I was just a kid, in charge of other kids. Some of them older than me. And we all carried guns.
At 24 this was my second time going halfway around the world, my first time as a leader. Compared to some of my peers I was a trip behind.
So they sent us off, to some small, walled compound at the intersection of some valleys, deep into the mountains of eastern Afghanistan. We may as well have been on the moon.
We did all those things we wanted to do when we were little boys. We stayed up past our bedtimes, played in the forests and mountains until we were exhausted. We didn't shower. We got to play army, that whole good guys vs bad guys thing. And we all carried guns.
Eventually though we felt less like kids. We stopped feeling civilized. We wanted a regular bedtime, a real shower, a clean set of clothes.
Towards the end it just felt normal. It was our life, our existence, and we were proud of it. We thrived in it. Secretly we didn't want to leave it and have to relearn the rules and lives we had come from.
When we were home, we didn't feel like kids. We didn't feel like any one thing. How do you explain that you miss your little piece of the war? How do you tell someone that the kids we used to be were gone, lost somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan?