You know how scientists get all huffy if you credit your cat with human attributes like egotism, vanity or snobbery? Even though it’s true. We mustn’t believe that our dogs actually feel shame when wearing the cone or dressed up like R2D2. But yet health care professionals talk about our organs as if they had independent thought and volition. Consider these examples.
Lazy eye. How do they know it's lazy? Maybe it has an artistic temperament. Or maybe it's bored by lab coats. It shows up for work each time the lids raise, so I don't think it should be called lazy. How about just unmotivated?
Angry wound. I think it should be called a morally outraged wound. Your knee wasn't the one who decided to try biking up steps. It deserves to be angry. Getting all red is appropriate and justified. And putting a stinging liquid on it won't make it any less angry. The anger just becomes more passive aggressive, I believe.
Bum leg. Who uses the word "bum" anymore? It should be deadbeat. How's your deadbeat leg feeling today? Not working for you? Get a desk job.
Nervous stomach. Why aren't they all always nervous? They have no control over what you send their way. Is that lazy eye going to bother to read an expiration date or nutritional information? Stomachs just seem to enjoy being upset. Instead of taking Tums maybe we should be building its confidence. I do that by giving mine Cheetos as recognition for its bravery and wisdom.
Hostile uterus. Who wants to hear that their uterus is hostile? It makes you wonder if there is an insurgent mob just waiting to strap on a bomb and go after each sperm that enters. Or maybe your uterus has been mined with IEDs. How are you supposed to get into a romantic mood knowing your uterus is arming up each time you get horizontal?
Tortuous colon. I just discovered that I have one of these and that's why I wrote this post. I had to be given more drugs during my colonoscopy because they discovered that my colon was tortuous. I imagine that the doctor and nurses took a collective deep breath, changed into scrubs with bright colors, put on headbands, guzzled some Mountain Dew, and went to work on my eXtreme colonoscopy, braving the black diamond turns and twists. That's right. If you're going to be shoving something up my rectum, you better be prepared. It's unapologetically tortuous in there.
I did not know that a colon could be treacherous until I read about it on my discharge papers. So once again science confuses me. I guess because body parts belong to humans, we can talk about them as if they were each an individual human. I just hope I don't have a diva ankle or backstabbing palm.
Selling a house, hunting for a house, buying a house, and moving into a new house is probably not on any list of things to do immediately upon welcoming your husband home from a deployment. But it’s what we did.
This reintegration was hard on me. I hate admitting that, but it was. I spent the year in a very familiar routine. I Skyped with HabMoo in the morning while eating breakfast. I either walked in the morning or went to the gym. I usually ate lunch alone and fit my consulting work in wherever it was convenient. My free time was occupied by whatever I was moved to do at the moment I found myself without a task. I had to make sure to see other people a couple times a week.
I was not used to having someone around ALL THE TIME. He was in the kitchen when I was getting my breakfast. He was stopping in to tell me something while I was working. He was asking me questions. He was not saving up his stories for the morning. And our wedding vows have a clause which states that I must listen to him for at least 20 solid minutes every day. I was used to that being in the morning.
He was very good about getting right back into the swing of taking on his household responsibilities. He was also very understanding and accommodating when I’d tell him he needed to leave the house for 4 hours at a time. Thank god he has a huge ego and doesn’t entertain the idea that I might not love him because I wanted him to go away. He understands the introvert need. After all, he’d just spent months having to be one himself with 50 of his closest friends and enemies always in arms reach.
Communication and positive assumptions have been so important for us. Shortly after HabMoo returned to Kuwait after his leave we were talking about how hard is was to be apart again. I told him that while I had no opportunity or plans to cheat on him, that week I completely understood how cheating could happen. He responded by telling me that he’d noticed that the women he worked with and who he had been seeing only as fellow soldiers were now registering as women in his mind. Being away from the physical contact you get from a lover can be challenging. You don’t really want a new lover, you just want something more than what you have.
What else can I complain about? Oh yeah, not knowing what day he was actually coming home. I understand the how he can’t tell me what he doesn’t know, but I HATE NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAN. I like being in control as much as possible. This is one reason why I’ve never been able to drink or do drugs. The experience is sort of fun, but what if I need to suddenly recite the “Friends, Romans, countrymen” speech from Julius Caesar or perform CPR or multiply by 12?
