Waking up in the middle of the night in a warm house in the winter to get a glass of cold water from the refrigerator.
Stepping into a hot shower and staying as long as we want or until the hot water runs out -- whichever comes first.
Jumping in the car/truck/jeep just to scoot down the road, to get away, maybe enjoy the turning of the Autumn leaves.
Punching in a number to call a friend.
Staying cool when it's hot, warm when it's cold, dry when it's wet.
Fast food, fine dining.
Pizza. Delivery or frozen.
He hardly has a free minute of time and when he does there's not a lot to do with it. But sleep. Sleep beautiful sleep. Napoleon supposedly said that he would not give up the luxury of a bed for the highest throne. Ditto.
He is abroad, thousands of miles from home, from loved ones, from comfort. He wonders if he might never see home again, might never hold her again, but he doesn't dwell on it. He has to stay focused.
Which is not a difficult thing for him to do. Not in this hostile place where he does his work.
As he laces up his boots in the dark, he wonders if Auburn's for real this year. Seems like it. Undefeated so far. It's 0400 hours. Stand to. Long day ahead. Long, long day. And probably a long night. He's operated on less than 4 hours of sleep per night for the last 90 days. Probably no sleep tonight.
He can hear his platoon sergeant outside the tent talking over the diesel engines. The ammo truck is outside and a detail is offloading crates.
He snaps the chinstrap of his Kevlar helmet, velcros his Kevlar vest, buckles his load-bearing equipment, picks up his M-16 and works the action. He cleaned it before he went to sleep. The condom is securely over the muzzle. It keeps the sand and dust out. The sand gets into everything. Hair, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, uniform. Clean uniforms last about 15 minutes before they get that stiff crunchy feel.
He walks outside the tent. His platoon sergeant is checking ammo crates as the detail breaks them open. Soon everyone will be issued a full load of ammo. He checks his ammo pouches to make sure he has all his magazines.
The artillery explosions have been going non-stop. He wonders how he ever learned to sleep through it. He remembers when he once thought it impossible to do so. Artillery is a beautiful thing, though. Burn 'em down, he thinks. Burn as many of 'em down as you can.
In the distance he sees a steady stream of fire pouring down (it seems from the clouds), as AC-130s work over their targets. This is followed by secondary explosions on the ground that light up the sky. Then there's a single brilliant flash and a tremendous explosion. It's either a B-52 arclight or a JDAM hitting home. He can hear the distinct sound of Apache helicopters, but can't see them. It's Dante's inferno up there! Is this what his Dad meant when he said beneath the midnight sun they had walked the edge of hell?
The Colonel talked to the battalion yesterday and said the battalion was gonna start at one end of the city and fight through until it gets to the other end. He feels a little less confident than the Colonel sounded, but he's ready. The platoon is squared away and well-led.
His platoon sergeant is grinning at something one of the squad leaders just said. Everyone is going about final preparations. Finishing up their MRE breakfast.
The artillery and rocket strikes are intensifying. The AC-130s departed at first light. They're easy targets during the day. Air strikes are still going in. F-16s and A-10s and the Apaches, of course.
The platoon sergeant raises his right hand over his head and makes a circling motion. Time to load up.
He climbs into the Bradley with his crew. Everyone is quiet. No chatter today.
She's probably getting off work about now.
The Bradley bucks forward, accelerates.
North to Fallujah.