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Sunday, April 6, 2014

Listening to the rain, remembering why I am grateful

This morning was a gloomy, cold, damp, rainy start to Sunday. It had been raining for hours and was still coming down. I couldn't see any reason to get out of my warm bed.

As I lay there listening to the rain, I started thinking of a time long ago when I didn't take things for granted. 

No shit, there I was: (mandatory start phrase for any old story, especially an old military story)- knee deep in ice cold water, in a foxhole, pulling security. 

We were conducting a company defense exercise in the Kahukus training area, Oahu, Hawaii, 1991. It was monsoon season in Hawaii and the rain came fast and hard. We had just finished digging full fighting positions with overhead cover with E-tools. Then the rain came.

The torrential down pour was relentless and lasted for hours. You couldn't see a meter in front of you. Everything turned into vast seas of mud and water, including our foxhole. 

The foxhole was armpit deep and fit 3 men. Plywood, sandbags and mud served as our roof. We got a bit of shelter  from the down pour - Until the fighting position filled with water up to our knees, in the first 20 minutes. Then the temperature dropped. Life sucked bad. 

And yes, in the tropical islands of Hawaii, you can get things like hypothermia, immersion foot, trench foot, monkey ass and other really fun rashes and infections. 
Well guess what we had going on that night? All that stuff. Fun, Fun, Fun.

We hadn't had any sleep or food in quite awhile. Finally, we got to the rest plan, in the priorities of work schedule. Like you can sleep when you are soaked and freezing. But when it was my turn, I had to close my eyes for a few minutes.

I climbed out of my fighting position (aka swimming pool) and found the spot of wet ground that had the least amount of water. I grabbed a spare plywood board and dragged it over me. My helmet and the toes of my jungle boots balanced the board on top of me as I lay in the water and mud. I closed my eyes and pretended to rest.

The sound of the rain pounding on the board was loud like thunder. I was shivering and shaking, thinking man this is the shit! After about ten minutes, I had all I could take and I pushed the board off of me. Now the rain pelted my face. Sometimes things are pointless, like trying to sleep in the rain storm. I sat up and contemplated life. This was as good as it was going to get. Time to simply "embrace the suck".

We continued to pull security all night in a miserable, wet, cold, hell that was our Hawaii. Fortunately, in Hawaii, the sun and warmth was never too far away. You just had to hang on. The storm broke at first light and the big heat tab in the sky rose up. About an hour later, the opposing force attacked our position and we played Army.

All ended well and we completed our assigned training mission. But that night lives with me forever. It wasn't the only night that I had like that. There were many more of those nights that I and many others endured, before and after that one training exercise, that would span over two decades of my life.

Now as I lay in my warm bed, all dry and warm and comfy, listening to the rain outside, I thank God for the little things and remember to be grateful for what I have. It may not be much but it's better than that one night in the Kahukus. So count your blessings and be grateful. It can always be worse.

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