Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Mission Continues, etc.

I spent the weekend in the “northland” where this Florida boy endured snow flurries mixed with rain and the cold weather was the kind I really don’t care for. (They don’t even have grits up there…)

Now that I’m back in Central Florida, I’ve come down with a bad cold (the Yankees did it to me, mama…) along with a few other unpleasant symptoms. Debbie will have to put up with me for a day or so (yeah, I’ll get the chicken soup routine) and then it will be back to the Army grind.

We were working once again with a unit that will soon head to war. These guys are used to the cold so they’ll need to do some adjusting no matter which war zone they go to. I traveled with one of our officers, a major who is also a cop.

So while I’m sitting around the house today sick, writing my report on our trip, Debbie’s favorite cat, Trixie, “escapes” from the house through a window (unlike the above cat who didn't get away).

Trixie is an indoor cat who ran into a dog outside and fled fifty feet up a tree. We managed to get a very long ladder up about half way, but she spent about six hours up there. Just when we thought we’d get her down, she fell onto a shed and dislocated her hip.

Sad thing, but she will have surgery tomorrow to repair the damage as best as can be done for a kitty-cat. We have several pets, but this one is almost my wife’s “fifth child”.

It kind of reminds me of an unusual convoy in Iraq back in 2004:

* * * *

One very hot and miserable day, we sat in the staging area at Camp Victory waiting for General Davidson to finish his meetings. Lieutenant Cooper came by and said he just received a phone call from one of the unit’s officers. This particular officer was at Baghdad International Airport waiting for a flight to a nearby country for a four-day pass.

Cooper told me we were ordered to go to the airport to pick up a “package”. As we pulled out of Camp Victory’s main gate onto Route Irish and turned right to go to BIAP, I joked with the guys that we were probably going to pick up a new cage for the officer’s cat. This soldier had adopted an Iraqi cat, made sure it was vaccinated and examined by the unit’s veterinarians and arrangements were made to ship it home to the States.

As we drove up to the military terminal at BIAP, this officer and a traveling companion were dressed in their country club casual clothes and they were relaxing in lounge chairs waiting for their flight. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the pet cage next to them. They planned to take the cat to Kuwait and ship it home like a stuffed toy.

Unfortunately for them, the British military, upon whose plane they were booked, said there was no way they were going to carry a cat on their plane. It was unbelievable but true. The “package” we were ordered to pick up was this orange and white Iraqi cat. My mighty warriors were now pet-sitters.

My blood pressure began to rise, but Cooper was in a very awkward position. For the cat’s owner to make me bring my guys out of Camp Victory onto the most dangerous road on earth and go to BIAP to pick up a damned personally-owned feline was an unbelievable abuse of authority.

As I stood outside our Humvee and listened to all of this, I began to get really pissed off. In fact, I was so angry I turned around and went and sat in the vehicle. I knew if I didn’t do so I was about to say something that would get me in trouble.

Higginbotham was sitting in the driver’s seat and he was already getting a laugh out of the whole thing. His window was open and he heard the officer say in a thick southern accent, “Ah don’t know if ah want Sahgent Grist to carry mah cat. He’s an asshole.” I didn’t hear the comment, but I heard Chad begin to chuckle.

Poor Cooper. With his eyeballs rolling back into his head in disbelief, he took the pet carrier and put it in the back seat of our Humvee. We drove out of the airport, back out onto Route Irish and returned to Camp Victory where we would wait for several more hours for the general.

Now the challenge really began. This poor cat was existing in a pet carrier in one hundred and twenty degree heat. As time wore on, we began to notice that the cat was looking a little “ragged”. Aaron took it out of the carrier and the foreign feline had gone from being a lively little ball of fur to looking as though it was melting. Its ears hung low, its fur drooped and the corners of its eyes began to dip downward. The poor little bastard had heat exhaustion.

A massive life-saving effort began and we turned the Humvee on so the air conditioner would run, using a great deal of U.S. Army gasoline to try and keep this cat alive. We offered it water, but it wouldn’t drink. We held its little jaws open, forced water into it and slowly, over an hour or so, the little guy began to come around. The water made a big difference, but the cool air was the deciding factor to me.

The general was finally ready to leave, so we drove up to the entrance of the Water Palace to pick him up. The little Arabian cat sat in his carrier in the back seat of our Humvee and the general probably never knew he was there. Cooper was a good guy and, even though what this officer did was improper, he protected the soldier’s reputation with the boss. We ended up giving the cat to one of the unit’s soldiers back in the Green Zone until its owner returned.

I made a short video later about the “cat convoy” as a joke for the animal’s owner. I thought about ending it with the cat’s body being sold as food to the Iraqis, but I figured that would be in bad “taste”.

* * * *

See? I really like cats….with a little mustard on whole wheat bread…..just kidding!!!

SFC Chuck Grist

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I are not southerners. He's from Calif, I'm a total Damn Yankee. When we were traveling south of the Mason-Dixon, we thought we had reached the south when our breakfast menus had grits on them. We found out we _really_ reached the south when the grits _weren't_ on the menu - they arrived on the plates! everyone of them, and completely unordered!