I bitch about the cold a lot. This we know.
Today, I walked up my driveway to check the mail.
It's only 28 degrees out and the icy wind is blowing.
My hands, feet, and face are affected by the cold right off, due to numerous minor cold weather injuries sustained over the years.
The hands turned to ice in the short walk. I cursed myself for not wearing my gloves.
Why do my hands freeze up so fast?
Ah yes then I remembered.
During one of my winters in Germany, I had the privilege to attend the Winter Patrol Course, at the International Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol School (ILRRPS).
Not another ILRRPS story? Yes, comrades! This is for my non-military friends who do not understand that a bitching soldier is a happy soldier.
So no shit, there I was (mandatory military story intro), on a high ridge line, in the mountains of southern Bavaria.
I was on a 4 man LRRP team, conducting a graded patrol, during the final field training exercise.
Because I was the only Yank (American), they stuck me as the RTO, with the radio, during the ascent up the mountain.
At one of the higher points on the ridge line, we stopped to do a scheduled radio check in.
It was cold and windy. Like really cold and windy!
I had to take a glove off to manipulate the radio dials.
A strong gust of wind blew my glove clear off the mountain and dropped it hundreds of feet below.
It was at this point in time that I was eternally screwed.
I pulled out my heavy wool socks and stuck my now frozen hand into them. It could not replace the missing gortex glove.
So I traded off the remaining gortex glove and wool socks, back and forth between both hands, for the remainder of the mission.
It didn't help, and my hands were forever screwed.
My feet and face suffered a similar fate from being underdressed, outside in the cold, during various cold weather training events.
They (VA) called it chilblain and frost nip. They said it was no big deal and wasn't service connected. So I got a goose egg in the disability rating.
So whenever it gets cold and the wind blows, it kicks my ass.
My comrades understand what it means to lay in a snow bank all night, to have your feet so cold that you can't feel them at all, to have the water in your canteen freeze, to shiver so violently that you struggle to put a piece of food in your mouth, ( if you had food), to have your hands so cold that you can't move your fingers, to have your lungs and chest burn from breathing the freezing air, to be so cold that you pace back and forth all night instead of sleeping, and to limp around in intense pain after you thaw out.
So every time the temp drops even a few degrees, it hits me like a ton of bricks.
That's why I went to Hawaii for four years, after my tour in Germany. But that's another story.
Now I can stay warm, eat hot food, drink hot coffee and tea, wear all of the sweaters, hats and gloves, wrap up in blankets, and never experience that cold weather nightmare again. I'm thankful and grateful for that.
But even still, I freeze my ass off because of the old injuries.
So I don't bitch about the cold because I have it rough now.
I bitch about it because I'm still freezing from twenty years ago and it's painful.
People who stay inside during cold weather, or only go out for a short time, have no clue as to what my fellow veterans and I have experienced.
When we talk about the cold, it's nothing that you can understand, unless you've spent a few nights (all night) outside in the snow, freezing.
Have you ever staggered around a mountain ridge with hypothermia, hypoxia, chillblain and frost nip? No?
The homeless dudes know what I'm talking about as they freeze their asses off outside right now.
I bitch about the cold sarcastically, not because of my suffering now, but because of the frozen nightmares I endured in my previous military life.
I don't have it hard now. The dudes that are still outside freezing have it rough.
Stay warm you crazy kidz!
US Army Retired,
MS, ISSA Master Trainer