May 25, 2009
“Hockey sticks are not a weapon!” I shouted as Mark’s stick came across the back of my leg. Mark stole the sweet potato and got a shot off.
“Five hole!” Mark shouted as he raised his stick in celebration.
Geoff was between the makeshift pipes…two Michigan National Guard-issued army boots. He shook his head and asked me, “Why’d you let him steal the puck?”
“He slashed me!” I cried out in pain.
“Collateral damage, Soldier,” Mark boasted as he high-fived Jesse.
Back home it’s a day off work and a family picnic. For many it will be a visit to a local cemetery to plant a flag, lay flowers, and share a story with the dead. Not here. For the most part, it’s the dead that tell us the stories.
But today will be a low-key day on the job in Baghdad. Five old hockey players still have our assignment. At 03:00 hours we head on down to the International grade school and support the local safety patrol with our automatic weapons. Such is school in the land of sand and figs and hearty sweet potatoes.
“We win again!” announced Jesse.
“Did I win or lose?” asked Geoff.
“Take your pick, goalie-boy,” said Jesse. “Until we find another hockey player on this base, you’re the only netminder…so you’re both the hero and the goat.”
I don’t know if everybody sees it. I do. Over the years it’s occurred to me that I have been blessed with the ability to know things. I have admired that ability in others and now I possess it. For the average 11-year old Iraqi, things are getting better. It’s not exactly Hannah Middle School out here…the bullies are bigger, meaner, and deadlier. But some of these kids have never known a school year as relatively safe and hopeful.
It’s important that they remember these days. Like Grandpa always said, ‘Remember Everything.’