I’ve been asked to write about my personal experiences as I deploy to Afghanistan, so I’m going to be open and honest in offering a true look into one Soldier’s life. It’s not all about the PTSD and guns and violence that we are bombarded with in the media, but so many other things as well. I’m going to open up about things in ways I perhaps haven’t previously shared with family and friends for fear of worrying them or hurting their feelings or maybe because I just didn’t think they’d “get it.” Hopefully things I write will click with people and help them to better understand their military client, friend, or family member--or even themselves.
In the next few blogs I’ll write about Pre-Deployment since that’s what’s going on right now. So much has been going on this past month, I could write a small novel. To begin with, I’m supposed to be at Ft. Benning in 4 days and I still don’t have the correct orders. It’s a little scary. My bags are packed. Flight arrangements are made. And the orders I have still need to be corrected (I just found out this morning via an e-mail from Afghanistan). I’m so very lucky to have friends at the Pentagon who can help with this or I’d be in a real mess right now. I feel badly for Troops who don’t have that luxury. The constant roller coaster of emotions is taxing and makes it hard to stay in a good or relaxed mood for very long. But that’s just how things are in the military and we all know it: Don’t get too comfortable. Ever.
But I want to talk about something less negative: My last meals. Now I’m not saying everyone does this in preparation of a deployment—there are probably other strange requests and rituals. And my advice would be to just cheerfully indulge whatever it is a Troop wants to do in his/her last days back home—within reason, of course. For me, eating all my favorite things before I’m stuck with cafeteria food and/or MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat in a bag) for months on end is a MUST!
I normally eat very healthy, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like unhealthy things at all. So I’m going to expose myself here. I’ve not worked out AT ALL since late May and here’s what I’ve been sure to consume over the past couple weeks: A medium-rare filet mignon at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse in Arlington, VA (thanks Derek!), sushi to include the wonderful Sei of D.C., great sake, cheese fries with ranch dressing (with my best Pentagon buddies, Lewis and Little), my favorite Simply Orange juice, Greek yogurt with honey, Oh’s cereal, a Sonic cherry limeade, my Nana’s awesome roast and potatoes, Blue Bell ice cream, homegrown watermelon and tomatoes (don’t worry, not together), sweet tea, about 30 crab wontons (thanks for not laughing, Jennifer) and just now not one but THREE Twinkies. I honestly can’t recall the last time I ate a Twinkie before tonight. Mom has promised me lasagna and on Thursday night I’m staying at a great Dallas hotel with my best friend, Jillian, where I plan on having unique martinis poolside by day and my favorite appetizers as we listen to live jazz at the Grille that night—fois gras and truffle French fries. Oh yeah and I’ve had multiple tall, non-fat chai lattes—no whip, no foam, no extra water—from various Starbucks. (I know the order sounds ridiculous, but it’s perfect that way!)
I hate to be a downer, but the thought has crossed my mind that I may not come back. While I’m aware I’ll be a lot safer in my job than many others, I also am aware of exactly what’s going on in that area…the stuff that doesn’t make the news. I know I’ll be hearing gunfire and mortar in the distance and maybe even closer than that—it has happened recently. I’m fine with that and I’m assured by the statistics that I’ll be just as safe as I would be in most big cities here in the U.S. Just the same though, I will rest easier knowing I have recently had Twinkies and cheese fries. And chai lattes.
Natosha Monroe is an Army Reserve Mental Health Specialist working at the Pentagon. She is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.