Anthony McCloskey wrote the post August 29, from a USO club at the Atlanta airport. He was coming off leave in Philadelphia and heading back to Afghanistan, where he serves with the 405th Civil Affairs Battalion. The Navy petty officer, first class, titled his dispatch "Redescending Into the Depths of Hell." He wrote:
Once again I am using my blog as a means to escape the reality of my situation for the moment. Leave was much too short, but I am very glad to have had the opportunity to take it. It was simply fantastic.
Once I get back I will post some pictures from my last days on leave. I took some gorgeous photos down in Valley Green (an area of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia), and I have some other good pictures.
For now I think I am going to go have some Wendy's while I still can.
That's typical of my latest bookmark, War in the Sandbox: The Adventures of a Sailor in Afghanistan." Clear-eyed. Appreciative. A window into a place most of us shuttered a while ago.
That hasn't escaped his notice.
In late October he wrote a post called "The Dance," how he'd just finished help build a school that soon the Taliban would burn and he would help rebuild. He wrote:
It is a most perilous and delicate situation that this country finds itself in. One which must be approached with a great deal of care. What worries me is that the world (especially America) is distracted. High-ranking officials in the UK seem to be damning our efforts in Afghanistan to inevitable failure, and the Canadians are calling for a withdrawal of their forces from Afghanistan. Meanwhile in the U.S., from what I gather, all the news is about some homosexual Senator who slept with his teenage aide and whether or not Michael J. Fox is faking his disease. Here we are at a place and time in history when we can make a lasting difference for an entire nation, in an effort which nearly everyone in the U.S. supported in the beginning... and the best our political pundits can do is accuse a man with Parkinsons of being a faker? The United States Republic (arguably an empire) of the early 21st century will be judged in history by the actions it makes right now. Let's hope that our citizenry is cognizant enough to see through all the nonsense they are being bombarded with and pressure their representatives to make the right decisions.
He's been writing his blog since October 2005. Sally Swift wrote about him yesterday, having learned of him in the New York Times. I'll be reading him, not just because I feel a responsibility to follow what he is writing about that hard place, but because he does such a good job with words and photographs of making me care, whether what it's like to be home on New Year's Eve, listening to a zydeco band at North-by-Northwest in Mt. Airy, or about his dreams.
His latest post begins:
I have been having quite a bit of trouble sleeping lately. Whereas this has worked wonders for my ability to get a lot of reading and writing done, it has not helped my physical condition. I have been exhausted due to a lack of sleep. I am seriously considering going to see a Doc, but I don't want to be a whiner... I'll go if it gets too rough.
When I do sleep I have been having really weird dreams. Usually about being shot at or things blowing up around me, and recently I had a dream that I was walking up an extremely narrow pass, on an extremely high rock wall and I fell off, like most falling dreams, I woke up before I hit the bottom.
He writes about his fears that, so close to his tour's end, he could die. It got him thinking of what he will be returning to. He wrote:
For a long while I was able to look at all the good we are doing in this country, whether it is building schools or killing Taliban, and use that as a means of staying motivated. But lately that hasn't been working. With each mission I can't help but worry in the back of my mind that this might be my last, and how much would it suck to die so close to the end...
But what's far worse, in my opinion is the feeling I have been getting by reading some things from back at home. I read opinions of people who say that we (the service men & women) should be ashamed of ourselves, as if we had a choice in the matter. I will never be ashamed of my service. I may be ashamed of something I am asked to do by my country, but then I think civilians should feel ashamed of themselves for letting me (a serviceman) be put in such a situation. How easy it has be come to send men into harms way... But it takes nerve to blame us for it.
That man should never have to buy his own beer again.
UPDATE: He just emailed to thank me for the link, and to take me up on the beer offer when he returns. He asked that people read his Thanksgiving post if they have time.
(photo by Anthony McCloskey)