Reintegration training was offered last Sunday and we went. The Yellow Ribbon does a very good job with their trainings. I’m a little tired of the suicide prevention one and I never want to sit through another explanation of TriCare, but the ones on resilience and other psychological tools are always helpful reminders. We attended a training on “icebergs” or what I call “core beliefs” and shared some of ours with each other. That was fun and gave us a little more understanding of each other. It did nothing for any lingering frustration I might have about HabMoo being around all the time, but after these 30+ days I’ve finally gotten over that on my own. (Plus he’s back to work during the days. Yes!)
Now I’m getting used to having someone helpfully remind me where I left my keys, help me with groceries, play board games and watch Mystery Science Theater movies with. I think I really love it. And I really love seeing him walk around in his shorts.
The last days before the soldier husband’s return can be difficult. So I’m making myself a collection of videos to put a smile on my face.
Confused rare bird
(My sister has a confused rooster who tries to mate with cats but has never caught it on video.)
I love owls, but on the ground and burrowing?
Why does my husband never dance with me like this?
Aren’t you glad our native birds don’t imitate car alarms?
Yes we are all ducks
A certain type of chicken
Still not a cat video but getting closer
Obligatory cat video (with bird)
Many of the plants I have remind me of family members. Since those are much happier thoughts than my recent realization that creeping bellflower wants creep into our homes, drink all our booze, scare our pets, and dirty all your clothes, I’ve chosen to share my brighter thoughts.
A few daffodils are up and they always remind me of my mother. She loved all the daffydowndillies and jonquils. Neither of us ever really learned if all daffodils are jonquils or if it’s the other way around. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the joyous color of butter shining above the crusty brown crumbs of winter. I have well over 100 daffodil bulbs in my yard and each one was planted with just a little bit of Daddy’s ashes. So now these flowers remind me of him, as well. And of Mom and Dad together playing cards or telling each other their dreams from the night before.
The first flower I was ever allowed to pick was the grape hyacinth. I never found them as attractive as other spring flowers, but being allowed to pick a bouquet is a big deal when you’re only four years old. My Meme let me do that. And the flowers lasted, unlike my bouquets of dandelions.
Dandelions count as flowers in my book or blog post. Finding my first bloom meant that I could go outside barefoot. I even liked their sticky, nasty-tasting sap. I didn’t know of any other plant that could leave you with a yellow chin and brown fingers after picking and smelling it. And what fun their seed heads are when you’re a kid watching them fly away from the force of your breath. I love seeing a roadside reflecting the sunshine with all those yellow heads. I do pull up every one I find in my garden, however. I mean I’m not crazy.
Pansies remind my of Meme. I do not know why. I think there’s some story about her planting some along a garage at the schoolhouse. The schoolhouse does not refer to an actual school building. It’s what my family calls the house they lived in before I came along and which was removed in order to build the new high school (built before I was born, but still referred to as new.) Something happened during the planting–or maybe it was painting–and the something was memorable for my mother. All I remember is she told me a story that involved a garage, pansies and my grandmother. She enjoyed the story and I liked seeing that. Also pansies have fat little faces, just like my Meme.
The irises I plant to remind me of my father. I remember going to a farm when I was young specifically to select and buy a few new rhizomes. We bought one called Babbling Brook, which is blue with ruffled edges along the falls. It went into one of the three rows of iris we had inside the circle of our driveway. There were also ones that smelled like root beer. In high school I wrote a poem in praise of the Celestial Snow iris Daddy planted the year before. He planted and fertilized the plants, but it was always Mom who weeded them. So they also remind me of her.
Louie and Lulu Leisure were not relatives but they lived down the street. They had a huge bleeding heart somewhere near their house and so I think of Louie when mine are in bloom. I marvel at how he was able to yell at me and the neighbor kids when we ran through his backyard, “Don’t drown in the pond.” I believed there was a pond behind his barn or outbuilding or garage. I have a much stronger memory of the fictitious pond than I do of his outbuilding. And Lulu once had a dark purple iris in a vase sitting on a table covered with a white tablecloth. I think she or Mom picked off a faded bloom and it oozed a deep purple liquid which stained her cloth. So sometimes iris also remind me of Lulu. Which is good because, really, I don’t remember either of their faces.
Mayapples remind me of my sister, but not because she cultivated them. I simply recall her advice that morrells were often found near them. That is a very important bit of information to have.
