I’ll have to try Mesopotamia Mix. Lettuce can be so boring.

Amy Schlesing of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette is embedded for a few months with the 875th Engineers and writes on her blog about life at Camp Striker.

The crunch of soldiers trudging along the gravel paths of camp surround me as I sit here on my little folding chair outside my room.

The day is windy and cloud-covered, giving a break from the harsh sunshine but not from the heat. The wind is both a blessing and a curse, its hot blasts carry clouds of dirt but still help counter the sun’s effects.

This is the living area of Camp Stryker, acres of white metal trailers in neat rows surrounded by thick gravel and interspersed with the occasional bathroom and shower facility. Bathrooms and showers are communal, modesty is something you just have to get over.

Many soldiers have small grills, which glow with charcoal at dusk. Soldiers gather around the grill and laugh, play cards and listen to music.

The smell wafts through camp carrying memories of home.

Late in the evening another scent moves through camp — burning trash.

Many of these soldiers are what I consider kids. Gosh, wasn’t I 19 just yesterday? Apparently not.

I live among the 10th Mountain Division, an active duty unit that has had elements deployed continuously to Afghanistan or Iraq since 2002. Active duty units typically have a younger average age than National Guard units. It’s just the nature of the business.

Some of these soldiers weren’t even driving yet when this war kicked off. The boys who live next door to me — I call all male soldiers boys, even the older ones — love video games and rap music. They yell at the video screen in their room into the wee hours of the night and wake up with thumping music.

It’s all about morale, what makes things a little more like home. It’s amazing to see these boys, these men, on patrol outside the wire. They seem so much older. They’re so focused and confident. But in the evenings, as they wind down, they become the boys they were before their boots hit this ground.

Last night, a girl dropped by to visit one of them, and the two flirted by tossing rocks at one another. The flirting quickly escalated when the soldier found a lizard and chased the screaming girl with it. She’s a 10th Mountain soldier, too.

Do you remember those days?

There’s lots more….

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