Immediately after the shock and horror of 9/11, we in the 2nd Ranger battalion got to packing, knowing it wouldn’t be long before we were headed to the sandbox for a counter-punch. One of the new pieces of gear I picked up before we headed over in early 2002 was a Suunto Observer watch from the Ft. Lewis PX. As I finally retire the watch in April of 2018, I wanted to detail where it’s gone.
This watch. This watch escorted a 19-year-old Alaskan kid to his first encounter with 135° F (as well as -60°F). This watch went from one side of Afghanistan to another on foot, in HMMV’s and riding in Chinooks. This watch crossed the border into Pakistan, back before it was cool. This watch was running back and forth over the Iraqi border for a week before the invasion officially kicked off. This watch was on the Jessica Lynch POW rescue. This watch flew over Baghdad strapped to an MH-6 Little Bird, en route to snagging high-value targets. This watch has been to six Middle Eastern countries over 5 combat deployments. This watch has seen 10,000-foot elevation (on foot) and has been scuba diving in the frigid Alaskan waters.
This watch has been on the hands that delivered a child, placed the ring on the bride, and that buried family members. This watch has been through car crashes, motorcycle dumps, and stupid human tricks. This watch has been in the chest cavity of deer, moose and a wolf. This watch was once deported from Canada. This watch was checked for ten thousand appointments, flights, classes and dates.
The compass went out sometime in 2004 during my last trip to Afghanistan. The barometer and altimeter broke sometime around ten years later. The body and quartz-glass face have been smashed, burned, subjected to many close-range detonations and over-pressures. This watch has been covered in sand, whiskey, blood, baptismal water and ocean spray. It was never once intentionally cleaned.
This watch finally had the face fracture in 2018, after being hit by a plastic toy thrown by a 4-year old. The time, date, backlight and stopwatch still work. Many Veterans have a piece of gear that has lasted through near impossible levels of abuse. For every piece of gear that has a story like this one, remember that there was a person attached to it the entire time. Flesh and blood, not a stainless steel case. Every time this watch was smashed on a rock, had an IED detonate nearby or was subjected to blistering temperatures, so too was its accompanying meatbag. Just like the watch, my exterior is far from pristine and some of the internal parts don’t work quite so well anymore. Just like the watch, I’m still running.