Monday, July 27, 2009

Once a Marine

While out at the 24hrs of Booty I had the fortunate chance to ride with 3 Hoffenchard team members including, Kelly, Joshie and I think Jim. When I saw them roll by they appeared a little scared as I started yelling from the side of the course, "Hoffenchard, Hoffenchard, I am going to catch up and ride with you!!" Honorable Mention goes to Kevin Thompson for winning the fixed gear class at the 24hrs of Booty with 150 aching miles down. Great effort Kevin, I know that hurt just a bit.
not technically always a Marine. After the 190 mile round trip car drive on Saturday to pick up Rocky I grabbed a 4 hour window and rode over to the 24hrs of Booty in search of the Lady whom I thought was going for 225miles on her fixy. Some Internet misunderstanding had me looking for something that did not exist however I did run into someone that I had not seen in a over year when I had shared a very long physical one day bike ride transfer with this fellow. Interestingly enough this man's present job is classified with the USMC and I cannot elaborate other than saying that his excellent marksmanship and years of experience thus far has elevated his status to well beyond the average infantryman. [Note to the reader: In my first and only enlistment between 1987 and 1991 I was a proficient machine gunner with the average infantry Battalion of 2nd Bn 4th Marines which since Vietnam had been attached to the end of the 8th Marine Regiment. My Unit's sister Battalion was 3/8 ]

Back to running into this powerful human that I was not expecting to see at the Booty. As I was looking for the apparition of a fixed girl going big an extended hand came around with his wife and an open dialogue, "Hey, how are you doing?" My hand went out and my eyes looked for contact with the Marine as we shook and he looked down. I responded firmly, "I'm doing okay, what about you?" In a sense people here always say that to each other but seldom truly mean it. I'm not sure if he meant his question to me but I know he knew I did mine. The altitude and severity of the mountains he had been dealing with has leaned his body out since I last saw him and he was already above average fitness at that time. His eyes were showing an education that most of us will never get. The answer to my question came in the form of his eyes lifting and giving me the verbal response that he is recently back from Afghanistan. "In Helmand Province with the 8th Marines?", I responded. His face lightened a bit realizing that I may have been paying attention while he was in the place so far away and yet closer than we could ever imagine. "Yup, I was there with 3/8", he said with a stern grin. By now I was trying to make sure that his eyes would not look down or away as I asked about what happened there. Up until that minute all my information about what has happened in the last few months in Helmand Province Afghanistan has come from either the New York Times or NPR and the BBC, now I was getting a first hand account from someone who had lived it. He looked right into my heart and said, "It's bad." The affect his voice tone had on me will be with me forever. Without going into details he let me know that 3/8 as a unit did not really want to be there, lets face it, do any of us really want to be there or would we rather stay here filling ourselves with the spoils of the outcome. I asked about the Afghan civilians. I was told that they are a tribal people that have very little 'education' and that the literacy rate was around about 4%. I was looking for the emotional response through the statistics and plunged deeper, "Are they okay?" They are not in a position to negotiate with the alien appearing Marines stepping out of the heavily armored modern vehicles who had never really been seen by the inhabitants of the Helmand. The minute they do receive the American niceties in the form of Corporate Greed they are marked by the Taliban which we created in the 80's when we needed, wanted and had to have them beat the Soviet Union. He was talking while I filled in the gaps. So, the civilians who may have had nothing to do with trying to take anything from our American Freedoms are faced with a challenge that none of us could presently imagine but one day may have to. Opium and fighting, that is what that place is all about, the place that no one has ever controlled from Genghis Khan, through the Britons, the Soviet Union and now us. Why us, it is not a question.

I said, "Good Bye" and was given another firm handshake that this time got the better of mine. I told him to be careful and to keep his head up. As I rolled away I felt a strange powerful feeling set in that could only come from something that we call emotional transfer. Say it with me, "Transfer". As short as our conversation was I received it as real and understood every inflection in his voice while I felt the energy from his eyes. I will continue to follow what is happening in Afghanistan because it is not easy for me to forget that our nation, the one that we are representing and paying for is at perpetual War of which there are serious consequences. Today is not the past nor will tomorrow be.


jeff said...

Thanks for your service, and for being the ear that men like him need when they return from around the globe.

The Ghost of Jerry Reed said...

joshie said "having Bill talk at us for those laps saved our sanity."

Billy Fehr said...

It was nice riding with them indeed! I got the low down on the origination of the Hoffenchard Team name plus ole Joshie had some great questions about the logistics behind being a bike messenger in Charlotte.

Unibiker said...

Thanks for the Shout Out Bill.
That 150 miles on my 10 year old delivery bike made me take a look at my life and where I wanna go with it now.
Illan was right when he said "It's not about you any more" I get it. He may have been talking to you when he said it. But some how I feel like that message was for me as well. See ya on the streets soon.