At some point I was told about a May Day tradition of giving bouquets anonymously. So one year I took a construction paper basket I’d made, filled it with violets, and headed down the street in my raincoat and galoshes. I stopped at the end of the street at the house of a lady who let me play with kittens in her yard once or something delightful like that. I didn’t know her name, but I wanted to give her my flowers. So I hung the flowers on her doorknob, rang her doorbell and ran and hide in full sight behind some structure in her yard. She came to the door, yelled at me, then found the flowers and tried to coax me out of hiding. Eventually she gave up and I went home confused. But I still loved violets and planned on having my wedding bouquet made out of nothing else but violets. That didn’t happen, but I still think it would be very attractive. Especially with the freckled variety I grow now.
One last, lowly, flowering plant: white clover. It’s not much of a flower, but it also makes me think of my sister. She taught me how to make them into a chain. And we had a perfect patch of clover near the barn when we were young. You could be sure of finding a four-leaf clover in that patch. And Beverly once found one with five (5!) leaves. I wanted it badly. She didn’t give it to me, but I was very impressed nevertheless. Clover should be respected and planted more often. When I seeded my lawn many years ago, I used half clover seed so I’d have a soft mat to walk across in my bare feet. It grows low to the ground and means you don’t have to mow as often. And you get bees visiting which are always good luck even if you’re stupid enough to step on one like I do most years.
I hope there will be those who remember me when they see a checkered lily, dried globe thistle, thyme in bloom, or smell cinnamon basil. Or any plant, really. Just try not to think of me when you’re trying to dig for the hidden roots and rhizomes of the creeping bellflower.
I really want to write a post full of self pity w/o readers being able to tell. Since I know I can’t accomplish that feat, I’ll try to write to my future self and you all will just have to bear it if you continue reading. (If you made it past the title, I have to give you partial credit. In Army speak, homecoming is called reintegration. It sounds like some chemical process rather than reuniting loved ones.)
When HabMoo returned to Kuwait and had been there a couple of days, we had a really interesting conversation. it wasn’t about how much we missed each other; it was about how we understood how couples could so easily cheat on each other during a deployment. Not that either of us was truly tempted, but the loss of the person you love feels a little like a breakup. It feels like you’re trying to move on even if what you’re really trying to do is hang on. To make the pain less, we could see how you’d turn to someone else. It might make things easier for a while.
I’ve written about pining for my husband earlier during the deployment. These last weeks before he returns are not about pining. They are about reminding myself that he’s still my husband and not some guy I wish was my husband. It’s about aching for the sound of his breath in the middle of the night. It’s about wishing I could listen to him talk to me about whatever is on his mind as he’s flossing his teeth. It’s lamenting the fact that he’s not here to make me healing spaghetti when I’m sick. It’s feeling shackled to Skype each morning, even when it fails us.
The last months are the hardest. I don’t have any prior posts from this time. I think it’s because the feelings are too raw and I hate to expose all that. Plus I don’t want him to feel guilty or worried. We are just living with decisions we made. It’s sort of like a natural disaster that we knew was coming and prepared for. We built in the tornado belt because we loved it there. Round about now, it’s hard to see the beauty, is all.
I’d like to say that I want him focused on his job and not me because his job is important and critical to success. But the war is over, they’ve worked w/o a few basic work tools for several days, and no one seems involved in any activities that actually matter to the US or even to them or other soldiers. I don’t understand why he’s still there except that there was a plan and no one wants to work too hard to change the plan or the dates. If I felt like we were making a sacrifice that mattered, I think this waiting would be easier. I could label my pain as patriotic or heroic or something. Instead it just seems like a waste.
Have you ever taken the 5 Love Languages assessment? We both rank very highly for the language of touch. I wish it was words of affirmation instead. I think we’re both pretty good at that. We let each other know that the other is loved. We laugh and tease during our Skype calls when we aren’t cursing Internet connectivity. But we both need to be touched. I need a hug. I need a peck on the neck while I wash dishes. Not to mention that husband/wife touchy stuff. No amount of Skype or phone calls, no sonnets, no letters, no gifts make up for the casual unconscious touch of his hand on my leg while we watch a movie.
While I don’t have prior posts to review and see how this frustration and sadness has happened before, I do have a few posts from when he’s been home. And they barely even mention him. When he gets back he’ll be such a constant, such a fixture, that I won’t have to write about his presence. It will just be assumed. That’s what I really want. I want to be so quenched by his local existence, his perfect attendance, that I’m excited about having a weekend alone while he’s at drill. That is such a great feeling.
