Postcards from Tradocia

departure dirge

(Written October 24)

With darkness falling, it was time to prepare my vehicle in the manner I saw fit for the long drive ahead. I had sandbags piled in the back (stolen from a pallet on the other side of the camp), a quarter-inch steel plate behind my head, and a half-inch one under my seat. Four of us set to work under the white glare and diesel drone of the generator-powered lights, and as we did, a pair standing in the darkness nearby struck up a tune – on bagpipes. First they ran through a scale, then started in on various songs, including (of course) Amazing Grace.

As SGT P and I hucked sandbags in the bed of the truck (a ten-passenger humvee is little more than a giant pickup), he stopped and looked up at me. “You know, they’re practicing in case they have to play for real…at a funeral.” The thought hadn’t occurred to me and the realization stopped both of us for a moment. We laughed at the surreality of the moment – we might be listening to the rehearsal for our own funeral dirge! – and continued working.

Sandbags and steel to deflect bullets and fragments, floodlamps throwing hard white light, a can of Moutain Dew, all set to the wail of bagpipes – vignettes like these are what life in the desert are made of.


  1. alektra

    Perhaps the Estonians want some US money and this makes us their friend forever? Kind of reminds me of when I was in high school and I helped out the “cool” kids with their papers in the “Mac Lab” so that they’d be nicer to me.

    Just a thought.

    Thanks for a really great site. I hope you don’t mind if I link to it. I found it through a friend of yours.

  2. Sperkins

    Who cares why the Estonians are there or how many they bring. God Bless them for showing up for the party!!

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