Right now, it's evening in the United States, and people across the country are glued to their TVs watching the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers duke it out for a shot to be the numero uno of professional football. Here at Forward Operating Base Union III - at 2 a.m. - about 50 people showed up at the start of the game to catch the pre-game fanfare and claim their two beers. That's right, two beers. Since we're in a Muslim country, the military had to agree to enforce a strict no alcohol policy for all US service members, but since it's Superbowl Sunday, the powers that be decided, what the hell, how can you be a good American if you don't have the right to enjoy a couple cans of suds during the game?
"This is the first beer I've had since August," said one soldier as he sipped on a Heineken, a huge grin plastering his face. Names must be withheld to protect innocent military careers from intraservice politics. It's not really on the QT, but the whole affair is hush hush in certain ways, although I have yet to figure out what those are. As I munched on a buffalo wing dipped in ranch and took a pull on a can of Miller Light, I puzzled at the phenomenon of being told ten different things by six different people regarding what orders are to be followed on Superbowl Sunday (or any other day, for that matter). Oh well, I thought. Those who made it out in the middle of the night to watch the live broadcast, although tired, were excited to be acting like Americans on this special day, so whatever anyone had said about whether or not handing out beer to troops stationed in a Muslim country was a good idea seemed not to matter at the time. It simply was; and it was good.
Still, as I thought of the warm cozy, living rooms back home, filled with friends and family gathered around flickering images of the gridiron, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of homesickness, and with it a greater appreciation for the people who signed up to be out here in the Middle East during Super Bowls, holidays, birthdays, and graduations. For them, life goes on, and they'll catch up when the job is done. Today though, they can sit back, relax, and take in the uniquely American delight of a cold beer and the sound of the referee's whistle to bring them a little closer to home.