Today my husband gets on a plane to Kuwait and two days since he left home. It’s also two days away from the anniversary of my mother’s death. So in her honor I’m going to write a journal entry.
Mom kept a journal for many years and we all liked it that she did so. Sometimes she’d have to stay up later than she wanted so she could record whatever the TV weatherman said the high for the day was. She also recorded things like the number of pints or quarters she put up. Or if Dad bought a new pony at an auction or if she bought a new coat. Her entries are really pretty boring to read, but I treasure the couple of books I have. I’ll try to make this at least as interesting.
I do not wait well. I really hate those minutes before people show up to a party I host and I loath the hours I spend waiting to find out exactly when my soldier will be available for pick up. The only things you ever know for sure is that the time you’re given initially is just a shot in the dark. I was smart this time and went to the gym to work out. I had to carry my phone with me, but I had something to do with my nervous energy and if I broke anything it wasn’t something of mine. I got HabMoo’s phone call from Atlanta telling me his flight number and time while I was working on the ab machine.
I tried very hard not to be too early to the airport. I only had to wait five minutes or so. I imagined seeing him come down the stairs. Instead I saw him walk down the corridor and gave a little shout. It wasn’t too loud, but I’m sure people heard it. A small public display of affection followed.
I drove home. I never drive when he’s home unless I have to. But since he hasn’t driven above 10 MPH in the last six months and was sleep deprived, I took the wheel.
I had left the Xmas tree up, but had taken down some of the decorations thinking that we might want to decorate the tree together to make it feel like Xmas instead of January. That never happened, but we did take the tree down together which counts for something. It’s not festive, but it is a domestic chore which can be sort of bonding if you haven’t done one together for a while. We always give each other gifts at home, but this year we took them to his folks so there’d be more presents. That was a good plan. But we never got our traditional Xmas photo to post on Facebook. It seems like Facebook didn’t even notice.
I have a hard time with disruptions to my routine. That’s hard for me to believe that to be true. It makes me feel old and intractable, but it’s true. The second and third days of having HabMoo around talking to me outside the daily morning Skype visit got on my nerves a bit. I went to the gym one day so I did that little bit of routine and it helped. I have to remember that I need to do that when he comes home in spring.
HabMoo pointed out a few other aspects of my habits I’d rather not notice. Yes, I had left a bowl of oil and vinegar out for over a month. Yes, I live like a stereotypical bachelor when he’s not home. But I do change my underwear everyday and I brush my teeth so I’m not completely a lost soul. I might eat a bell pepper like an apple for lunch, but so what? I mostly remembered to close the bathroom door while he was home.
I got special dispensation to attend the annual “mancation” so that I’d let him attend. It’s an all-male party at a cabin in Wisconsin and involves secret stuff I’m not allowed to talk about. That’s their official poster for this year’s event on the right. Mostly it’s loud, involves a lot of food and booze, and allowed me to play some of my favorite board games. I also took a few walks out on the frozen lake and looked at bald eagle and Canadian goose tracks.
At home, we played a lot of board games, painted board game miniatures, shopped for board game related paraphernalia, and talked about board games. We ate at Chipotle, Five Guys, and Origami. We also renewed our driver’s licenses, cancelled out each other’s votes in a local election, and packed up books and other stuff to get out of the house before we put it up for sale. Pretty basic vacation stuff?
We also watched a few movies. I had never seen Indiana Jones so we watched that. I should have seen it when it came out instead of waiting I guess. I wasn’t impressed. We also watched Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. I love it that HabMoo loves the Planet of the Apes franchise as much as I do. On his last night at home I suggested a romantic movie and he said, “What? Like Romeo + Juliet?” And I realized here’s where our age difference really comes into play. He likes the 1996 version with Leonardo diCaprio and I like the Franco Zeffirelli 1968 version. So we watched Mystery Science Theater’s Catalina Capers instead.
The last day of his stay was made more complicated by the failure of an alarm and the snowy road conditions. But that stress was better than last time when I waited at the gate with him for his plane to leave. Worst idea ever. It was much better to kiss and run just outside the airport.
Temperatures during his visit were unseasonably warm and he didn’t get a chance to use the snow shoes I gave him for Xmas.
- Owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by nearly one third. The finding was the main result of a 10 year study of more than 4,000 Americans by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Institute in Minneapolis.
- They purr and I can’t. I can’t even roll my Rs. I suspect that purring is one reason for the finding above.
- They are there to talk to. Mostly I say things like “I just fed you. I am not going to go over there and touch your food so you’ll eat.” or “You didn’t mean to come inside? Was walking through the door some accident?”
- They make good morning alarms. They don’t always get the time right, of course, but they know how to make me get out of bed.
- One makes a good neck warmer.
- Another makes a good lap warmer.
- They let me know when my bladder is full.
- They act as bathroom guards when I shower.
- They make sure I don’t sit at the PC for too long.
- They act as interior decorators, making sure my tables and counters and desks aren’t too cluttered.
- They act as activity directors, suggesting pettings, brushings, trips outside, trips to the basement, etc.
- They are the world’s best ham detectors.
- Box and bag investigations.
- Clean clothes warmer.
- Doorman trainer. Mouse insists on being acknowledged with a pet or a comment before he’ll leave or enter.
- Vomit de-sensitization.
- Mouse keeps my earlobes clean as cat spit.
- Reflex testers. Most mornings I have to dodge out of the way of a kitty sneeze.
- Rubber band locators. I had to pull a rubber band out a cat I used to own. That was not pleasant for either of us. These cats just carry them to their food bowls. They never eat them so I don’t know why they think they belong in their bowls.
- Eddy has taught me that you can actually be too clean. If your skin in raw, you’ve gone too far.
- Even if it’s freezing cold outside, sometimes you still need to go out. That doesn’t mean you have to spend any real time out there though.
- You can have an entire basket full of toys and still have nothing you want to play with. Nothing beats playing with a real person.
- There’s never a time when some loving up is unappreciated.
- When giving love it’s important to pay attention to the recipient’s body language.
- If you want something, you need to ask for it. If you don’t get it, just ask again. And again. And again. Eventually you’ll either get it or you’ll get locked in a room. But the odds are in your favor.
- Independence is a virtue. Some people will respect it and a few dog lovers will be disturbed by it. And who cares?
- Sometimes you just need to act crazy. Such times will pass by quickly, but sometimes stuff gets broken.
- If you stare at something long enough, those around you will try to figure out what has your attention. This is more fun if you startle and then stare. Adding a little grunt before twisting your head around to stare is also a good technique.
- Stretching is wonderful.
When I was small I had freckles only over my nose and cheeks. I really wanted them to circle around my eyes so I could have a mask like a raccoon. I eventually got over that. I don’t think I have the nose or cheek bones to pull that look off.
I also wanted a prehensile tail that I could use to carry things or hang from trees. I still think that would be awesome. I thought having a fly swatter attachment would be just perfect for the summer. Also still a good idea.
As I’ve aged I’ve wanted other things. Right now I want a nictitating membrane for my eyes. “This clear eyelid can be drawn across the eyeball for protection from debris, prey, or the dryness of air, similarly to regular eyelids.” Perfect. Why didn’t we evolve these? I could have the windows rolled down in the car, stand in the smoke of a camp fire, and never worry about snow blindness nor about how dry the house gets. Plus how cool would it be to roll your eyes AND close your nictitating membrane to show disdain?
I also want to be able to swim without really having to learn. In other words I want a swim bladder. I’ve never been able to tread water and I’m sure a swim bladder would be a tremendous help. I think this organ evolved into lungs in mammals, and while I do love having lungs, I don’t understand why I can’t have both. I’m not asking for gills after all, just a bladder that I can fill with air when I want to. And with the addition of the nictitating membrane I could finally open my eyes under water!
I’ve been surprised by how much I’m missing my husband lately. We’re not halfway through the deployment yet—getting close though—and I’m feeling a little lost. So I’m going to go through a bit of a self-inventory and share it with you. (Actually I’m sharing more for the benefit of a future me.)
First, I’m going to get out a little anger that our soldiers keep re-deploying. We shouldn’t be able to learn from the first and second deployments in order to deal with the subsequent ones. I’m sure there are a lot of doctoral theses being written because the length of our wars provides so much data. Soldiers have always been good, easily captured research subjects.
