Monday, January 30, 2006

Americans Abroad

I don’t know why this ABC anchor and his cameramen getting hurt in Iraq, has affected me so much. I mean it happens to our soldiers regularly, and unless it’s a large helicopter’s worth or something unusual, we’ve gotten almost used to it. Or at least we’re used to living with the pain. I heard one report that the military hospital the two wounded newsmen were taken to in Iraq does brain surgery on someone almost everyday. That's a lot of head injuries.
I think it was seeing Tom Brokaw on TV, discussing his conversation with the wife of the wounded anchor - hearing the details of evacuation flights and wounds that can change everything for a family in seconds. For me, it set off all those memories of being in the Middle East and having one incident or another occur. Times when the phone in our house in Arabia would ring in the night and I’d hear my Dad talking in a serious voice; asking questions and often making more calls after he hung up.
He was in Government Relations – the part of the oil company that dealt with the King of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the government. Relations between us and our host country were great at that time. People like my father helped to accomplish it.
Still, problems would arise, and a small network of Americans would spring into action. Diplomats, oil company personnel, the American Consulate. People. And as usual, it comes down to the families. Wives that have to be told. Children looked out for. Arrangements made. What do we have here? A plane down in the Gulf? Someone missing in the desert?
Some kind of terrorist attack?
You know Steve Kerr and how his father was killed in the Middle East?
Our families knew each other. My brother played on his brother’s softball team in Cairo. I talked to Steve about that outside the Benson Hotel when he was with the San Antonio Spurs. Just about all the Americans in the Middle East had some kind of connection, and we were all looking out for each other. And we all appreciated what an incredible place the Middle East is, too. Being an American living abroad was like being in an extended family or tribe, where you could be taken care of by some other family at an instant’s notice and feel safe and comfortable to be there. And when a tragic event happened, our shared culture was something to behold. Trouble really brought out the American in you.
Sure, it’s the same here in the States to an extent, but there’s this huge infrastructure. I mean we were out there where you couldn’t call the Coast Guard or some agency. The men and women would organize the best response they could to what could be to some fairly horrible circumstances. Calls were made. Incredible improvised solutions were put in place. I would hear grave voices in the night as this small band of Americans tried to take care of their own. I heard that tone again tonight in Tom Brokaw’s voice.
I associate patriotism inside America with a flag on a pick-up truck and a donation to a charity. If you really want to know what it means to be from here, go overseas.


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