A few weeks back while driving out to the air terminal at Baghdad International Airport to pick up a couple of our Soldiers returning from a mission, I had the radio turned up listening to an AFN (Armed Forces Network) music program. It was a stateside program called The Woodsong's Old Time Radio Hour. The program features American folk music (mountain, country, bluegrass, folk, etc) from mostly lesser known artists mixed in with a few well known musicians. As I drove I was swept away by the music and the moment. It had a bit of an impact on me so I later wrote an email to the host of the show telling him how much I enjoyed the broadcast.
A few days later I got emails from him and a host of others representing the sponsors of the show in Lexington, Kentucky. They asked if they could read my email on the air and to reprint it in a publication to share my experience with the audience. I agreed, and they did.
In one case, a sponsor said he would like to recognize the unit for our service out here and asked if he could send us a special gift. I told him that wouldn't be necessary, but that if he wished to I would pass his care package along to our Soldiers.
A few weeks later I did in fact receive a package from him. Like you might expect I was excited to get a package from the states. Such surprises are always welcome out here. With great anticipation, I opened the box and unwrapped the protective packaging around the gift. It was a beautiful cherry wood box with the words "Lexington, Ky - Horse Capital of the World" artfully burned into the lid of the wooden box. Sliding the lid from the box I found staring at me a bottle of pure bourbon whiskey - here now was the response I sent to that nice Kentucky gentleman.
I just wanted to get back to you to say thank you for the gift you sent to our unit here in Iraq. I wish I could tell you we had a great great time sipping it down and feeling the moment. But alas, it was not meant to be. The bottle itself arrived fully in tact and beautiful to the eye. However, Soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan fall under what we call, General Order Number 1, which dictates that we cannot consume or receive alcohol.
Upon opening your package, one thought came to mind. It's a bit cliche, I know, but it had to be said, "oh well, it's the thought that counts." And indeed it was. Moments later I brought your gift to the attention of our battalion executive officer who, with a smile and a lick of the lips said, "oh well, it's the thought that counts."
At his direction and in order to keep the whole situation on the up and up, he directed me to take the bottle of Buffalo Trace back to the unit, gather the soldiers together, tell the story of how your gift came to be and then, as a group, walk across our road to a small lake here on our base and hold a funeral for the mellow Bourbonous liquid.
With the familiar squeak of the cork, I gently twisted the cap from the bottle which was followed by the savory aroma of sweet Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. Though we could not imbibe, I made a pseudo-offering of good will to my Soldiers and passed the bourbon soaked cork around the group. From one Soldier to the next, nostrils flared wide in and attempt to gather in the fullest extent of the familiar bouquet.
With one last sniff and the passing of the cork back into my hand. I gently upended the Buffalo Trace Whiskey and poured the aged concoction into the lake. It was as if a longtime friend had met his demise, and we band of brothers had gathered to send him across the great divide. The moment passed quietly, and like good Soldiers, we gently picked up our weapons and returned to the mission. Gone was our distilled brother, but not forgotten. We shall meet again, another day and at another time.
Thank you so much for your kind gift. It was greatly appreciated and the memory of it's arrival and eventual emptying will long be remembered.
All my best to you and yours.
1SG Anthony Martinez
I mentioned in one of my earlier posts how grateful we are to receive care packages, that has not changed, we love them. However, a little reminder - the gift of alcohol, no matter how well intentioned and how well received will do nothing to wet our lips and everything to whet our appetites. Until we return, have a drink on our behalf, I have plenty of Soldiers waiting to catch up with you when they return. Responsibly of course!