Three high value targets detained on the best New Year’s Day EVER. Three SFODAs, one Afghan ODA (yes, the Afghans have special forces and they are quite good), two Afghan Commando companies, AC-130 gunships and A-10’s all giving hell to the enemy. No other New Years has topped it to date.
Relief when I recognized the voice of a West Point company-mate over the radio. She was driving her Chinooks through a hellacious snowstorm to extract Special Forces and Afghan commandos after a big operation. Thanks for coming in hot on a nasty LZ, Jill. You’re the best damned helicopter pilot in the Army.
Pieces of a suicide bomber on our “alive day”. A 2000LB vehicle bombs hit our base camp, preceded by a suicide vest IED. Thank heavens for bad fuses and bad detonators. The EOD techs who dragged that bongo-truck-of-death away from our camp were fearless. The true hero of the day was the Afghan policeman who noticed something wrong, stopped the truck, but was hit by the suicide vest. He was a brave soul and I know he awaits the rest of us warriors in Valhalla, Heaven, or wherever you believe old Soldiers go.
Plates of piping hot Afghan food. If you want the best rice and goat, go to the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, especially during the Eid al-Fitr festival. I’m still trying to find something similar in the U.S. No luck.
The Team Room key. A Green Beret’s safe haven. Once you leave, you always want to go back. Best 27 months of my life.
The engraved cigar box my team gave me. Best parting gift ever, because a) it is unique to me and b) it is useful. SF guys don’t give plaques; we give people useful stuff.
Flags for over a dozen re-enlistments atop vehicles, in combat zones, or at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. I was truly honored and humbled. Thank you fellas.
A P-38 on my dog tags. When the apocalypse comes, you better have one. A case of C-rations doesn’t stand a chance.
Dozens of letters my wife sent me in response to the 100-plus letters I sent to her. Never underestimate the intimate power of putting pen to paper. E-mails get deleted, video chat goes unrecorded, and phone calls can end with harsh words. Letters are always kept.
A fountain pen, for the letters and for the journal. A fountain pen, unlike others, is incredibly cathartic. Words flow effortlessly off its nib.
That first hug, the first kiss, the first everything after coming home.
A cup of chai in honor of 24-year old Nasim, our local national interpreter. He was killed three weeks after we came home. He had a wife and an infant daughter. Our interpreters earned their shot at Green Cards and a chance at citizenship, more so than many others. We should have been able to bring him and his family home with us. His death highlights the importance of the “Save Dave” campaign.
A mental scorecard of the weird looks I get at entry control points, airports, bars, and restaurants because of the deployment beard on my military ID card. So far, it is 15 to 2 in favor of the clean-shaven look. I guess that settles the “will you grow a beard as a civilian” question.
An SF-green guidon, symbolizing acceptance of company command. One of the most personal and professionally rewarding experiences of my life.
Cigars for guys coming home to Green Ramp on Christmas Eve. Best Christmas Eve ever.
Tyler Mack is an active duty Special Forces officer, with operational deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. The views here are his own and do not express the views of the Special Forces Regiment, the United States Army or the Department of Defense. This was originally published on October 14, 2015.