How's it going? I realize I don't know you very well, but I think about you a lot. I guess that's because across the street the window is decorated for you with all kinds of red, white and blue, and lights. They turn them on every night at dusk.
I actually asked for your address weeks ago, but you know how it goes. The nice weather comes, and everybody is so busy. Seems like every weekend there's a party or a cookout.
Anyway, that's no excuse, especially when I compare what your days must be like over there in Afghanistan compared to mine. I've heard everything over there is the same color -- sand. You wouldn't believe how green everything is here. We've had so much rain that the grass has to be cut every week. The water in the streams and rivers is still moving pretty fast, but I kind of like when that happens, because it seems to extend the fishing season.
I thought about you and the other American troops and civilians over there just the other night. I was at a state park called Locust Lake, sort of fishing, but not really caring. I could smell dozens of cookouts, and the sounds of families talking and laughing carried easily over the still water at dusk.
This is it, I was thinking, this is what it's all about. All these people are camping practically right next to each other, but everybody's getting along and having fun. There's nothing like the outdoors to put everybody on his or her best behavior, because nobody wants to spoil it.
Maybe that's because my brother was in the first one, the Persian Gulf War, at the same time I was hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Port Clinton, Pa. I remember coming to a view and thinking, "I wish he could see this, he would love this."
We sent each other boxes of books; we couldn't share the experiences of what we were doing, but we could share the experience of reading the same book. I still have a copy of a book called "Lonesome Dove," with the inside page signed by all the people who passed it around and read it over there, before one of my brother's friends gave it back to me.
I sent him pictures from the trail, and everybody over there passed them around, too. My brother said later that they all just wanted to stare at all the green.
I'm sorry it took so long for me to send you these books. Back here where you're from, we're doing the same old stuff, the stuff we take for granted. We'll go to fireworks and parades. We'll cut our grass, sit on our porches. We'll have cookouts, go fishing and hike to views.
And we'll think of you, and the others serving far away. And across the street, that light will be on until you come home.
***Tara D. Goshert, Shenandoah, Pa., is serving in Afghanistan.