I have used this photo of myself extensively on my website, my Facebook profile, and so many other places, I thought it might be appropriate on this Veteran’s Day, to tell the story behind it.
In 2003, my husband’s job with the US Defense Department had moved us to Wiesbaden, Germany, and I had accepted a job working on the Army base there. I was hired by the Army to serve as a civilian IT Specialist, fixing computers, running a helpdesk, and keeping an eye on the computer network. In February, the war began, and my unit, the 3rd Corps Support Command, was deployed to Iraq. I didn’t yet have my security clearance, so I stayed behind in Germany, supporting the rear detachment and worrying about my friends and colleagues who were in harm’s way.
In July, my security clearance was approved, and I shipped out to Iraq to join my unit. The next six months would change my life. The challenges, heartbreaks, fears, and all the other emotions I experienced there are stories for another day. But today I want to tell you about the Cigar Club.
Every afternoon, a group of soldiers, who became known as the Cigar Club, would meet in the dusty patio area outside our headquarters building, to enjoy a cigar and some lighthearted conversation. Anyone who could break away from their duties was welcome to attend, and I did so as often as I could. A couple times a week, I’d find the time to step out and join my comrades, mostly men, mostly officers for a few minutes of fellowship, away from the pressures and concerns of our normal duties. Being gentlemen, they often offered me a cigar to smoke, but I always declined. “No, no”, I’d chuckle, “I’m just here for the ambiance!”
While the physical surroundings were anything but appealing, I have always enjoyed the smell of a really good cigar. But it was something else that kept me coming back to the Cigar Club. It was the opportunity to spend just a few precious minutes in fellowship and camaraderie with men – and a few women – that I genuinely liked, sharing pieces of our lives away from this nasty war. For just a few minutes, we were just civilized. And I was starved for that – we all were.
One such day, when an officer offered me a smoke, I thanked him saying, “On the day the United States Army sees fit to send my butt home, I will smoke a cigar!” And on January 8, 2004, that day arrived. The Cigar Club threw a little party in my honor and someone remembered I’d said it. So, being a woman of my word, on my last day in Iraq, I smoked a cigar and someone snapped this photo.
Today is Veterans’ Day, and I am once again reminded of those wonderful soldiers who taught me the true meaning of “Duty, Honor and Country”. Thank you all for everything, and especially for your service to our country.