Afghanistan is closer when we can talk daily

By John Toth

It’s late at night, and I am working, as usual. I can get a lot done when the house is quiet. But I am also waiting for the computer to let me know when my son, Bobby, logs on Skype.

Bobby is in the U.S. Air Force, and at the end of June, he was assigned to Bagram Air Force base in Afghanistan as one of the base medics.

I’m waiting because he usually signs in about this time, and we message about what happened during the day. We do this almost nightly, unless one of us falls asleep.

It’s great to be able to communicate with him like this, even though he is in a war zone. We video chat also, but not too often, because he lives in a dorm with five others who are working the day shift, and Bobby at night. So, we just type along until one of us decides to call it quits.

I’m not that worried about him most of the time, except when he starts out with: “Hey, I slept through another rocket attack.”

One of his friends sent him a message on Facebook: “It really sucks when they blow up the laundry.”

That has me worried.

“Bobby, don’t do laundry over there,” I message. “Try not to get your clothes dirty.”

“LOL. Our laundry is inside the hospital,” he responds.

That's better.

Then he posts on Facebook a picture of himself next to a dog. If he can take time to mess with a dog, it must not be that bad over there. Then I remember. I already have 3.2 dogs – three regular sized and a miniature Yorkie.

“Bobby, you do realize that the dog has to stay there. You can’t bring it back in January. Does it have an owner? Where did you find it?”

“It’s a bomb-sniffing dog,” he says. “It stayed with us for a while.”

“What was wrong with it? Sniffed one too many bombs?” Then I realized that had the dog been hurt on the job, it would not be one big German shepherd, but a dozen Yorkies.

Then it occurrs to me why they would have bomb-sniffing dogs on base.

“Bobby, take a good look at who is being brought to the hospital. If it’s a fat guy with wires hanging out of his stomach, run. Forget the IV, and get out of there.”

Talking almost on a daily basis gives me a good insight as to what is going on, how he feels, when he has busy days or slow days. It’s almost like he is not even halfway around the world. I talk to him more than when he was stationed in Biloxi, Miss.

I know the odds are in his favor. He has a greater chance of dying or being injured while driving from Biloxi to home in Angleton. There are dangers everywhere.

You can "google" Bagram and find out a lot of things about the base. It has about 30,000 people and most of the amenities of a regular base. Unfortunately, there are no malls around it, which creates quite a hardship.

The closest mall is in Kabul, about 50 miles away, and it only has one store – the Gap. Just kidding. There are no malls anywhere over there.

“Bobby, you have to watch reruns of “M.A.S.H.” because that’s basically what you do with a few upgrades like the Internet, air conditioning, gym, etc. but the concept is the same.

“Oh, stay away from Hot Lips Houlihan. She’s nothing but trouble.”