I had to say good-bye to Trooper the other day. He's moving out with one of advanced parties, tasked with setting up initial operations for the brigade headquarters. He doesn't get to participate in today's send-off ceremony. He's already on the job, down at Camp Shelby, Miss.
Guys don't do emotional moments very often, or well. Things end up either being left unsaid, or sounding like dialogue from a bad Mafia movie.
Trooper and I were on the same deployment back in 2003. We've seen and done some wacky stuff together. Take, for example, the time we hung out for hours drinking tea in a Middle Eastern hotel lobby, watching the people-scape change from day to night. The restaurant was closed, because of Ramadan, but Trooper had cracked the local hospitality code by ordering room service, and having it delivered to the registration desk. Stupid little insanities like that kept me sane, and Trooper made more than just a few of them happen.
In other words. Trooper is good people--for an Infantry guy.
Trooper reads people like books, and reads a lot of books, too. He's always joked that I should write the Great American novel about our Nothing Little Deployment to the Land of the Sand. I remind him--again and again and again--that I don't do fiction. I have a reputation for story-telling, but I am genetically incapable of making things up. I mean that.
"I'll see you on the flip side," I tell him this week, shaking his hand. In the afternoon sun of the U.S. Middle West, the parking lot is as stifling as our old Middle Eastern motorpool. I've just been reassigned--I'll tell you about that next week--and I don't know when I'm going to see him next. "I'm sorry I won't have your back on this one."
"Yeah, we would've made it fun somehow," he says. "If you ever do write that novel, you'll have to make me six-foot something, and chiseled. Chiseled like ... a Panzer commander."
And that's how he drove off: Into the sun, all dashing and chiseled and resolute, off to fight the Taliban. I can honestly say that he looked like a Panzer commander:
A tea-drinking Panzer commander, driving a Honda Civic.