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The sandstorm is blinding me and my team so much that we must stay at work. Ronney, our interprete, pulls the car into the warehouse, and the three of us (Capitana, Rooney, and myself) wait out the storm. The Armed Forces Network says, “twenty feet visibility”. They’re wrong. We can’t see more than five paces in front of us. We barricade ourselves inside the warehouse to wait out the storm. The euphoric site of the yellow air has become familiar to us during the last year. When the storm finally lifts an hour later, the rain came. With the sand still in the air, Satan unleashes his greatest irony, mud. For the first time in my life, I saw mud fall from the heavens, regalo satanases.

Five years after my first tour, the Houston night air serves as a stark contrast to the evenings in Taji. I meander into the reputed Sky Bar. The cool, steel decorum and decadent design shifted one’s eye to the city lights, glorious. The bar was half full as Vicente battered his drums. My jazzman, battle buddy forever, and confidant was sweating layers of ick all over his sticks. I exult in his nervousness. After all, no one could have pictured the two of us consorting with the Hollywood. Vicente finally sees me and gives a wide white smile. Did he bleach his teeth? In Iraq, they were stained from the cold thick gruel we called coffee. “Oh lord, how we’ve changed”. Vicente thinks to himself. Memories flood his mind as he keeps perfect rhythm and begins to reminiscence. To the last time, we were in the same room. Our freedom flight.

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Cari Jo

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