It’s not that I don’t love you all, it’s just that I am about to get onto an airplane to head to Iraq. I’ve been spending time with the wife and the kids, putting my effort to where I am placing my emphasis right now.
That being said, here’s your friendly reminder about the $26 Challenge. Now is the time to go find that wallet (yours or a loved one), or to go root through the couch to see what kind of change you can find there, and to move the $1 to the envelope you’ve been keeping in your purse / bag / clutch / satchel. You know, the envelope marked The $26 Challenge that you almost raided on Tuesday when you needed money for a Coke Zero. It’s slowly adding up, isn’t it? One dollar at a time.
And while I have not been blogging here this week, I have been running this week. Some of you may recall — running is my sanctuary time, and it was on long runs that I has originally hashed out a lot of the details for the first iteration of IBOL. I spent some of the time thinking about my impending departure, and more about my family, but I reserved some for IBOL. See, I needed to think through how to sell IBOL to the Army.
I found the answer on Thanksgiving morning. I was out for a little run (OK, a half-marathon-distance run along the northern half of Pearl Harbor), and as I made my way home, I ran into a guy from my neighborhood. And Air Force veteran, I knew because I’d seen him in USAF unit t-shirts. He is often out in our neighborhood with his dog. I should mention that he is confined to a wheelchair.
I stopped to tell him that every time I see him out pushing up the hills in my neighborhood, he inspires me. I wasn’t saying it to be nice, I was saying it because it’s both true and worth sharing with him. His route isn’t an easy one — it’s not one I even enjoy running, and he’s out there with his dog pushing it. We got to talking, and ended up talking for a good 20 minutes.
He was surprised to learn that I am in the Army. And that I not just have PTSD, but that I have it more or less under control (about as well as an alcoholic can have their alcoholism under control, I told him). He spoke of his pride in his service (his injury isn’t related), and of his pride in all those serving. He said that he hoped that more people would grow to understand that our military members are dong what they’re told to do, being it delivering food or kicking in doors.
I told him my observation — that it’s easy to teach an 18 year old kid from, say, Iowa how to shoot and kill, but it’s exponentially more difficult to teach him how to resume talking once the violence has ended. Even 10 year old kids know that when they stop throwing punches, they still need to talk about who scratched the paint of Jimmy’s bike. And, knowing that he was from the island, I told him that not all of America understands the social aspects of conflict as do the locals of Hawaii — a land steeped in tribal history and rich in patronage, much like Iraq and other parts of the world.
IBOL3D, I think, will need to hit on three things.
- Recycling. There’s enough trash in this world. The original discussions that lead to IBOL in the first place included talks about the drawdown of American forces, and how so much would likely head to the trash piles when, really, it would still serve a greater good in the local communities. From TV’s to sheets to old runnind shoes, something is better than the nothing that a lot of Iraqis still have. When I leave, if I don’t need those towels I brought with me, I’d just as soon wash them and hand them off to some else who would want and use them before pitching them into the trash.
- Humanitarian assistance. This actually means something in Army speak, that specific phrase of “humanitarian assistance.” There are formal programs for that, for delivering relief through the military. IBOL I and II were coupled to this, an effort above and beyond what just the military itself can do in an area. But what’s right with IBOL, in using sewing, knitting and quilting supplies to support Iraqi Security Forces and local NGO’s to engage the population during Ramadan, is also right for the military to use their own resources at the same time for the same reasons. I need to show the Army that it needs to be doing that, and that’s actually something I think I can do.
- Ohana. Any effort by my unit during Ramadan needs to include our greater Hawaiian (and, really, American) family. My unit was born of the island of Oahu, and its ideas and values and traditions are interwoven with the last 100 years of Hawaiian history. Our extended family is very much a part of what we do, and is a factor in the decision making process we employ. This would need to include them, and with that, it’d need to include you.
There’s one other thing that was rolling around in my head. Shoes. I am a runner, after all. I am mean to my shoes — I ran 500+ miles on the last pair, ~750 miles on the pair before that, and over 1000 miles on the pair before that. Shoes, to me, are a durable good; they should last for a long, long time. In reading a new article in Runner’s World about Lisa Smith-Batchen (here), I began to think about shoes more and more. A good, rugged pair of shoes can last a long, long time. Probably a lot longer than it takes for a kid to outgrow them.
I’m not really sure where this shoe-thought is going. Maybe the $26 challenge will be to find super-rugged kids shoes for $26, and to send them over to Iraq. Maybe I encourage people to add kid shoes in with their bundles. Maybe there’s something else that needs to be done with this. I dunno. I’m still rolling the idea around in my head, but I’d welcome your thoughts on it. I love running, I love my shoes, and I love Iraq. There’s gotta be a solution in here somewhere.
And before I sign off, here’s a picture from my run on Thanksgiving. At the north end of the harbor is a Navy site for storing old ships. It’s an awesome place. And add to that some dramatic lighting from just another day in Hawaii, and I think it makes for a pretty day.