(L) Osama Bin Ladin’s personal aircraft. (R) Our sleeping quarters during our time in Bagram.
15 March, 0440 Zulu, 0910 local
Starting to get the hang of this time change thing, just in time to leave Afghanistan. Actually, our flight is not until this evening, affording us another day on base to take in the sights, use the facilities, and visit with soldiers. Now that we have done two shows here, people are beginning to recognize us, and that familiarity is promoting some terrific conversations.
Today, March 15, marks the end of rotation 5 of Operation Enduring Freedom. This means that the base is in a state of transition, with many soldiers leaving town and others settling in for their extended stay. While you would think it is a joyous time for those leaving (and it is), it is also extremely stressful for both soldiers and their families. Great efforts are taken by the Department of Defense to provide resources to help make the adjustments more manageable for everyone.
Last night’s show was so much fun. Word had spread from our previous performance, and we had a room full of fresh faces. We also performed some new material and this created a spontaneous experience for the audience as well as for us!
While I was initially disappointed that we were unable to fulfill our engagement in “A-Bad”, a woman from last night’ s audience offered a great shift of perspective. She said, “well, personally, I’m glad you didn’t get to go because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to see your show.” I thanked her, as she reminded me the true goal is not that we have a variety of adventures. That is the natural by-product of the real mission which is to spread laughter wherever it is needed. Another soldier told me he hadn’t laughed even once in three months. And during our show last night he found he simply couldn’t stop laughing. Mission Accomplished!
Spencer said it great this morning as he reminded everyone, “It’s not about us. The Armed Forces are going to significant expense and making a tremendous effort to bring us around the world in order to create memorable and pleasant experiences for these men and women. It is easy to get lost in our own ego trip, but we must always remain focused on the outcomes. It’s not how we feel about the performance, it’s about whether the soldiers get what they need.”
There are many ways to provide the lift that is needed. We are a part of that, working with the MWR Organizations (Morale, Welfare, Recreation) at each base. Other aspects include movies, food (which is excellent), sports, phone and internet privileges, bingo night, and a creative assortment of other options. These are not frills, but essential ingredients to ensure the men and women are emotionally and physically capable of fulfilling their mission. MWR’s motto is “For all of your life.”
0822 Zulu, 1252 local
Just after finishing the previous sentence, Sgt Marx asked us to visit the base hospital to entertain some of the patients- children and adults who are innocent victims of mine explosions, gunshots, and burns. This was by far the most humbling task we have undertaken on this trip. Some moments were simply heart wrenching, and we had to smile in order to suppress our tears..
We met some wonderful people who are part of a talented and dedicated team of medical personnel. And, we were blessed with an experience that deeply touched every one of us. The mood was so heavy when we entered the tented hospital we were at first unsure whether we should perform. You could tell that the care givers were sizing us up and wondering the same thing. But, we took action and started interacting with the patients. The first and smallest child was a three year old girl who was badly burned by a fuel explosion. She and her brother (who was more severely burned) spent four days untreated in their home before finally brought to the hospital. The small child, named Cabannah smiled while watching the crystal balls “float” through the air.
The beautiful girl you see in the second photograph was injured when a mine exploded near her. Her face bears the scars of shrapnel and one arm is badly injured. The other was injured, as well, and we didn’t know that at the time. Here you see Todd exchanging a spinning ball from his hand to hers. We later found out this was a “breakthrough moment,” as she had not even allowed the Doctors to touch that arm, and she resisted using it at all!
The 24/7 unrestrained effort of US medical personnel is another example of good works being done amongst so much pain and suffering. This third photo is of a drawing done by a local child to express her appreciation to the American soldiers. It was posted in the hospital. My friend Todd summed up this powerful experience in his own moving words:
It rained today. Sgt. Marx tells us the regular rain they have been experiencing of late is something that hasn’t happened in this region for eleven years. Many local Afghans associate the return of rain with Americans and regard the rain and the Americans as a good omen.
Today we were able to bring a smile to the faces people who were suffering terrible pain. The relief was real and needed, providing a lift to patients and care givers alike. Perhaps it was only temporary. I would like to think that the people we met will think back on this experience and smile again. But one thing is for sure. The effect this experience has on me was permanent- I’ll never be the same.What a tremendous honor to be here.