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.
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