After a recent discussion with a fellow soldier, I started to think of the different things we military folk do to keep ourselves sane. Not the PTSD sanity, but the ‘I’m stuck here for hours and days staring at the same piece of god forsaken earth’ type of insanity.
My friend Sobe was showing me some pictures from a trip to Afghanistan a couple of years back, and one particular photo caught my eye. Not for the beauty of the land or the winding river below, but his posture in the photo. Sobe and his men were stuck on that OP for six days, and singing to the goats in the valley below seemed like a reasonable course of action. I sure as hell would sing to the goats if I had to sit for six days, staring at the Arghandab river basin 1,400 meters away.
The random physical actions and crazy stuff that comes out of a soldier’s mouth when they are beyond boredom and on the brink of insanity will make any civilian cringe—often in disgust. It’s not because we are truly insane, at least not documented, but because, when all of the normality of the real world is stripped away, we revert to a primal state. Between all of the fighting and training is sheer boredom—sitting, waiting, watching, observing, and anticipating what might happen at any moment without warning.
Not only did Sobe describe to me about singing to the goats, but told me of how they acted out a scene from the Lion King. Yes, that is correct. Grown men, snipers, and the United States Army’s lethal precision shooters acting out a scene from a Disney movie. I am not writing this as a knock to these men and heroes, but as a reality check to the rest of the world of how these men cope with the unknown. Sorry, but during our downtime we weren’t just sitting around a fire, sharpening our ka-bars and applying cammo to our faces as we waited to slay the enemy.
We joked, pulled pranks—often going too far in the process, talked about women, bitched and complained, and yes, sometimes sang to the goats. Whether in a hooch or on a mountainside, it wasn’t uncommon to see all the aforementioned taking place simultaneously. These actions brought us closer together and gave us a bond that many outside the military will never have the opportunity to experience.
As it stands, I will leave it to Sobe’s example, as there are many things I have done much more ridiculous than singing to goats or acting out a scene in a Disney movie that I would prefer never to make print.
Feel free to share you coping mechanisms below.
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