The Last Journey
Article #7 “Old Friends”
31 July 2010, Bagram Air
Base, Afghanistan, 2030 hrs, Saturday evening…One of my favorite songs of
all times is by three artists that I really enjoyed listening to over the
years. Willie Nelson, Ray Price and
Roger Miller. Some years ago, before
Roger Miller passed away, he and Willie and Ray recorded a song called,
“Old Friends”. My son Jesse
used to love that song. Every time I
hear it, good memories are rekindled in my being. I can still hear the song playing in my
head. Today, I had a wonderful
experience and it was somewhat of a miracle at that. In 2007, in the month of September, I spent a
short bit of time in a place called Forward Operating Base, Falcon, down
towards the Diyala province area during the surge in
His name is Rob Hamilton.
I went on patrol with him and his men and spent many hours just talking to him and getting to know a little about him. In short, this man is quite brilliant and I have never forgotten about him. He made sure that as many people as possible would read my stories and look at my photos. Flash forward to 2010, a couple months back, and I had some email correspondence with Rob, who is now Capt. Hamilton. He is stationed here at Bagram for the moment and he wrote some letters of recommendation for me introducing me to some PAO folks via email. What he did was basically open the doors for me and point me in the right direction. Over time I received emails from members of his family and to this day, I am in contact with his mother via email as she follows my current journey.
Today, after sleeping the
better part of the afternoon in preparation for my night journey, I decided to
go over to the chow hall and grab just a small bite to eat. Right before I entered the doors to the chow
hall I looked up and saw a Captain coming my direction. He did not see me, but I saw his name.
Now begins a round of handshakes and brief conversation. He was just finishing eating and I was going inside. To put it bluntly, there seems to be a billion people on this crowded base and of all the people I could run into, Rob would be who I wanted to see first. I had planned all along to track him down at some point in time because I promised his mother I would get his photo. We coordinated to meet at a specific time, about 90-minutes later, and I agreed to be there and asked if I could take his photo. He smiled and said, “sure”. He knew I had to do this for his mother. After dinner, I went to the internet place and sent a few emails, then went to my quarters and retrieved my camera and proceeded to go to the designated location where Rob and I would meet. As fate would have it, it is about 100-yards from where I’ve been staying the past 24-hours.
The time came and both of
us were right on time. We shook hands, I
took three photos and we began to talk about being here. Rob is a brilliant young Captain. The Army knows what they have in this young
man. He is involved with tracking down
IED’s and all that goes with that here in
We talked a little about
the whole McChrystal incident with the Rolling Stone reporter and we both
laughed that I couldn’t have picked a more difficult time to be a
“news media” person right now in
We continued our
conversation and drew comparisons between
Rob and I continued to
talk about things regarding our personal lives and I learned he now is married
to his long time love, Heidi, whom he spoke quite highly of last time I knew
him in Iraq. I told him I hope he has a
lot of children in the years ahead and he smiled. Rob is about 27-years-old, having been born
in 1983. He looks great these days and
has really matured into what I think is the Army’s best Captain. Running into Rob, really brightened my day
today. I immediately emailed his mother
and caught her on line. She was really
excited that I ran into her son, and she told me to chastise him for not
staying in touch more often, as all Mom’s complain about. I mentioned this to Rob, after we discussed
solving the war in
It is moments like this that I know I am here for a reason. I love to stand in the gap between deployed soldier and family back home. It’s like I’m reaching hands across the world and connecting them to one another. In the middle of it all, I am the most blessed, for I get to receive the joy between the family members when the connections are made.
Captain Robert Hamilton is a friend of mine. Although I’ve actually only been around him a very short time, we are surely, “Old Friends” now. I can hear Roger Miller singing his part and I can see my son Jesse singing along from the cloud of witnesses above.