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Published November 3, 2020



Son skypes with his family during rocket attack

By John Toth / The Bulletin

We were skyping with our younger son, Bobby, when he was based at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. It was one of the many times we visited like this. He was a medic there for the U.S. Air Force and would wind up serving two six-month deployments.

“Hold on - something happened,” he said as we talked about things. We just wanted to see and hear him. The subject matter was not important.

We heard a “swoosh” sound that was picked up by his microphone.

“I think we had a rocket attack. I’ll be right back,” he said and left his barracks. He was gone for about 15 minutes. It was a very long 15 minutes.

We didn’t take our eyes off that monitor. The Skype signal was in and out because Bagram had a very weak wi-fi signal that soldiers on the base could use.

I was hoping the signal would hold, and Bobby would return.

Our nerves were on edge as we continued focusing on the computer monitor, barely even blinking. Finally, we heard something that sounded like a door shutting. We were hoping that Bobby would enter the picture and fill us in on what was happening.

We always worried about Bobby when he served in Afghanistan, but we weren’t there to see what he was doing or what was going on around him. He sent us pictures of himself and his team, but pictures often don’t tell the whole story.

One thing that stood out in his pictures was how young he and his team were. These kids were actually brave soldiers performing a duty that most of us never experience in our lifetime. They represent a very small percentage of the country’s total population.

They looked so vibrant and self assured. They made it all look so easy.

Pictures from war zones of smiling soldiers taken ever since cameras were invented don’t represent what is really happening. The soldiers pose, and then they return to their dangerous wartime duties.

Journalists bring war to our doorsteps. But the raw story can only be seen and felt by those there. And some of them didn’t live long enough to tell their story. Others survived and could share their experiences, but they often chose not to revive those memories.

My father saw some gruesome and horrible things during WWII when he was a teenage soldier in the Hungarian military (not by choice). He seldom talked about what he did and saw. Many of his friends died.

My father-in-law, who was a Marine, served in Korea as one of the “Chosin Few”, but he seldom talked about it.

My generation was pretty lucky when it came to military conflicts involving the United States. There weren’t any major ones. The generation before mine was drafted and sent to Vietnam. The generations after me were involved in conflicts in the Middle East.

Bobby joined the Air Force suspecting that there was a pretty good chance he would wind up in Afghanistan. He joined anyway.

And now, we were waiting for him to show up again on the monitor before the wi-fi signal faded, and we were anxious to see his uninjured, smiling face again.

Then, all of the sudden, there he was, all in one piece. The Taliban either blew up the runway, the laundry room or the showers; it was one of those. Bobby had to go to a pre-designated area for a headcount.

There were no injuries, he said, making it sound like it was no big deal. It was a big deal to us, though. We’re not used to rocket attacks.

He made it look and sound easy. But war is not easy. We will always be very proud of his service to our country. To all the veterans, thank you for your service. Enjoy Veterans Day as we recognize your bravery and sacrifice.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)