Every year I forget how much I despise winters in Rexburg. The snow, the wet, the ice, the wind and the cold, man the cold. I step outside, breathe in the air and feel my nose-hairs, nasal passages, lungs and my very brain freeze. Bitter cold came early this year and I am only surviving thanks to heated car seats, fuzzy socks and my tea kettle which is constantly whistling for me to make yet another mug of hot cocoa. Someone told me once that the best way to forget the cold is to think of warm things and places. Therefore, in order to fight off the frost, here is a story from a place slightly warmer than Rexburg.
On his first tour for Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jacob was stationed in the middle of the “sandbox” that NO kid would want to play in. Heats easily reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit through July and August at his base in Northern Iraq. When the occasional breeze stirred through, it felt like a blow-dryer—not a hint of cool relief. The soldiers didn’t have usual water heaters for their showers. The water sat in tanks in the sun to heat up; it would get so hot that it scalded their skin.
Brutally, in this heat, all soldiers are required to wear their issued uniforms, including tall boots, long pants and jackets; when they are on the road, they add 60 pounds of body armor and equipment over their uniform. Then, they were all shoved into a heavy, metal, armored oven (also known as either a humvee or 5-ton) and sent out into the heat on convoys. The so called “air conditioning” did little to nothing to cool the air in the vehicles—in order to cool off at all, the soldiers attached hoses to the air vents and stuck the hoses right up under their body armor.
Jacob’s deployment was “hot” in more than just the temperature. Almost every convoy encountered problems, especially IEDs that constantly damaged equipment. Most of the time overseas, Jacob labored in the “motor pool,” putting back together the vehicles that blew up on the convoys. Every so often his turn to leave base on a convoy would roll around and he would head out into the heat of the action.
One particular mission kept Jacob and all the soldiers tense—not only had one of the vehicles in their convoy already hit an IED, but they also had a pickup full of hostiles drive by and shoot at the vehicles along the road, focusing on their convoy. These threats had Jacob especially on edge. As the driver of the truck, he had to keep his eyes peeled and make sure not to lead the other two soldiers (the gunner and the truck commander) into unnecessary danger.
In the midst of all of this pressure, Jacob heard an explosion and instantly felt warm, sticky liquid splatter across his face, neck and hands. Filled with horror and not knowing if the liquid covering him was fluid spouting from the vehicle or blood, he barely dared to look around. He felt terror that he would discover his gunner shot to bits, the truck commander dead next to him, or even his own legs blown off. After this moment of panic, Jacob realized that not only was everyone in the truck alive, but the vehicle hadn’t even been hit! In fact, the inside of the 5-ton truck grew so scalding hot that a soda can, sitting in between the driver and passenger seat, blew up, showering the soldiers with Cola. Apparently, if the hodgies don’t succeed in killing you, then the heat will try.
**Please note: This is a true story. Jacob has never seen the movie Memphis Belle—a problem that we will have to remedy shortly. Any similarities to certain scenes in that movie are purely coincidental**
**Please also note: i am aware that i may be killed by a suicide bomber for using the offensive term of “hodgie” on my blog. However, i am willing to take the risk for two reasons: 1- that is what the soldiers called them and i am trying to stay true to the feel of the situation. 2- it would be an extremely cool way to die and would make the news for certain!**