Most people don’t normally think of the word war and ‘good old days’ together. Nonetheless, this was my experience during my first deployment, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
First, let me explain a few things. I am not a historian or a politician. I don’t know all the events or the implications of things that happened outside of my vantage point, and I certainly am not saying the reasons that caused the war are to be celebrated. All I can tell you is my story, from my perspective, and how those experiences forever shaped who I am today.
It was 2002, and I was deployed to Bosnia, Tuzla Base to be specific. Being new to the Army Reserve, I was scared to deploy. And to make it worse, I was really ignorant about what was happening in the world. Having lived a sheltered American existence, I was essentially unfamiliar with the details and brutality of the Bosnian conflict. The years preceding my deployment were a blur of chaos. I was in a dying marriage where I filled my time working a full-time retail management job and completing my last year of college. On top of those demanding facts of life, I was also raising two toddlers. So, upon completing a bachelor’s degree, I guess I needed something to fill all that new free time??? The answer was to join the Army Reserve at 29 years old. (It made sense at the time, but that is another post.) Soon after completing my initial training, I deployed.
So the whirlwind that was my life was about to change. I was about to leave my kids and deploy to war I pretty much knew nothing about. It was terrifying at the time, but in hindsight, it was an amazing, life-changing event.
My main job there was to document what the Nato forces were doing. This allowed me to travel around and take pictures, write articles, shoot videos and create magazine layouts. Ultimately, it was the dream job I never knew I wanted. I met amazing people, both local citizens and Soldiers. I walked in cities that were devastated by hate, but yet saw people carrying on. I saw the natural beauty of the country through its wounds. I saw hope in the eyes of people who had endured the unimaginable. I witnessed Soldiers working side by side in effort to make a difference. I made friends for life.
My time there gave me so many memories (that will turn into several future posts I am sure), and it’s where I found myself again. I discovered my passion through telling others’ stories. I found a purpose in making each featured Soldier realize they were making a difference. I felt emptiness in hearing the horrors of war. I gained appreciation for life when I saw the struggles of another culture. I learned what true kindness felt like. Through it all, I had time to step back from the hectic pace of my life and really see what was important. I was able to evaluate what I was, what I wanted, and who I wanted to be. It was there on Tuzla base, I decided I wanted to live with passion. I didn’t want to just merely exist anymore, letting my days slip through my fingers. I wanted each day to count.
It took a number of years for this self discovery to really develop (and of course it is still in progress), but Bosnia is where it started. I think of how ironic it is that I had to go across the globe to find the true me. Perhaps opening my eyes beyond my own life was the awakening I needed. Either way, those ‘good old days’ of war gave me life.
In response to the Daily Prompt ~ Salad Days.