What is my favorite summer food?
I went through all the classics- watermelon, pop cycles, street tacos, Costco hotdogs, ribs, mac n cheese, and of course peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
All of them are great contenders. All of them taste like summer.
As I reflect on my life, I think of one food that I ate under a scorching sun, surrounded by friends, and fondly remember- it would be Sandwich Time during my deployment in the summer of 2005.
It seems like so long ago. The memories are beginning to get a bit fuzzy now, faces are not as clear, and sometimes I have to pause to remember names. And yet, Sandwich Time is as clear to me as what is on the menu for dinner tonight.
Back then, so very long ago, we did our missions at night. Our days would start mid-afternoon and finish in the early morning hours if we were lucky. A precious six to eight hours to sleep, write letters, do laundry, eat, decompress, and all the other things that were required.
Then do it again.
Hours later- showered, rested, and ready, we would trot over to the DFAC for dinner and grab a ‘Subway’ sandwich to-go. Wrapped in plastic wrap and paired with an energy drink, it was safely tucked into the cab of our truck until we arrived at our destination.
There are not a lot of roads in Iraq, and not a lot of scenery when traveling under the lights of millions of stars- but random items would guide us to our next stop. There was an oil line break that burned constantly, a tree with bent arms that resembled a scarecrow, and the outline of a small town in the distance that never had lights on.
Time and turns on the road guided us, and we always took a breath of relief when we arrived at the checkpoint safely. In my memory, I can still hear the radio announce that the last truck was inside the compound. I can still remember driving silently to our drop-off point eager to get a bathroom break and stretch my legs.
But, the most vivid memory is hearing the call over the radio- ‘SANDWICH TIME’- followed by every truck responding with the same answer. A swarm of exhausted, Rip-It-fueled soldiers would pile together somewhere in convoy with our precious sandwiches and drinks, and laugh about something and everything.
I don’t think the sandwiches were very appetizing. I actually remember them being a wee bit soggy at times. It was the fact that I was invited to the party every night. For those brief moments, I felt a part of something and wanted. We all felt a tiny bit powerful, a little bit like a bad-ass, and a vital part of the overall mission. Like supermen/superwomen in camouflage.
Those darn fake ‘Subway’ sandwiches made life bearable for me during that deployment because it meant ‘SANDWICH TIME’ with my friends.
We have all gone our separate ways now. I follow their lives through Facebook- remembering to say Happy Birthday and ‘Like’ some of their posts. I try to keep up-but life gets in the way sometimes.
But those memories, that one moment of time that we stood by our vehicles in the dead of night, surrounded by darkness and danger, is one of my happiest memories ever.