A long time ago I learned one of the most valuable lessons that the Army had to offer. I had a Squad Leader who took me aside and explained to me no matter what went wrong or how hard things got, Â“keep the colors close to you at all costÂ”. I looked at him and wondered what exactly he was talking about. He was about to give me the single most important rule that since then I have carried and followed wherever I have been. When he explained himself he said Â“brother there are going to be times when you have to do things you never thought imaginable, things that would make any man scared for his own life and those of his fellow soldiers, but when it all seems lost and your about to lose your mind thatÂ’s when the colors become your lifeline.Â” The colors he spoke about were the memories, smells, dreams, music, conversations, and those things that brought you out of the hell you were in and allowed you to focus on what was truly important.
As I said, I have taken this as the single most important lesson in my life. I am now a leader of men, a teammate, and a friend. Every day here I try to find my colors and at times it seems almost too difficult. I will find a place to isolate myself, to concentrate on a specific color that brings me back to a somewhat normal level. I miss the ocean, the gentle breeze from the shore pines near my house, the perfume of my lovely girlfriend, the cat and dog chasing each other. The songs she and I used to sing out loud and dance to together or the long drives to nowhere. I miss her smile and touch, how they brought peace to my soul. How a splash of Johnny Walker and red wine aromas filled our kitchen on a beautiful summer evening.
These colors are the extensions of our mind, body, and soul. Without these what is the point? Why continue to fight, whether physically or mentally here? All people have colors, they may not call them the same as I do, but they do. These are the things in our lives that bring us back from the breaking point during all of this. My colors represent all that I have done in my life, all the happiness and sadness. They are my living legend that I share with all those around me, but when it is time to take stock in what we have done here in Afghanistan I am afraid there will not be a specific color for this place. A friend of mine in Iraq emailed me the other day and stated that I needed to be careful and that everyone over there believes we are the true soldiers of the GWOT. I did not know how to respond to that. He is the same guy who told me about the colors.
If anyone takes anything from these writings, please take this. Find your colors in times of need, reach back to the world and life you left. Close your eyes and search hard, your colors are there.