#realtalkAFG in Flash

When I returned from a rockety year in Afghanistan, I found myself thinking in flashes, and it greatly affected my writing — in a good way. Before that point, I wrote long form and mostly all non-fiction. I began my journey into the world of flash and micro-flash fiction, and I loved it.

This particular piece was written in May 2012, and it’s based on an event I witnessed in 2011. First, respect and appreciation to the Marines. Of the conventional branches, the Marines ate and slept the least and worked the hardest, including the females. I met many young Army Infantrymen, and after listening to their accounts, I am thankful they go into the heat of battle so that I don’t have to. I met many support personnel who got tasked with going out on patrols with infantry, and they became just as battle hardened.

The United States of America’s leadership has struggled with doing the right thing for their troops over the past decades, especially those sent to war. Sadly, in many cases, men and women demonstrated an inverse relationship between their ranks and their abilities to plan and execute ANYTHING with common sense and logic. What I witnessed in the piece below is a shining example. No one argues that men just coming in from weeks of patrol should not be admitted to the dining facility. But any human being with a sliver of sense and compassion would have arranged for to-go meals for them to eat on return. In fact, there were humans who did think about this and some of my unit started keeping packaged food to pass to the boys loading and unloading on the flight lines.

Never let someone else’s rank get in the way of taking care of each other.

May 2011, Afghanistan

Cameron gingerly dismounted from the back of the truck. He had been dropped off (or abandoned, depending on your level of pessimism)
exactly 29 days ago, at the tiny shack hastily constructed in the ashen wasteland. Day 17, they started running out of water, and the team began rationing on a strict daily canteen. The next day, they cut down to 1
meal allowance. Then they completely ran out of food on Day 27.
Cameron didn’t know what he wanted more: to sleep, to eat, to shower (baby wipes had run out on Day 21), or to just sit in a cool room and think about everything that happened over the past month. Or not. Life clearly was not a dream, people did not live happily ever after — at least not his kind and
not in this place. RIP Sergeant Drake. Cameron blinked his watering eyes.
The truck passed through the checkpoint, and Cameron dismounted with
everyone else. He caught a whiff of good things cooking in the dining facility. It was dinner time. Suddenly he felt ravenous. He began to salivate. Swallowing aggravated the lump growing in his throat. The rest of the
team caught the heavenly fragrance and hurried towards the dining facility with him. They cleared. They washed their hands. They eagerly joined the forming line. They didn’t notice that everyone behind and in front of them moved away to widen the gap. Cameron thought about drinking chilled
water. And Gatorade. And milk. And chilled water. With ice cubes from an ice machine! And sitting in air conditioning. And eating glorious food, enough to feel full. He almost felt dizzy.

Someone yelled, “Hey! Hey, you six over there!”
Cameron and the rest of his team registered an Air Force officer pointing and
shouting in their direction.
“You guys can’t come in here like that! You know better!”
Cameron wondered what the officer meant.
“You go clean up, and then try this again!”
Cameron’s team leader spoke. “We just came in from patrol.”

“I don’t care!”
“We just came in from patrol, we were out for a month. We haven’t had anything to eat in the past two days!”
The officer shouted, “I don’t care what your excuse is, you are not coming in my DFAC like that until you’ve cleaned up,” and after glancing at his watch, he continued, “and you only have twenty minutes before the DFAC closes! And you boys know beards are out of regulation! Who’s your commander?”

Cameron grabbed his team leader away from the line-up. “Fuck them!”
They passed a pair of female Soldiers walking with a group of female contractors.
Cameron heard one say, “Oh, my God, did you see those guys? Better yet, did you smell them? Like, take a shower, dude!”
Another one asked, “Do you want to go to Zumba class today?”

Faceless Woman Portrait courtesy Cyn Kuhn.

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Anna Chan writes fiction for children and adults and various non-fiction articles. She loves gardening and playing at the beach with her little girl Joy.

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Anna Chan

Anna Chan

Anna Chan writes fiction for children and adults and various non-fiction articles. She loves gardening and playing at the beach with her little girl Joy.