Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Akmed the red-nosed camel

This post is a re-post of a story I wrote on my first deployment. I read over it again and found it to be very applicable to this tour also. Enjoy.

Photo by: Staff Sergeant Quinton T. Burris, 1ST Combat Camera.

The little girl woke up for another day. Her dark hair was unkempt but her brown eyes were bright. The time didn't matter and she didn't have a clock if it did matter. She thought about the puppy she saw yesterday and it put a smile on her face. She picked up the rug that she had slept on and shook the dust off it. She tiptoed past where her brothers lay sleeping. The longer they slept the more time she would have to herself. Outside she took a small drink of dirty water from the jug to clear her throat. There was only one thing she was looking forward to today and she didn't want to miss it.

The soldier woke up and looked at his watch. He pulled the sleeping bag over his head to keep out the cold. It was 0400 and the date didn't matter. He lay there for a minute thinking about is family and his girlfriend back home. There was no time for homesickness though. He folded up his cot and tied it onto his truck. He tried not to wake his buddy because he liked to wake up on his own. If you had to wake him it was best done with a long pole to stay out of the range of his swinging arm. Not everyone is a morning person. He checked his chains to make sure they were tight and the oil to make sure it was full. The dusty roads are this soldier's office and he hoped it would just be another day at the office.

The little girl was outside playing with a flat soccer ball by herself. It had been quite cold recently and she ran around to keep herself warm. The thin dress she had on didn't offer much insulation. The road was about a quarter mile from her tent but she was watching it intently. Every cloud of dust in the distance was a possible chance for food or water to be thrown to her.

The soldier headed down the road with the rest of his convoy. This stretch of road had been a hot spot recently so he kept a careful watch. He felt much safer now that there were steel plates on his doors. He saw a mud hut with a thatched roof about a mile up the road and scanned the area. Every piece of trash or building was a possible source of danger.

The little girl saw the long cloud of dust in the distance that signaled a convoy and ran toward the road. The rocks and sand didn't bother her bare feet because she had never worn a pair of shoes. She knew it was only a matter of time before her brothers would hear the approaching trucks and run outside to meet them also. She wanted to be there first.

The soldier got a better look at the hut as they drew closer and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He swerved to miss an unfamiliar hole in the road. Apparently this route had been mortared since 5 days ago when he last traveled it. He made a mental note of the landmarks surrounding the hole so he would miss it in the future. He focused his attention back ahead to something running toward the convoy.

The little girl waved and gave a thumbs-up as the trucks got close to her. She watched with dismay as the first four trucks blew by her without a second thought. She coughed on the dust as the fifth truck approached. The driver of that truck has his arm out the window holding a bottle of water and something else.

The soldier saw a little girl standing alongside the road ahead. His buddy was already reaching for a bottle of water and some food out of their bag. He knew of the soft spot that the driver had for the children. The soldier took the water and food and tossed it as far from the truck as he could so the girl wouldn't run into the road. He saw the girl's face light up with a smile and thought how cute she was.

The little girl ran to the water and food to snatch them up. She saw her brothers running from the house and struggled to open the food package. She gulped down as much as she could fit in her little mouth. She took off running with her bottle of water hoping her brothers would wait by the convoy for more handouts. They did.

The soldier continued driving like he had every day for the past 11 months. His buddy said, "Well, that girl will have a Merry Christmas." The soldier looked at his watch and was surprised to see 'TH 25.12'. It was indeed Christmas day. He had completely forgotten about it until now and thoughts of his family and their traditions flooded his head. It was still Christmas Eve back home and his family was probably all gathered at his grandparent’s house after the Christmas Eve service. Hopefully the camp they were headed to would have phones that worked. He knew the lines would be long but he would wait just to call and say, "Merry Christmas. I love you."

Merry Christmas,


1 comment:

Josh said...

I read most of the whole post (some words were too big for me), and not one mention of a camel.

Can you write a christmas story about a camel for me? I want it to be reader's-digest-humor-in-uniform funny.