"For A Moment I Forgot Where I Was"

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Thousands of miles away life is not normal for the men and women who serve this nation. In Afghanistan life is far different from the high-rise downtown city streets of the United States. The front lines are mountain ranges and sulking valleys where fighting insurgents is common. In Iraq, amid the disheveled cities life is not much better. Over the last few weeks, insurgents have bombed US bases, sometimes throughout the night. Exploding shells and the whistles of incoming mortar rounds replace the honking horns of congested highways and whipping sand replaces the smog filled city skylines. For these soldiers nothing is normal. Even something as simple as having a drink on off time is forbidden because we Americans abide by the host countries laws.
But for one night. One miraculous night, some of our troops, the ones who got to watch Monday Night Football, the words were simple.

“For a moment I forgot where I was and felt like I was home“…James Miller serving in Iraq.

That is what football can do, that is why we watch sports, it’s the underlying feeling of normality. Our competitive nature that keeps us moving and in many cases drives our soldiers. So last night, under a late morning desert sky, still dark as midnight and dawn approaching, the NFL and in particular the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, made some feel at home.

It was relayed that the 4th quarter brought an entire tent of US soldiers on their feet. A raucous affair of chiding and heckling. Cheers raised with every score, completion, and “Wild Cat” run. There was no beer, but cigarette smoke likely wafted through the morning air as fans nervously puffed away. While the Miami Dolphins celebrated a hispanic jubilee back home, over there, they celebrated normalcy.

As one soldier made his way to his outpost for his morning security detail, he was pulled inside and relieved by another soldier, “you may want to watch this. I got you covered”. The soldier made his way into a tented room walled with his fellow brethren, eyes tuned to the box in front of them. The Dolphins and the Jets played out a rhythmic back and forth 4th quarter that culminated in a final drive for the Dolphins. A victory with 6 seconds left to play. The tent went crazy. Cheering insued as the final play, the final Mark Sanchez toss, fell incomplete.

Today, many fans awoke and sauntered into work a bit tired, some a bit hung over, and some didn’t bother to go in at all. We tend to take for granted the simplest of things. We tout the fact that this win puts the Dolphins back in the chase for the division. We went to bed with smiles on our faces and slept well under an alcohol slumber. We did the water cooler jabber with co-workers about plays that were successful and how Chad Henne looks to be the real deal. We called our brothers, sisters, fathers, and chatted up the amazing MNF showdown that would go down in the lore of the Jets/Dolphins rivalry.

Over there, the game telecast concluded and some went back to their bunks and went to sleep only to awaken a short two hours or so later. For others, like the soldier above, he returned to his post, night vision goggles and all, peering out into the desert night protecting those that slept behind him. On his face, a smile. Because while that soldier sat and drew his attention to the surrounding landscape, for a short while, he was back at home. He was holding his wife and clutching his son. Sure, the game was exciting, but in the end, it’s all still just a game. Something that many of us, including myself take for granted. For them over there, it’s not a game, it’s not about winning and losing (although I won’t tell him that). It’s about feeling normal for a few hours, feeling like an American. Remembering what it is at home they are trying to protect. The ones they love.

Tonight, that soldier, my brother, is back on that line. Back on that tower looking out over the dark desert protecting his fellow soldiers behind him and trying to protect those of us at home. I miss him. I love him. And last night, I’m glad that I could sit here and watch that game and know that for a fleeting few hours, we shared in the same emotions.  Closer than the miles that separate us.

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