Alex was heading for Afghanistan; it would be his first tour in that area and he was excited but also felt trepidation in his heart, for he knew the dangers that awaited him and scores of others. But, the enemy was advancing and gaining more power every day and he, like so many others, wanted to contribute to overcoming the enemy’s advances and helping a country so conflicted—socially, economically and militarily.
He reached his headquarters one very dry and dusty day, a day that was quite normal for the citizens of that region. Upon talking with his commander and being given orders and a tour of the region, he came back to his quarters. A well-built and maintained tent greeted him and he found that it had all the necessities for a soldier so far away from home--some good snacks, good lighting and protection. He began visualizing in his mind what he needed to do to make his stay productive,safe and worthwhile.
It didn’t take long to make friends. John Walters and Ben Watson were eager to help him out and they certainly made him feel welcome and needed.
“So, first time in Afghanistan, eh? Well, you’re in a God-forsaken land and dealing with people who live and work like animals and you will need to be on guard twenty-four hours a day. But hey, it’s paradise and you will learn to love it!”
Alex knew this kind of conversation would occur so he shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Standard procedure, my friend, standard procedure! Have had two tours of Iraq, so I know where you’re coming from! It is much calmer now than four years ago—shoot, even a year ago but oh the pain that first year!”
“Yes, we both know what you mean, Alex! We served in Iraq, too, those first years and it was hellish! That’s why we say, be always on the alert here because Afgan, is where Iraq was years ago, but it’s even worse here because the enemy has so many ways to hide and attack here…So many caves and valleys. Just keep your guard up!”
The other man chirps in here and says a few things, too. “Yes, if you want to make it out of here alive, know your surroundings, know your buddies better than you do yourself and don’t take ‘anything’ for granted!”
Both men talked with Alex for an additional hour and then returned to their work. Alex went through orientation, found his bunk and other essentials and then later joined the rest for dinner.
Dinner was good, meatloaf and mashed potatoes and a nice salad. A good ending to a productive day, Alex thought.
The next day was more orientation and field work. He was learning the ropes and confidence was building steadily inside of him.
It was on a cloudy Wednesday about two weeks into his tour when fighting in the area began. At first, it wasn’t much and then the fighting escalated. Gunfire became worse and around nine in the morning Alex heard that John and Ben were killed in an ambush in a nearby valley. Apparently, they didn’t know what hit them.
Alex said a prayer for them as soon as he heard. It was during his prayer that he felt a presence that was so holy, that he felt it had to be God. There were no exchange of words but he felt so peaceful and so safe that from that moment on there was no doubt in his mind about God, blessings and faith in a higher being. It was something he couldn’t explain in words, just a knowing that God is always there and that His love and blessing have no bounds.
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