Some of the morale boosting activities at Camp Navistar: Basketball and movies.
23 March, Camp Doha, Kuwait 09:45
I’m here at the MWR(Moral, Welfare and Recreation) office as John is teaching Contee, Brody and the rest of the gang the fine art of “whip cracking.” It’s all laughs, and I have to smile at the way these silly skills of ours help make memorable connections and new friends wherever we go.
Thanks to Bovey for allowing the generous use of his personal computer to send the photos you’ve been seeing! Thanks to Sgt. Massey for your hospitality at Camp Navistar. Thanks to Contee and Chuck for the expert assistance and transportation to yesterday’s show. Brody and Larry will take us to Camp Victory tonight for our final show in Kuwait.
Last night at Navistar was another new experience and fantastic performance opportunity. The Camp is about an hour from here, literally on the Iraq border. Several factors made this show unique: First, it was an outdoor performance on the plywood basketball court, with the 500 or so audience members seated in chairs, bleachers and picnic tables. The beautiful, cloudless night, perfect temperature, and brilliant moon made for a relaxed and comfortable mood. High floodlights were positioned to illuminate the space. Tents surrounded us, and the bare bones venue made me feel like I was in an episode of M.A.S.H.
Secondly, about 300 soldiers at Camp Navistar are enjoying their final week before heading home. Most have been here for thirteen months and, needless to say, are anxiously anticipating their homecomings. This only added to the excitement and presented an interesting twist. They will be home before we will!
We spent even more time than usual hanging out with the crowd and enjoying conversations, photo opportunities and stories. I thought I might convey how special these connections are by sharing two specific stories that made huge impressions on the group. Regretfully, I never did get the names of these individuals. But, I feel like we are all old friends.
As we were setting up, a sizeable gentleman approached us, displaying tattoos on both arms and a huge smile. “Hack and Slash,” he exclaimed. “I saw you guys at the Georgia Renaissance Festival. You performed right before the Zucchini Brothers!”
“You mean you saw this guy?” asked John as he pointed to Todd, half of the comedy juggling team the soldier had mentioned.
You could see the joy sweep over the man’s face as he found a familiar element so far from home. He felt like he was part of the act, sat right up front, and even had us sign one of the show posters so that he could show it to his wife when he returned home, six months from now. After the show we continued to talk until we had to leave. As the subject of children came up, he shared with me a personal and somewhat painful exchange he had with his four year old son. The boy told him on the phone, “Daddy, if you will just come home I promise I’ll be good.” Unable to grasp the reasons why his father was gone so long, the boy could only assume it was his behavior.
“I cried for two days,” he told me. “It is so hard being away. Some days and weeks drag on forever.”
Another gentleman told us he was married only twenty five days before he was deployed. “Every day is the same out here. Me and the guys joke it is like the movie Groundhog Day- one day that repeats over and over. Thank you for bringing us something fun and different. What a great change of pace. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t see!”
As we drove back toward Doha, watching the oil fires burn on the horizon and the scattered beams of light from other camps across the desert, we exchanged favorite moments from the experience and congratulations of another mission accomplished.
Interesting Factoid: We learned that since January there has been more movement of American troops and equipment since World War II (including Vietnam and Korea).
Click image to enlarge.