CPT PATTI'S PARTY
As I sit here and write this it is 7:40 p.m. in Baghdad. If everything has gone according to plan the The Gators are right now throwing a party for our darling Patti. The party is a sort of a farewell to her as she finishes her command.
I can't say for sure what is going on, but I can well imagine that they have arranged for food...and probably a specially decorated cake.
Given the availability of digital cameras and computers and such, I am sure someone has prepared a slide show set to music...in that slide show there will be photos of nearly every soldier in the company, both past and present, whoever went to Iraq with the Gators. There will be dozens of pictures of Patti...some of her having fun with her soldiers....some of her alone (taken on the sly by the first sergeant) showing her deep in thought over how to accomplish 10 missions today when she only has soldiers enough for 6. There will also be photos of various landmarks and other items of interest around which inside jokes have developed. I wonder what music they have chosen.
The soldiers may have gone so far as to prepare a skit or two for her. If so, the skit will lampoon her in a nice way...and probably take advantage of the opportunity to exaggerate the soldiers impressions of other officers and NCOs - perhaps not as nicely as the skits reflect on Patti. And Patti will laugh and laugh, even if the skits don't come off quite as funny as the soldiers thought they were.
In the end, the 1SG will make some remarks about Patti. I don't know what he will say. But I know this. Three months after Patti took command in 2002, the 1SG extended his tour of duty as 1SG for the Gators. He wanted his older son to be able to graduate from the high school in Giessen where he had begun his high school years. And though Patti didn't know it, she was in a test period those three months. See, the previous commander was the one under which the 1SG was appointed to that position. And the previous commander turned out to be - well - let's just say had the previous commander stayed on, the 1SG's son would be graduating somewhere else.
So, it was a vote of supreme confidence in Patti when the 1SG extended his tour to pretty much coincide with hers. I suppose he will allude to that decision.
He will also say, I'm guessing, that back in 1991 he went to war during Desert Storm with the 101st Airborne Division. I think he will compare this one to that one. I suspect he will compare commanders. I suspect he will say something along the lines of "I've never worked with an officer who more genuinely cared for the soldiers than Captain Patti."
And she will get up...approach the lectern. She'll want to keep it light...she still has a week or so left as commander. She will tell them that she will say all that she wants to say during her change of command address. But she won't quite be able to stop saying thank you to everyone...for such a wonderful party. (It is just who she is, you see). And those thanks you's will drift from being about the party to the wonderful service that each soldier has provided to the company, to the nation, and to the Iraqi people. By the time its done, I'm guessing, pretty much each soldier will have heard his or her name called at least once. And Patti will be in sniffles.
When its over, most of the soldiers will head on back to their hooches. A few will remain behind, creating a sort of line to speak to her one on one...because it is always just a few of the soldiers who can sort out rank and position and appropriateness to the extent they are comfortable to approach their commanding officer and say, "Ma'am - I'm proud to have served with you...and in the future, if I ever get the opportunity to serve with you again, I'd do it in a heartbeat."
You see, that is the way soldiers say "I love you".
I'm sorry I can't be there at this party. Patti, being Patti, will allow so many of the kind words to roll right past her, not wanting to focus too much on herself. If I were there, I'd have the catcher's mit...to catch those words, words that spring from trials and experiences and bonding under conditions I will never know...I'd catch those words, and bronze them so that some day in the future when she wonders what legacy is hers...I could carefully dust and polish them until they gleam. I could then hand them to her and say, "See darling...you served your soldiers and your nation well."