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Happy Easter

This is a repost, but since it’s the 20th anniversary of the event, I thought I’d retell the story.

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Easter memory

Tomorrow is Easter.  For Christians, this is the most important day of the year, a day of renewal and hope.

When Easter swung around in 1996, I was at a really low point.  I’d been deployed to the Bosnia peace effort for about 3 months, before which I’d been away from home for four months, and before that I was TDY 6 of the preceding 8 months.  Homesickness and burnout was becoming a factor in my decision making process.

I was deployed as an individual augmentee rather than with my unit, so I was a stranger among strangers.  The people I worked and lived with were good soldiers and welcomed me, but I was starting to feel the “On the Road Again” burnout as I was sent from one unit with a short term requirement to another.  Arizona to Georgia to Germany to Hungary to Bosnia to Croatia to Bosnia then back to Hungary is a pretty rough estimation of my travels up to that point.  It will tell you something that running into one of my drill sergeants from basic training was the high point of those three months.  Every so often I’d come across or work with someone from school or someone I’d served with in Germany, but for the most part it was new faces every couple of weeks.

The work I was doing didn’t help my mood either.  I went from working on mountaintop outposts that were surrounded by mine fields, to providing security and other duties at mass graves investigations, to walking foot patrols in villages that were situated along the line between the forces that had ripped Bosnia to shreds.   You don’t get a very good opinion of humanity when you spend your days seeing just how inhumane we can be.

I was also pretty low because I’d made a call home on Palm Sunday and had been told that I should stay overseas as long as I could.  My wife had decided to stay in our home in Arizona until I came home, but then she was leaving and taking our son with her.  She’d just had too much time with me away from home, and thought that if she was going to be a single parent, she should at least be able to be single again.  After that, I walked around in a daze for a while.  Luckily, one of the guys I shared a room with in Taszar took me to the chaplain and kept me from doing anything stupid.

So I was pretty much at the bottom of a well looking down when Easter came a week later.  Of course, I had duty that day.

As we assembled for work, we were all wishing each other a Happy Easter.  We got our assignments, and settled in to do whatever it is that intelligence people do when they work.  After an hour or so, the first sergeant gave us a quick speech about how he knew we were all away from home on a holiday and he appreciated how hard that could be.  The battalion chaplain then took groups of people outside to do a quick Easter service for those who wanted it.   After everyone who wanted to attend services had been taken care of, the chaplain announced that something extra was in store.

The chaplain’s assistant, a young soldier from Minnesota named, and I kid you not, Sven, went around and passed out brown paper bags with bunnies and carrots crayoned onto them.  His home church in MiddleOfNowhere Minnesota had put together Easter baskets for all of us.  Each one included some candy, a few personal items like toothpaste or soap, and a card from the child that had put it together.  Mine was from a little girl named Erika, who wished me a happy Easter and hoped that I would be safe and come home soon.

I really think that getting that card, carefully written by a 7 or 8 year old girl who I had never met, was the point at which I looked up at the light and started climbing out of that well.  The fact that someone had taken a few minutes out of her time to wish me well let me know that even though rough times were ahead, something good was left in my world.  As I sat there munching on a peanut butter cup, listening to the joy that the people around me were feeling, I started to feel better.

We all wrote back to the Sunday school classes that had sent us our treats, and Sven bundled them up and sent them back to his pastor.  I’m told that getting our return package of letters caused as much excitement in Minnesota as getting Easter baskets caused in Hungary.

So to all of you, Happy Easter.  When the rock rolls away and you see the warmth and light, you remember that life isn’t all darkness and grief.  And a heartfelt thanks to the parishioners of the Lutheran church in little MiddleOfNowhere, Minnesota.  You all have no idea how important that little card was to a heartsick soldier far from home.

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3 Comments

  1. It’s always the littlest things… Happy Easter!

  2. wow.just wow. God bless.

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