But back to me. I was very prepared at the beginning of the deployment. I had gone through a sizeable portion of my grief over Mom’s death. I had trips planned to see my brother’s family and to go canoeing. I had enough work to make me feel productive, and still had plenty of time to garden. I even created this treasure map at my in-laws. My MIL and I each thought about what we wanted to happen in our own lives while the soldier boy was away. That’s mine below.
I’ve actually done pretty well. I have made an effort to stay in touch with friends. I’m not great at that, I tend to forget that I need to work on friendships. And I can spend too much time alone.
HabMoo and I have been communicating well and expressing love as best a couple can over the Internet ether. No real fights. No protracted times of feeling like we just aren’t connecting. (Those times do happen. His energy is low, or mine is, or Skype keeps failing as we try to talk. I don’t think there’s any way around that. We just don’t let them scare us.)
What else in on that construction paper? Boots. Yes, I did buy another pair of cowboy boots. I see two boots on there so I guess I get to buy another pair. I better save that for February. Or maybe later this month. Or whenever that metalic silver pair goes on sale.
Fitness. I joined a gym and have been go regularly. My heart thanks me, I am sure. I walked almost every day during the early summer before I got the membership. I discovered a Three Rivers Park nearby and plan to go cross country skiing there if we get good snow and weather.
I’m not so sure that I have met the embrace change challenge, but I’m getting better at that all the time. In fact, I feel like another sizable change in me is on its way. Maybe it’ll be me becoming freespirited. That’s not how I would ever describe myself. Others might. But there’s a difference between not caring what others think, knowing that they always think differently than you anyway, and being a free spirit. I have plenty of internal restraints. A full cupboard of them. Maybe more of a pantry.
50 Uses for Your Cat. Yeah, I’m going to fail that one. I think I’ve become better trained by my cats in the last few months. I jump even more quickly for them. They have perfected their pitiful cries and demanding yowls. And the neighbor trapping one of them didn’t help matters. I think they have found more uses for me than I have for them.
The last is the house for sale. I’m working on that. The realtor (trademarked professional) is already sending us emails. I’ve been packing up a few things getting ready to show the house. I’m not terribly optimistic about the market, but I think we’ll be able to sell it and find something we like. Our requirements are pretty minimal.
Best for Whatever seems to sum it up pretty well. Whatever comes along, I have to believe that I’ll be ready for it. I hate the way the word whatever is used these days to dismiss another’s comments, to acquiesce to the inevitable, to fill space between verbalizations. Whatever, the way I see it, is more like Doris Day’s que sera, sera. The wheel of fortune turns and you’re off on a new adventure.
Wow. I sound positively optimistic and brave. Honestly, I am trying to rein in my fantasies about my husband’s homecoming. I’m trying not to speed past the holidays. I’m trying to dance to the beat here and now in this room instead of the ones in my head and heart and spleen (does anxiety live in the spleen? Let’s say it does.) But right now I do feel capable of feeling lonely every night without feeling truly alone. And I’m very sure that I’ll be able to give up the body pillow once the man is home.
Beef: on the hoof to Mongolian BBQ
Yesterday I was reading about the problem Civil War soldiers faced of finding their food infested with flour beetles and having to decide if they should dunk their hardtack and let the beetles float out, or just toast the bread and eat them cooked. That’s a long way from my husband’s biggest food complaint during the war in Iraq in 2005: the dining facility (DFAC) temporarily ran out of onion rings. Times have obviously changed. But how much?
During the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress passed legislation to fix the components of a soldier’s food allowance. It included beef, peas, flour, milk, spruce beer, soap, and a candle. Next to the lack of vitamins A and C, the biggest problem was the lack of salt. Not just the lack of salt in the rations, but the lack of salt in the country. Salt was used to preserve meat and the salt had to be imported from the Spanish. The solution was to force the soldiers’ food to follow them and hopefully find pasture nearby. When the cattle didn’t have good forage or roads, the soldiers’ provisions dwindled. (Eventually the British West Indies sold salt to us and butchery on the battlefield once again referred primarily to humans.
Wars were tough on cattle. During the spring of 1778 when soldiers were starving, suddenly the cattle finally made it to camp. Unfortunately there were more cattle than could be eaten. Without forage for the cattle or salt to preserve carcasses, the cattle starved.
Later this week the soldier I know best will head to the DFAC in Kuwait for its unique version of Mongolian BBQ.
