By Sharon Lacey,
I’m a comedian. When I was given the opportunity to go to Iraq to entertain the troops, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to be able to put it on my resume’. I wanted to travel. I wanted adventure. I was going for all the wrong reasons. I went to Iraq with ignorant, naïve opinions that I had held for all of my adult life. I came home a changed person. This is my diary.
DAY ONE: I’m at Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. I have a seven hour layover here after the five hour flight from Seattle. Plenty of time to talk to the soldiers who, like me, are waiting for the flight to Kuwait. I show my itinerary to the group of Marines sitting near me.
“It says I’ll be at about ten different ‘FOBS’. What’s a FOB?” I ask.
The guys laugh. One of them explains, gently, as if imparting news that might be hard to take. “Well, it’s like this: Over here,” he gestures with his right hand, “is the big, safe military base. And way over here,” he gestures with his left hand, “are the bad guys. YOU…are going to be…here.” And he moves his right hand close to his left hand.
Turns out “FOB” stands for “Forward Operating Base”, and I’m going to be performing for troops who don’t usually get entertainment, because they’re located so close to enemy territory. Well…I wanted adventure.
DAY TWO: The twelve hour flight from D.C. to Kuwait went quickly. I’m excited as I step off the plane and into the Kuwait International Airport. I run to the VISA counter, grab a number, and wait to be called to pay for the paperwork to enter the country.
A soldier walks past me, shoulders slumped, looking like he’s just lost his best friend. I’m over here to entertain the troops, I think. Now’s as good a time as any to start. I catch his eye, and ask, “Hey, are you okay? Is something wrong?”
“Some Christmas vacation,” he replies, glumly. “I get home, and I’m presented with divorce papers.”
My first introduction into what real life is like for a soldier. I want to console him. I offer words of sympathy. But all I can really do is stand and keep him company.
Two hours later, the other two comedians (Davin Rosenblatt and Dennis Ross, both of whom I’ve just met) and I are being driven to Arifjan Base, followed closely by two armed Marines in an escort car. Davin and Dennis are from the East Coast, and their luggage didn’t arrive with them. I’m grateful mine did. I had packed lightly; one small carry-on and a small backpack for ten days of travel. The most precious item in my luggage is the chocolate. I packed three giant Mr. Goodbars, a big bag of peanut butter M&Ms, and a bag of Kit Kat miniatures. I might be sleeping in a tent, trudging through mud, freezing cold at night, but I can survive it all as long as I have chocolate to see me through the tough times.
(Next month: Part Two of BACK FROM IRAQ: Diary of a Comedian)