Sunday, February 01, 2004

My Father's Eyes

February 1, 2004

Ahhh, how do you spell relief? T-R-A-I-L-E-R. We’re out of the snoratorium and in to the trailers! This does nothing to dispel the myth about West Virginians but at this point, I could care less. Life is good – SGT Campsey and I have clean rooms, new beds, a nightstand, closet and a television (no cable) and DVD player. You are probably wondering why the military is spending money on those luxuries, but let me assure you, we are paying for it. They put TV’s in our rooms without access to cable so we are forced to buy DVD’s from the PX; therefore pumping money back in to the military. They’re not dummies. They know what’s going on. There’s a cadence in the army that goes ‘Give you a hundred dollars and take back ninety-nine.’ That didn’t come from nowhere. On the real tip, though, it’s great. I will no longer complain about my living conditions. The military is going to great lengths to take care of us, and after living like a nomad for the last 4 months, I fully appreciate it.

In any case, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and I wish I was home. They are showing the game in the Palace but it’s at 2:00 AM!!! Are you kidding me? No thanks, I’ll read about the highlights on the web. But really, its days like these that I miss home. I miss everyone having parties and getting together to watch the game. I miss the commercials and the (usually) lame half time shows (the exception is U2 two years ago). I miss watching the Today show the next morning to get the breakdown of the ad campaigns. I miss watching sports. I miss seeing Tom Brady in a uniform. Sorry, had to sneak that one in.

I’ve resisted telling this story for a few weeks because I didn’t want to be a complete open book. But as you know, I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I think this story is too good to keep to myself. So here goes. Three weeks ago, just as we were getting in our Humvee’s to leave Balad I got a letter from my second cousin Mandy. In the letter was a small silver cross encrusted with the words ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ given to her by my father 25 years ago. She has carried the cross with her ever since. She told me she believes this cross has special meaning because it was given to her by a man who showed the strongest faith she has ever witnessed. She felt it may give me the same feeling of hope and peace that she has felt by having it in her wallet.

I put the letter in my back pocket so I would always have it with me. We went to Baghdad, got situated, and the next week I turned in my laundry. Yes, you guessed it. I forgot to get the cross out of my pocket. This was Sunday. I didn’t realize what I had done until I woke up panicked Monday morning. I got to the laundry as soon as it opened but my laundry was already gone. They told me they would look out for it but they literally do hundreds of loads of laundry a day. I was incredibly upset with myself for being so careless with something so meaningful. I felt helpless, but all I could do was go back on Wednesday and pray it was there.
For those of you who don’t know, my father died of cancer in 1987. I was 11 years old and he was just 38. In the 11 years I knew him, I learned a lot from him, through his example. But I didn’t know my father before he found God. The only person I knew was the man who picked up hitch-hikers and took them home. The man who would buy groceries for someone, leave them on the front porch and never leave a note. The man who would read to his kids from the Bible every night. The man who could no longer work because the cancer overwhelmed him. The man who would take care of his home while his wife went to work. The man who sold vacuum cleaners, door to door, to contribute to his family. The man who would speak to large audiences knowing the seizures would eventually take away his voice. The man who taught his daughter to throw a baseball. The man who cleaned the gym where his daughters took gymnastics classes. The man who was teaching his son to be a man. The man who thought his wife was the most beautiful woman in the world. The man who loved his family more than anything. The man who was taken from them way too soon.

When I opened the letter from my cousin Mandy, I felt my Dad’s presence. I felt safe, in spite of the war that surrounds me. I felt God was making sure my father was protecting me 8,000 miles away. I felt the cross was to remind me he is always with me, no matter where I go in the world. I felt instantly connected to him for the first time in 17 years. I felt proud to be serving my country in a part of the world with such Biblical significance. A place in the world my father treasured and studied for the last ten years of his life. His youngest child, the one who knew him the least, finally felt connected to the man she calls Dad.

So, did I get the cross back? You better believe it. A young Iraqi man who works in the laundry found it, put it in a separate bag, and gave it back to me with a smile and a broken “you’re welcome.” I offered him the ten dollars I had on me but he refused. This man makes a few dollars a day at best. And he wouldn’t take the money. If this isn’t proof we are here helping wonderful people, I don’t know what is. And in the back of my mind, I knew I would get the cross back. After all, my Dad will never leave me. He never did.

With Love,


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