Let me share with you a my story regarding ‘Black Friday’ shopping. For those of you who are not familiar with this, it is the day after Thanksgiving when stores open up extremely early in the morning and offer deep discounts on items. It got its name from being the day when many retailers’ profits went from the red to the black, meaning they become profitable for the year. I’ve never been the type to enjoy shopping in busy stores and waiting in long lines to check out. In fact its one of my greatest annoyances. For many years I held this shopping holiday as one of the worst experiences I could imagine putting myself through. This was well before I ever participated in the event.
In 2004 I deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months. As this was my first deployment and first trip outside the US, it was a real eye opener for me. Here is a excerpt from my journal on that ‘black friday’.
Friday, November 26 2004
Well after a long streak of ‘groundhog’ days, there was a little change in pace today. I had the 12 hour Haji Guard duty from 0600 to 1800. It was pretty chilly this morning, so I was wearing my black fleece jacket overtop my DCU shirt. We started the morning with a briefing of our duty, then watched a few episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ until the local nationals started showing up. About 0700 the first water truck showed up, but I was a few names down the list so I didn’t have to walk the water truck. We started watching some Mr. Bean movies, but I wasn’t paying much attention to them. About 1000 hours my name got called to watch some local national workers finish up some concrete work at the front gate. They only had about an hours worth of work to do. I sat out there and supervised them as they worked, and I chatted with some of the vehicle search soldiers. About 1030 there were some gunshots fired, and it sounded pretty close. I really couldn’t tell what was going on, but I looked outside the main gate just in time to see some ISAF soldiers engage a local outside the gate. The guy was holding a handgun of some sort. The ISAF soldiers fired about a dozen rounds and hit the hostile local in the hip, bringing him to the ground. I really didn’t know what to think, I pretty much just watched in awe. After everything settled down is when I got a better explanation of what happened. Apparently, this hostile local was attempting to shoot an Afghan we know as ‘Rambo’. A little background on Rambo is that his family was killed by the Taliban years ago, and he volunteers to help secure our gate. He isn’t armed or anything, but every morning he shows up to greet coalition forces as they enter Camp Phoenix. Everytime I’ve been in and out of that gate, I’ve seen Rambo’s smiling face as he salutes us by. He is very appreciative of our mission. So anyways, apparently this hostile local was targeting Rambo, but fortunately he didn’t hit a single person with his short bursts of fire. It didn’t take long for the ISAF soldiers to take him down. Once I realized what was going on, I ordered my group of locals to sit in a line on the curb so I could keep accountability of them. I had my weapon locked, loaded, and drawn in case any of the workers wanted to try to make an addition to the attack, but that didn’t happen thankfully. The US forces went out and brought the wounded local to the TMC (troop medical clinic, or hospital) here on Camp Phoenix to try and save his life. Unfortunately, I guess, they were unable to revive him. So, today was the closest I’ve been to direct fire, although I wasn’t the primary target. Its kind of funny that watching a man get shot wasn’t quite as depressing, for lack of better words, than I would have imagined. I’m really pretty glad that we put a stop to his attack quickly. Perhaps I might have felt differently about it had I been the person that shot him, or if I had watched him die in front of me, but I guess this is good preparation in case one of those incidents happens.
After everything was back under control, the local nationals finished up their work and headed off, while I headed back to the local national guard room. My next duty didn’t come until about 0430, which was the famous ‘stink-o-log’ sewer truck. It was supposed to be the last truck of the day, so the NCOIC let everyone else leave for the day. I trecked off to ground guide this truck to all the latrines on post, which took about 45 minutes. However, when I got back to the personnel gate to release the truck, the infantrymen at the gate had said that the NCOIC of local national guard got another truck in that he wasn’t expecting, so he had to escort it himself, which means that he locked the local national guard room where my gear was located. So, I sat at the personnel gate for about 30 minutes waiting on him to finish supervising the water truck. After he finished, I got my gear and was done for the day.
After I got back to my hooch that day, I was thinking of how nice it would be to have been black friday shopping as opposed to what I just went through. Never in my life did I think I’d find something worse than waiting in line at a department store for hours, but now it looked pretty damned appealing after standing in the line of fire!
Fast forward a year to ‘Black Friday’ of 2005…
I remembered my comments from the previous year, and decided that I should make it a yearly tradition to put myself through the ‘horrors’ of black friday shopping as a humbling reminder that there can be plenty worse situations to be in. I still don’t like standing in line at the store, but when I do you can bet what I’m thinking about.
Plus, it’s not so bad getting some good deals on Christmas gifts!