Two Beers and a Guitar

(written while observing the 'cease' order)
Due to my unit's schedule, we were unable to take advantage of the Marine Corps 231st Birthday, two-beer celebration until we had a down day, about a week and a half later. It happened to fall at the beginning of the end, as we were organizing our personal gear for shipment home. The two events could not have been better timed. We spent two hours packing up before drinking our celebratory beer, which honestly felt more like a celebration of our own milestone than that of the Marine Corps.

With the packing of our personal gear finally happening, the light at the end of the tunnel was growing brighter. We gathered at the hangar and pulled out all of our stuff -- most of it unused equipment brought to Iraq in anticipation of the unknown. Customs inspectors did a 100% search to ensure we were not trying to smuggle out war trophies: anything from weapons, ammunition or agricultural items such as sand or plants. Once done we put our things into containers and had them sealed for shipment back home. Afterward, we assembled in the K-plex, a nickname assigned to the communal movie-watching room, where we were able to distribute our beer and take a load off.

One of the characters on this deployment, nicknamed Turbo, a 23-year-old, newly crowned pilot in command for which the K-plex is named, is a novice guitar player with a real talent. He can replicate any tune he hears, despite a lack of instruction. His form is ad hoc, at best, to the point that trained players make fun of his thumb usage on the frets. Throughout the deployment he has provided the music, while others supply lyrics to an increasing repertoire of caricatures of people in the unit -- mostly warrant officer instructor pilots. Though others provide the comical and often bitterly truthful words, Turbo ends up performing the compositions by himself, taking the heat for the budding songwriters in the company.

While at the K-plex, beer sloshing from can to mouth, the request for Turbo's performance eventually came about. He reluctantly picked up the guitar and started playing the first of at least 10 songs. As he played, the crowd began singing along, just like any concert where people think they have become the artist, consumption deluding them into thinking themselves wonderful singers. The singing grew in intensity. Eventually it was so loud enough that I'm sure the unit next door now thinks we're crazy. But it was one of the first times here when all of us were doing something together not involving work. We were all getting along, not criticizing each other's every move, an annoying talent of pilots. Turbo played away and was badgered for encore performances until the lack of beer broke up the celebration, returning us all to the reality: We still have work to do here.

By Bert Stover |  December 14, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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"We Love J" I still, to this day, catch myself singing it. See You all soon, and thank you so much for the card. You are the best. V.

Posted by: CW2 Hill | December 15, 2006 06:31 AM

Bert,
Thank you for your notes. The notes put a perspective on the situation, that I am personally unaware.

Thanks for your time, your service, and your positive attitude, it is greatly appreciated.

Best of Luck on your return home and may God be with you.

Posted by: Doug Q. | December 15, 2006 02:15 PM

Congrats!! Have safe trip home!! enjoy your time back. You deserve the time back after a job well done.

Posted by: Mas | December 18, 2006 07:42 PM

I'm glad you and your unit had such a good time singing and drinking your beers. It's really great to see that even despite all the hardship, you guys are still able to keep a positive spirit and enjoy the good things in life. Thankyou so much for all the sacrifices you have made for our country. We are truly greatful.

Posted by: Amy | December 18, 2006 07:48 PM

I would just like to thank you for the great service that you have done for this country. I hope that you have safe travels.

Posted by: Joseph Christensen | December 18, 2006 07:55 PM

Hey Bert

Its great to hear from a soldier such as yourself in this day and age. Even though I'm not American its great to know that your out there for all of us doing a great job.

So at this time of year I'm just sending you some holiday greetings, and my thanks.

Posted by: Mitch Barker | December 18, 2006 07:55 PM

Just wanted to say thank you for your sacrifice and service on behalf of myself and my family. You are in my prayers and have my deepest gratitude. Godspeed.

Posted by: Grateful American | December 19, 2006 10:55 AM

we are all anxiously awaiting the return of everyone. what a celebration there will be. continue to stay safe, and our prayers are with you. we are all so incredibly proud of you. until......

Posted by: barbi | December 19, 2006 02:14 PM

While Bert and his fellow soldiers were up to their usual this weekend, my classmates and I graduated from Physician Assistant training. Mention of this is relevant in this blog as one of our classmates, and friends, is serving with Bert in Iraq. He had to go on "sabatical" (sorry for incorrect spelling) so he could serve in Iraq. I wish my friend could have been at the graduation celebrating his completion of the program with us. Since this was not possible, I would like for my friend to know that he was in out thoughts and that he too will soon have his day to complete PA training. Until then, I wish him, his family, and all of his fellow soldiers the best of luck.

Posted by: Alex | December 21, 2006 07:36 PM

It was nice to read that you had some time with your fellow compatriots. The beer must have been great. I am glad you will now come home (permanently?). Best wishes for a happy holiday. Thank you for your service, Godspeed.

Posted by: Linda | December 22, 2006 01:04 PM

My most memorable day this year was a beautiful Summer afternoon I spent with your parents on your porch back home talking about you and your service. I got a tour of the care-package assembly line and they pointed out that the flag waving in their front yard was one of the ones you sent home. One of the last times I was there, we were stenciling your name onto everything you own in preparation for your deployment and you were deciding what to bring. It sounds like you are now doing the same thing for your return trip. I think about you and your unit throughout each and every day. Thank you for your service and for taking the time to write this blog. I hope you and the rest of your unit gets to smell the sweet VA air soon.

Posted by: Russ B | December 22, 2006 11:36 PM

Bert: You make me wish that I was there singing with you, and fighting along side in a cause that is honorable and righteous. You are doing the right thing by fighting in this war. People who don't support the war don't really care about their fellow human beings. I'm not real big on caring about my fellow human beings, unless they are really in a rotten spot like the Iraqis were under Saddam Hussein. If it was 1938, and you guys were fighting Hitler, there would have been no World War II, just like now with your victory, there will be no World War III. I really meant that. Thank you for your service to humanity. Really. Thank you. I wish someone was thanking me the way I thanking you. Much appreciation. Keep it up, man!

Posted by: Glen | January 10, 2007 10:23 PM

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