“IN COMING, IN COMING, IN COMING! TAKE SHELTER! PUT ON YOUR BPA!” that stands for body protecting armor. A robotic voice blasted that message across the loud speakers, followed by a piercing alarm. That was my 1st night in Bagram, Afghanistan. When that message came across the speakers, I was already face down on the ground, covering my head. The alarms are supposed to sound before the rockets hit but occasionally one gets through. That particular blast was pretty close. I am not a soldier, Marine, Sailor or Airman; not anymore not since I left the Marines in 1999. I am a Department of Defense Civilian employee working in Afghanistan – I’m a Contract Specialist or Supply Chain Expeditor.
There are several of us, some are Government employees, some are State employees and some are contractors. There are hundreds of companies who operate over here and there are a lot of employees earning a living dangerously close to the frontlines of battle.
My day starts at 5am with a shower, sometimes I wake up earlier and go for a run, either way I’m out the door by 5:30am. I sit for 12 hours a day reading applications, contracts and spreadsheets – so I like to walk to work so I can mentally prepare myself. I have to show a special badge to enter the building and then enter a code to get into my office and you thought swiping your card was inconvenient. My workday is broken down into meal periods, an hour of gym time, and trips to the laundry – kind of sounds like Prison.
The food is not that good so I spend less time eating and more time running. I’ve lost some weight. I get to call home and speak to my wife and my son. That helps a lot. I miss them dearly. They are the whole reason why I’m over here – to provide for them. We live in Ohio; a state that lost a lot of jobs during the recession, so I found myself in the same position as thousands of other people – having to make a hard choice. I choose to return to the Military for my family.
Sure there are worst things in the world and although I miss the comforts of home, my wife, son, and family, this life is not easy. My wife is awesome, so funny and smart. She’s the glue. The hardest part of being away is missing out on family time. Like missing my son’s first steps, first words and him running around the house tearing things up. Or missing the birth of my brand-new baby girl.
There are sadder things too, like when family members fall ill and you’re not there to see them – touch them – hold their hands that one last time. You can’t help but to wonder, am I doing the right thing? I should be there! I should be right there! In the end, you have to hope that they know how you feel. I’m talking about my Dad; Steven Hogue.
Here’s an important lesson: The most valuable resource on this planet is not gold, oil, money or diamonds. It is time. It is non-renewable and is fleeting. I was 7000 miles away when my daughter was born and that is one of the most valuable bits of time I now believe I sold cheaply and will always regret. My dad worked three jobs most of our childhood and slept the rest of that time to provide us things, many of which were gratuitous. I got word that my dad is on his way to the next life and I was in a race against time to get home to say good bye. I have spent the last 6 months of my life away from him, selling my time to the highest bidder. Was the price for that time enough? Was it worth it?
Do me a favor, hug your kids and call your parents and tell them you love them. There is nobody on this planet that will love you as much your dad and mom and nobody you will love as much as your kids. Make this time count and that way you won’t have any regrets.
** This is a guest contribution from my good friend Mike Hogue. We met in Ohio many years ago and instantly we clicked, he’s a very funny and intelligent man. When he left the country for work, we were sad but proud of him for doing what he had to do to take care of his responsibilities. I’m very thankful that he allowed me to publish and share his story. This truly is what the CostofWork is all about.**