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The Storm
May 10 2009

The land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers served as the sobering reminder of how we can forget our humanity. I felt that I had forgotten who I was after several months of being segregated from society as I had known it in my youth. I had grown to hate and despise the people of the country that we were trying to rebuild. I did not care about what these people had been through or what troubles they had in the past. We were there for no reason in my eyes, and there was a feeling in the air that we were not welcome by the local people. The idea that we were not wanted had been floating around in the back of my mind for several weeks.
One day, I stood along the side of a road near the gate of our camp as a sandstorm raged towards us. The day grew darker as the dust came closer with each second. I looked down the long desolate road to see the outline of a single figure walking along the edge of the roadway. As the figure came closer, I could tell it was a man dressed in modest apparel. He was a man of the local population. He was walking alone with a thousand foot cloud of sand whirling about wildly behind him. When a man is being chased by the wrath of God, he tends to move with haste but not this man. He limped along with a gimp leg as if he had been the victim of some tragic injury in a past life. He was a half mile away as I watched the sands engulf his image as the tempest drew ever closer. Within a few seconds, I was also taken by the sand storm. The sand blew fiercely around my person grinding against my flesh relentlessly as I gazed where the road once was.
Shortly, I saw the figure again slowly limping along the side of the road only meters from where I stood amidst the storm. He was a middle aged man in his early forties. A scar running diagonally across his left eye glared out from in between the two strains of the scarf that wrapped around his face. The man's face was a map of a life of turmoil and struggle. His hands were callused by years of labor. His clothes had seen better days in years that had long since passed. His shoes completed many journeys across endless sand dunes. He served as the blue collar ambassador of the people of his country by displaying a hard work ethic and determination in his outward appearance.
Suddenly, a gust of wind and sand blew his scarf loose revealing his face. His face was a familiar face that I had seen several times. His name was Amil. Amil cut hair at the local barber shop on our base. Amil spoke English very well and had carried many average conversations with most of the soldiers. He was well educated and over-qualified to work as a barber. Amil had the only Bachelor's of Arts Degree posted on the barber shop wall. I had never heard anyone ask Amil about his scars or why he worked as a barber. Amil was a great listener and actually provided good advice about life and the simpler things in life that had seemed to have been forgotten in the blur of sand and stress of the country.
On that day, Amil's story seemed more of a worthwhile topic than my own issues of lesser struggle. I called out to Amil gaining his attention. I greeted him as fondly as anyone could in the middle of a sand storm. After we exchanged greetings, we commented on the typical weather and joked for a little while. We stood amid the torrent of the storm chatting as if the atmosphere was calm and comfortable. After a few minutes, I finally asked him,”Amil, why are you are barber? You are so well educated and qualified to do so many better jobs.”
Amil stopped for a moment and thought. Amil glanced up at me with those eyes that had seen a lifetime of experiences. “In my life,” he said, “There have been the things that I could have done, but I did not do them because of the things that I have had to do. Like other people around here, I am simply trying to survive and make it from day to day. I do this because it is the best work available around here. I do not leave to find work somewhere else because I am from here, and I can not give up on where I come from.”
I continued to make small talk with Amil about how he survived the prior regime and the persecution that came along with it. After a few minutes, I bid him farewell, and as he walked away, I realized that the local people of this country were simply just regular people. Somewhere among the sand, the sun, and the bullets, I had forgotten the local people were human being. I had lost my sense of humanity along the way. They were people trying to make their way through life and survive just like everyone else. Amil was one of those people. One can easily loose sense of being a human, but the simplest of moments help us sometimes to realize who we were before all the chaos of war.
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Comments from Our Readers

  "what an awesome experience to have amidst horrid conditions. Bless you for the work you are doing. " - jesse_jean57, June 9 2009 - reply

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