Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Shock

I just found out that a friend of mine from college was killed in Afghanistan Monday. It was, I think, his third tour over there. I just heard from him like two weeks ago. He wrote to congratulate me on the wedding and asked me to post pictures he could look at afterward. I asked him to send me a mailing address. I was so glad to hear from him I wanted to make sure we stayed in touch. And I really wanted to bake him some cookies and send them to him. Wanting to bake cookies and then send them to Afghanistan seems incredibly naive right now. Like he was in summer camp in Michigan or something.

I remember when my friend Gina told me he'd joined the army in the first place. He'd just been divorced. And when I saw him, he told me the army was a great place to channel his anger over the breakup. But he also discovered he was good at being a soldier. He liked the structure and the challenge. He knew he could become an officer too. When I last saw him, we were at Gina's mom's wake. He was dressed in his formal uniform. He looked wonderful, and I was so glad to see him. He was still pretty much the same guy I knew in college - funny, sarcastic, sharp as hell, but really sweet and generous. I still felt like I'd achieved something notable when I made him laugh hard, which was probably one of my favorite feelings in college too. I say all this because I remember not being able to understand the commitment he'd made to the army in the first place. It seemed like a thoroughly alien decision to me. I remember thinking he must just be going through a phase of some kind, not a career or lifestyle choice. But this was years ago. Clearly the army was not a phase.

Over the past few years, I have read a lot about the US involvement in Afghanistan, and talked to countless reporters and policy wonks about it. Definitely a lot of that was for work. But it was also in some ways because of him. I was both terrified for him and grateful to him - that this awesome guy I remember from college was one of the people in Afghanistan. He was not fucking that country up. He was making it better. I know that sounds super naive too. But he was a good, reasonable guy. Even when he sometimes made crazy arguments when we talked politics, I thought he was a reasonable guy. He always thought about things. He rarely just reacted.

I'll never understand why he joined the army. But the army must have done something for him. It must have been good for him. And for that, I'm glad. I want to believe in what he was doing because he clearly believed in it. But I'm awfully angry that he's gone. I'm so pissed I never got to send him those stupid cookies. I'm so pissed I won't ever get to try and make him laugh again. I just feel really heavy and foggy. But I am also really happy I got to know him at all. He was funny and weird and a good person to argue with. And I missed him before and I miss him now.


Fallen GI loved life in military

Soldier from Highland killed by blast in Afghanistan

1 comment:

Liz said...

Thank you so much for sharing this post on your friend. There's nothing I could say that wouldn't sound trite, so I'll just say that what you wrote will really stick with me. I'm sorry I never got to meet Gary.