"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
After chowing down on some tasty Memphis-style baby back ribs in Memphis of all places, J and I continued our road trip northeast – past Nashville and just over the Kentucky border to Oak Grove.
My brother and his beautiful little family welcomed us into their home and it became a haven for us during the rest of our trip. I think I’ve mentioned already, my brother (who is 2 years my junior) has been an avionics technician for 6+ years with the U.S. Army. Prior to this trip I hadn’t seen him in almost 4 years because of living on opposite ends of the country and his being abroad for two tours in Afghanistan. It was such a joy to spend time with him, to grow closer to my sweet SIL, and to cuddle up with my two-year-old niece!
We got to enjoy a quiet morning in with them before piling into their car for a tour of the airfield where my brother has been working, in Fort Campbell. He drove us through the base gates, past some decommissioned planes and helicopters that decorated an intersection, and towards the massive airfield. It was the weekend so the place was a ghost town. We walked onto the tarmac and I was awed by the number of helicopters that sat row upon row. My brother took us out to see the Apaches closest to the hanger he works out of first.
The Apaches still had armaments on their wings. In a matter of seconds my brother climbed up by the cockpit and opened the door for us. He invited J to sit in the front seat and check out the controls. I got to sit in the back seat. It was incredible! I could almost imagine the rush of being in flight. And I was struck by the juxtaposition of my little niece in her pink, fluffy tutu playing hide and seek around the weapons on the wings – truly an Army brat in the best of ways!
Next my brother took us to see the Blackhawks. These are the helicopters that he occasionally rides on for combat missions as side gunner. I sat in the suicide seat that he occupies during the occasional combat mission in Afghanistan, but couldn’t for the world imagine aiming his SAW out the window at a target. My niece crawled all over the thing like it was her personal jungle gym while my brother explained some of the finer points of his job to my mechanic husband. I poked my head into the tiny space in the back of the helicopter that my brother squeezes into to work on the Blackhawk. It was lined with wiring, electronics, and didn’t even allow him room to stand upright. Good thing he doesn’t have issues with claustrophobia…
And soon we headed across the tarmac to see the massive Chinooks. We hopped inside of the cavernous hull and it didn’t surprise me a bit when my brother said that they can transport two HUMMWVs (Humvees) at a time. J once again got to hop in the pilot’s seat and I snapped some fun shots of him in the cockpit.
Just as we were heading back to the car ,we got to see one of the Chinooks from another part of the base taking to the sky. Despite the distance we could hear the rhythmic thump of the rotors and soon the mat-black beast (a Special Forces bird) came into clear view. The Chinooks always make me think of bumblebees, so humongous that they seemingly shouldn’t be capable of flight.
It was so much fun to see where my brother worked and to play on multimillion-dollar helicopters, but as we left the airfield, I was reminded that once he deploys there is an aspect of brutal reality to all of this. Those helicopters aren’t toys but weapons. The day was a chance for us to play and have fun with my brother’s family but it was also a sobering reminder to me that these war games aren’t really games. I feel so honored and privileged that my brother let us get a glimpse into his daily life and I’m committed to praying that much more for him and his fellow servicemen/women while they’re away from home serving our country.