Thanksgiving at COB Speicher

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday. The day encourages families and friends to gather without the complexities of religion or gift giving, and it isn’t overtly patriotic. Good food and fellowship is the focus.

Thanksgiving has been a special day here on COB Speicher too. Turkey, Cornish hen, ham, and prime rib were the featured meats in the DFAC served complete with dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and array of vegetables and deserts, including the traditional pumpkin pie. It was delicious, tasting amazingly close to home-cooked.

After two weeks here, my life is settling into a routine and everyday is starting to feel like the movie “Groundhog’s Day” where everyone must repeat the same day over and over until they get it right. My routine of working from 5pm until 2am, reading for awhile until I fall asleep, waking up, showering, running errands like dropping off my laundry, going to the PX, and then going to work again began to feel as if my life was like a needle in the groove of an old vinyl LP. This is not a bad thing – even the weather has been beautiful, sunny and in the 70s everyday, a slightly dusty version of California.

I am living on a base that is made of up dilapidated buildings remaining from the Iraqi air force base that operated here before the American invasion. In addition to sand colored cement barracks and office buildings, it includes a stadium, pool, and tennis court, none of which are operational today. Most buildings are surrounded by cement barriers up to 15-20 feet high. Everything is covered with a fine coat of dust, which appears like light brown powdered sugar. It is light and puffs of it rise in the air with every foot step. You image what it looks like when a humvee passes by.

I have adjusted to being one of few people unarmed on the base. The chaplain at the CSH (Combat Support Hospital) is also unarmed, but a talented armed assistant is assigned to him. The assistant can shoot, type, and bake (breads, presumably for communion). All servicemen and women are required to carry their weapons with them at ALL times and they mean everywhere. I have to be careful when I am walking through the dining room with my tray that I don’t trip on an M16 that has been laid on the floor while the soldier eats. Imagine and entire dining facility full of soldiers with weapons on the floor. All of this has become normal for me.

The highlight of my day was calling home and talking with my mother, daughter, sisters, brother, brother-in-law, one of my nieces and three of my nephews. I don’t think it seemed odd at all to my niece and nephews that I was calling from Iraq. When I was little, calls to Canada had to be made through an operator. My sister was busy checking the turkey while the children played energetically. It was snowing lightly outside.

After the short fifteen minute call, I returned to my work and delivered a message requesting that the chaplain be present when a soldier is told of his grandfather’s death and notification to an another soldier about his wife’s illness. Five hours remain in my shift, before I go to midnight chow, return to my CHU to read before falling asleep . . . .