Have you ever been part of something bigger than youself? You may have been a cog in the machine or a face in the crowd, but you knew deep down inside of yourself that your being there was making a difference.
Although I have never served in the military, at least once I was part of such an effort. In 1997, as a Morale Welfare and Recreation Specialist I deployed to Taszar, Hungary as part of Operation Joint Guard. Each day I awoke in my barracks room, trooped down two flights of stairs to the women’s bathroom and then moved over to the adjoining shower room. While I was waiting my turn to use the shower, usually still dressed in my bathrobe, someone would ask me what the night’s movie would be or what the plans were for the next concert in Budapest. And so my day would begin about 0600. After my shower, I would put on my uniform (green/brown BDU’s –battle dress uniform for the uninitiated), lace up my combat boots, and walk over to the mess hall, where the food was surprisingly good.
After breakfast, I would go over to the office in the headquarters building. Taszar was an old Hungairan airbase with two MiGs still out front. The only room in the building that had AC was the one where the computers were located. The Hungarian staff did a miraculous job keeping the worn tile floors clean. (In many places the tile had been scrubbed away, leaving the rubber subfloor peeking through.)
In early July, we were busy preparing to celebrate the 4th of July. It was a chance to show our allies an American good time. What I affectionately called the Hungarian mafia, were busy telling why we needed all of their entertainment acts even though we had just seen these same acts for the Memorial Day celebration. The fireworks contractor assured me his fireworks would completely burn up and not have cinders floating down to possibly start a fire in some farmer’s field.
Hungarians often used an elaborate style when writing or speaking in English. The public affairs officer laboriously tried to emulate that style when creating the invitations for our Hungarian VIP guests. Unfortunately, I did not retain an example of the invitation.
The staff from the MASH unit was planning the 5K run for the American and Hungarian troops/civilians. The MWR staff was planning a variety of sports competitions including Golf, basketball, horseshoes, beach volleyball, pinball. I used the Internet to lookup how much sand was need for beach volleyball since our Root and Brown, the local Army maintenance contactor, wanted to provide as little sand as possible. (This was relatively early days for the Internet so they were surprised to find that we could prove how much sand was needed.)
Although, July 4th began about 0500 when we got the Mess Hall as soon as it opened so we could start setting up for all of the events (the 5K began at 0800) and ended just before midnight with a relatively safe and succesful fireworks display, it was a wonderful opportunity to share our Independence Day with the troops so far from home. We also got to share it with our Hungarian friends and allies. (One person did complain the next day about catching a cinder in his eye while watching the fire works.
For those of you who have been in the military thank you for your service. I’d also like to acknowledge the people who support the military (as a friend, family member, volunteer, contractor, appropriated fund or nonappropriated fund employee). We all support those who serve.