Post 48: Merry Christmas

It was the perfect lazy night. You know the one I’m talking about. As you drive down the highway in the comfort of your heated vehicle, you can hear the wind howling furiously outside. The landscape is barely visible through the rain streaked windows, and the only audible sound is the pounding of hundreds of rain droplets against the roof. It’s nature’s fury, and it is beautiful. It’s the perfect kind of night to throw some popcorn in the microwave, snuggle underneath the blankets, and put on a good movie. Which were exactly the thoughts that were running through my head as I was dozing away, when suddenly, my fantasy was torn from me by the awful “pshhhh” sound of the opening doors of the bus that had been driving us to the starting point of our navigational exercise. Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in the Israeli special forces knows that there is no worse sound than the opening of those bus doors before a navigation (or the surprise stretcher march at the end of the week). The winter only makes navigation worse. While you are exerting yourself, the cold is bearable, but the second you stop, an icy chill overcomes you. You are never truly at rest in the army, so you can’t dress as warmly as the weather would otherwise dictate. After exiting the bus on this night, we donned waterproof pants and jackets over our uniforms, strapped our ammunition belts on over our rain gear, and waited in line to be sent off by our first lieutenant. He shouted to us over the howling wind and heavy rain our instructions: if we saw two lightening bolts in succession or heard a hadal on the radio, we were to turn back to the starting point. Both the rain and the fog made our visibility practically zero, and all of the landmarks we were meant to seek out to help us identify where we were were made invisible by the blanket of rain and fog. It was Christmas day in America. I couldn’t help but think back to Christmas in New York; majestic Christmas lights lit up snowy streets while Frank Sinatra sang Christmas carols through the stereo. In New York on Christmas, you can’t deny the electricity in the air, regardless of your religion. I felt very far from home at that moment. As the dirt turned to mud, my two pound boots became five pound boots, and each step was labor-some. My sprained ankle was not reacting well to the muddy terrain, and a sadness combined with the mud to weigh me down. As I walked with my friend, the other American on my team, we spoke of home and of life. I hoped for, as I never had before, a cancellation of the navigational exercise. In my 45 + navigations, I had yet to have one canceled in the middle, so I knew the odds were out of favor. But I hoped nonetheless. I struggled to find landmarks as I navigated through the fog. After about two hours of good fortune, I found myself lost. I started to shout out curses (incredibly therapeutic. I highly recommend it.), and at that moment, as I stood their freezing cold, tired, and frustrated, I saw walking towards me four soldiers. Yet the middle point was the other direction…which could only mean one thing. When I inquired as to their direction, they informed me what I had all ready suspected…the navigation had been canceled. We were to head back to the starting point. I could say that I walked back, but that would be inaccurate…I floated. In the army, you take the small victories; It was indeed a merry Christmas.

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