Happy Halloween, everyone...or in Afghanistan, simply Happy Yakshanbe (Sunday). Although in a city which mashes together traditional garb such as turbans with dudes in shiny purple suits on a daily basis -- and whose women are often veiled if not covered completely in ghostly burqas -- you could make the case that there are always some folks in costume.
It's odd that I'm writing with the date in mind, because it wasn't relevant at all in my workday. Once again I spent what would be an American holiday, or at least day of rest, on an advisor's assessment mission with the two colleagues who accompanied me to the Commando Brigade. This time we visited the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps, headquartered just outside of Kabul.
Each time a holiday rolls around lately, I play a mental game of recalling where I was for the past few...or how many different locations I've spent them in. Independence Day (the one on July 4) was a good one for this game: Just in Marine service, I've spent two in Afghanistan, one in Israel, one in Peru, one in Hong Kong, one on exercises in Twentynine Palms (Calif.) and another on exercises in Camp Lejeune (NC). Since I'm older than 12 and without kids of my own, I don't give a rat's behind about spending Halloween in a 'combat zone' -- aside from missing out on scandalously revealing costumes -- but Thanksgiving will surely be tougher. I just extended my deployment by another month in order to properly transition to my successor, so November will come and go with me still in place.
On the topic of special occasions, last week I voted by e-ballot for the first time...in the U.S. elections, that is. I stayed neutral in the Afghan one. Of course there must be a number of first-timers, since it's only this year that a mere 16 states began allowing it for deployed military and others, including government employees. The practice is still controversial -- I know various voters' and privacy groups have weighed in on the risks of fraud and ID theft -- but I've got to say that it was convenient and downright practical for us. Even the postcard applications for ballots by mail take forever, and following the process the whole snail mail way turns off a lot of potential voters who aren't exactly thinking election in July! The info wasn't readily available anywhere, but the folks at Boulder County helped out...my hat's off to them for helping me be a good citizen (for once).
Please allow me to take the unusual step here of plugging something that's not self-serving, from Tim at Esquire Magazine. See below, and get in touch with them if your family fits the bill...
ESQUIRE MAGAZINE VETERANS PROJECT
For a major photographic portfolio in an upcoming issue, Esquire is looking for multigenerational families of combat veterans: sons or daughters who served in Afghanistan or Iraq, fathers (Vietnam), and grandfathers (World War II or Korea) who each served in combat and are willing to be photographed together representing three generations of American military history. Esquire has a long tradition of honoring American troops in wartime and we hope to add this unique portfolio of veteran families to that history.
If you and your living father and grandfather (or son and grandson) have served America at war and would like to participate in this project, please send a note with your contact information to the Esquire Veterans Project at email@example.com.
An Oktoberfest memento (you rock, Jess & Saskia!)