Rum or coffee
Current soldiers might envy the first soldiers in the U.S. Army. In 1790, the daily ration of four ounces of rum was reduced to only two, but they might get rum, brandy or whiskey. When you consider that they were probably drinking from the same water source as their cattle, the alcohol was probably a good idea. But boozing it up was a fact of life during Colonial times. I’ve read that they got cherubimical by imbibing such alcoholic delights as Rattle-Skull, Stonewall, Bogus, Blackstrap, Bombo, Mimbo, Whistle Belly, Syllabub, Sling, Toddy, and Flip.
None of these drinks were officially available to soldiers after the rum ration was eliminated in 1832. But then Congress must have felt bad about it and allowed enlisted men constructing fortifications or surveying an allowance to pay for their own ration of alcohol. By 1865, even that provision was eliminated.
What beverage replaced the booze? Coffee and sugar. During the Mexican War soldiers also got a bit of vinegar.
Temperance leaders tried to prohibit alcohol on military bases after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, policies to encourage moderating soldiers’ drinking were as strong as they got. For the most part officers saw a reasonable amount of drinking as good for morale.
Brewers were required to allocate 15 percent of total annual production of beer for use by the armed forces; local draft boards were authorized to grant deferments to brewery works who were highly skilled and irreplaceable; the Teamsters were ordered to end a strike against Minneapolis breweries because beer manufacturing was considered an industry essential to the war effort; and near the end of the war, the army made plans to operate recaptured French breweries to ensure adequate supplies for the troops (Rubin, 1979, p. 240).
While young soldiers were fighting in Vietnam, the argument was made that if you were old enough to die for your country, you were old enough to drink. Many states lowered the legal age to 18.
Alcohol is still enjoyed and abused by soldiers, even those serving in Islamic countries. Alcohol is fairly easy to get from the locals or have delivered by mail disguised as mouth wash. Heavy drinking is often seen as a symptom of PSTD or as influencing the actions of soldiers involved in criminal acts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nevertheless, Sen. Jim Webb, a Vietnam veteran and former war correspondent has suggested letting troops in war zones drink alcohol as a way to relieve combat stress.
Coffee is easily available. It’s in the MREs and on bases. Tea is a little harder. The Canadians, Brits, and others have it in their MREs, but not the Americans. My poor husband arrived at his base in Kuwait only to discover that the Starbucks there was out of Earl Gray tea.
Potatoes became part of the daily ration during the Civil War, as was pepper. And dried beans added to the variety. WWI saw the addition of butter (or margarine or lard). A total of 17 different food items were available on the list of possible rations. By 1927 this number was up to 23, mostly because of food prices and substitutions.
Now even MREs (meals ready to eat) have great variety. And they are available for purchase by the general public who uses them for disaster preparedness or camping trips. Personally, I find several of them to be rather good and better than most freeze-dried camping foods. The cheese tortellini with marinara sauce is probably my favorite.
The menu plans for DFACs includes menu standards that “should support menu planning for special dietary considerations. Vegetarianism and religious dietary requirements are normally addressed within the framework of the daily menu items offered.”
Sutlers to Starbucks
Sutlers would procure provisions for the military through the Civil War. They were civilians who followed the armies or who received a license to sell to an army post.
Now we have food provided free to soldiers via the DFAC and lots of privately owned establishments you’d easily find in your local shopping area. For example, Camp Arifjan has such fast food favorites such as: Pizza Hut, Charley’s, Hardees’s, 3 Subways, Burger King, Pizza Inn, Taco Bell, KFC, Baskin Robbins, Hawaiian Ice, Panda Oriental, Nathans Hot Dogs, Green Beans Coffee, Hole N One Doughnuts, 2 Starbucks. It only has three DFACs.
Starbucks really are everywhere. See this map of how to get to store 5546. I assume they are preparing to close down shops in Iraq now.
The contracts of modern day sutlers can be lucrative, but they are also costly. Food has to be imported. The contract proposal for the 2011 contract has this line: “The prime vendor bears all risk and responsibility for personal injury or death of its employees or agents or subcontractor employees or agents or for any damage to, loss of or demurrage of equipment during the transportation of product into Iraq.” As the Washington Post reported: “The Kuwait-based Public Warehousing Company/Agility, which has had the Iraq contract from 2003 through this year, has said 30 of its employees have been killed, 200 injured, 300 trucks destroyed and 700 more damaged over the past six years.”
Even with the availability of cinnamon dolce latte, war still sucks.