second week there, Jeff's first. Along with Chris and LTC Smalls, we formed a close knit group that weathered storms great and small at Fort Jackson and Fort Bragg.

Chris, Jeff and I had similar stories to tell--we got mobilization orders during our second year of MBA programs at Indiana, Ohio State, and California, and we subsequently were granted delayed report dates in order to complete our degrees.

The emotional roller coaster that is the IRR accepted us as passengers back in the Fall of 2006 when we each received our initial orders. By the time we all met in June of this year, I for one, was enormously relieved to find two guys who were trapped on the same ride that I was. We quickly bonded in the way folks so often do in the military, over a shared hardship. That we had similar histories and goals only strengthened the bond.

Inevitably, though, the three of us (along with LTC Smalls) would not all be sent to the same place in the war--or so we thought. As the battle rosters ebbed and flowed (Djibouti, anyone?) I all of a sudden found myself, this past October, in the same unit as Jeff. This was exciting stuff--regardless of what happened in the unit, or what jobs we might hold, at least I'd have a good friend at my side.

At the end of October, Jeff and I met up with our current crew. We were told that we would have similar jobs, on the same staff, and speaking for Jeff--we were pretty excited to be able to stick together.

There is a long, (possibly) interesting story to tell regarding what has happened in the months since we joined the unit. One day I'll share that with anyone who would like to hear it.

Which brings us back to the present. The latest twist in our tale happened a few days ago. Jeff was told that the unit needed to fill a position at Salerno, that he had been chosen to fill it. These things happen in the Army all the time, of course. It would be naive to assume that just because Jeff and I had been slated to work together for the next 10 months, that such would definitely be the case. Still, the announcement came like a blow to the gut.

Jeff and I had been one another's band-aids, I think--keeping each other grounded as the IRR process continued its inexorable march to the sea in FOB Patriot, en route to Central Asia, and finally here in Afghanistan. All of a sudden, it came time to rip the band-aid off. To engage in our duties here in Afghanistan independent of someone who remembers what the Impact Zone at Fort Jackson was like. Or the sickly feeling in your gut when you walked up the steps of the building with the red awning.

We will both be fine, of course. There are good folks here at BAF--good friends and colleagues. I'm sure Jeff will find the same thing at Salerno. And I think Jeff and I will do well at our respective jobs. And who knows, perhaps this really will be a temporary gig, and Jeff will return to BAF triumphantly in a couple of months to assume an interesting, useful, clearly defined role on one of the infinite number of staffs that live here.

All the same--today was a difficult day.


Mrs. Exnicios said...

I don't know which is sadder - this puppy or your little plywood hut :(

Miss you lots and lots and looking forward to filling up that wall with lots of fun decorations.

all my love, always,

April F said...

This means so much to me and to Jeff's family. Thank you for such a sweet tribute. I know Jeff misses your friendship as well.

Happy New Year!
- Jeff's wife, April

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