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It seems a strange time. My life, this war, and my tour in Korea seems very surreal. So used to seeing anti-Americanism from the safety of the States, it was certainly shocking to see it first-hand.

An anti-U.S. group of Koreans has posted on their website, the tool of dissention in our post-modern war-torn world, has made a statement they will attempt to "create altercations" outside of bars G.I.s frequent near USFK bases, then film these soldiers "defending themselves", for sale to news media. So in response, the 2nd Infantry Division is not allowed to drink alcohol, on or off-post, until September.

The entire world seems to have erupted in conflict. Is this because I'm now old enough to absorb it, or because mankind is truly rending itself to pieces. I believe the former. Mankind has been killing itself for tens-of-thousands of years, and why should things be different now. Somehow I've not been sent to Iraq yet, but I've been in Korea for almost 2 years. Now, just as I'm getting ready to leave in January, rumors of deployment start circulating in the barracks.

Too often do I hear soldiers saying, Oh, when you get there and the bullets start flying, you'll think differently. But then I meet those twos and fews, the men who are stalwart rocks of American idealism. Those men, like the Special Forces First Sergeant I had the pleasure of meeting at Camp Mackall. I was an SFAS candidate, trying to get my foot in the door of Special Operations.

One night, after spending 12 hours alone through the night in the dense woods of North Carolina, I stumbled into camp. We started with 380 men, all trying their hand at showing they have what it takes to be in Special Forces. Now, we were at 200 in less than two weeks. And these were not normal men. These were infantrymen, Rangers, snipers, cavalry scouts. Men who had been in combat, had taken lives, and come back for more.

And they were quitting left and right.

I couldn't believe it. I would look around one night, see the faces of proud men I was proud to stand beside, and in the morning, their racks were empty, silent testament that he didn't have the willpower to look through the pain, to drag themselves onto their feet and continue. The cadre, men who had themselves sweated and bled on the same rocks and woodland, didn't think too highly of these men. The 1SG came to speak to us.

See those men over there in the hut? You think those men will ever wear a fucking Special Forces tab? You think those men will ever wear this (special forces) combat patch? Hell no! I left the Rangers to be in Special Forces because I wanted to get away from the mindset and into a more mature organization. S.F. stands for suckfest, and it doesn't ever get easier. Shit, everyday you think about quitting, but you don't. And that's what makes you stand appart. At least you had the courage to try, when most of the Army doesn't even have the balls.

This man struck me so deeply, I still think about him often. He is the epitome of the ideal American fighting man. Idealist, professional, sharp, and handsome. He was above nobody. He talked to you like a human, as long as you showed him you had what it takes to stand beside him in the same uniform and cover his ass.

I had to go in front of a colonel, and had to tell him and other ranking Special Forces soldiers why I deserved to go to training. After 15 tense minutes, I was selected. On my way out, the last thing he said to me, "Good job 322." I thanked him as I practically ran for the door. Soon I was back in Korea, biding my time until I start training.

Life seems a waiting game. Always waiting for something, never satisfied. I always seem to miss deployment by a hair, and not because I don't want to go, but because it seems that I am meant to return for training. Maybe I'll find my destiny there, or perhaps it just by chance.

Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Charley. This dominates the front page of the Orlando Sentinel, and its lengthy attached article squashes any space to devote to Cindy Sheehan. I'd rather read about her struggle in getting some face time with our fine president during his much-needed vacation because I don't need any reminding about Charley.

Around our neighborhood post-hurricane cleanup still continues. Roofers are finally catching up, evident by rooftops on every block covered with pods of shingles. Nail guns accomapny sunsets. Tree services thin the canopies of dense live oaks, drop damaged pines and remove precarious branches.

We know our neighbors a little better, even to the point where I can tell you how many coolers they have. I also know exactly which storm drain siphons my street. Charley's scorched-earth policy of tearing up 80- and 100-year-old live oaks like they were weeds also forced lifestyle changes. "With all the trees gone," a friend of mine confided, "I can't walk around naked like I used to."

Hurricane Irene is currently taking the scenic route in to the shipping lanes of the North Atlantic, tossing a blessing of decent surf from the Carolinas to Rhode Island, and we can breathe a little easier. Around here, we're making sure we're ready for the next one. We learned the hard way, after years of saying, "Nah, it'll never get us," after seeing a possible landfall north or south of us as an excuse to party, after laughing at the warnings of NOAA. We did not realize that a mass of air and water can still turn on a dime. No, we can never be completely prepared no matter how much warning we have. What hurricane season brings now, however, is an austere practice of post-storm management.

Groceries are kept to a minimum in the fridge. With the announcement of a tropical depression in the eastern Caribbean, our outside freezer gets stocked with bags of ice. If it proves to be nothing, well, we can always use it for smoothies or margaritas. I've got extra chlorine for the pool and an extra tank of gas for the grill. We have a shelf dedicated to batteries and flashlights.

After hurricane season last year, the city of Winter Park took over the utility infrastructure from Progress Energy. In effect, a toddler with a box of plastic tools bought a jalopy from a master mechanic. All summer long we've been treated with random power outages, during both storms and calm. Some last for less than an hour, some for more than five hours. It's like they are training us to be ready for the next Big One. I figure if this is what it's like during a normal summer, when we do get hit, we'll be powering Christmas lights with generators.

Don't get me wrong. I love the violence of Florda summers -- the pounding heat, suffocating humidity, beautiful lightning and intense rain. To be out before dawn and watch the sun rise over the surviving oaks and pines lends an air of the primeval to even quiet suburban neighborhoods. But a year ago we experienced the most violent weather orgy Florida could take, and some are still recovering.

The Sunday paper will have an enormous commemorative section on Charley, I'm sure. Some local pundits have even spouted that Charley, Ivan, Jeanne and Frances were good for the local economy.

I, however, don't need to read it. I'll be out on my morning slog, nodding good morning to the tree guys and roofers, counting the blue-tarped rooftops and mourning tree stumps. When I get back, basted by the early-morning humidity, I'll look to see if Ms. Sheehan has gotten the time she deserves.

That is the only news that matters to me.

She is digging out lottery tickets, peering intently into the black hole that is her purse. He is reaching out carefully, with a soft finger that he brushes against her cheekbone. His face moves close to hers as he holds up the finger nearer to her lips. "Blow, Baby," he says "Make a wish". She does, smiles, and kisses him.
Watching them, I am envious. The warmth about/between them is palpable. When the doors close behind them as they leave the store, I lean over to my co worker. "Yeah, I want that". I say, still entranced by the afterglow they have left in their wake.

The limo driver who stops in regularly for coffee comes up to the counter. "Did I hear you correctly?" He asks. "Sign up for Match.com".

Do not, I repeat, do not
suggest to me to register with Match.com
or any other dating service
do not, as in ever

Mr Limo Driver takes my wistfulness with my co worker as an invite for a discussion into the wonders of online dating services.

There is no way in hell I will sign up for one of those. I am quite forthright with the man. Pleasant, but declining. He insists on telling me how great it is, except for the couple of whackos he met.

Thanks, but no thanks, I tell him

"But you could meet The One!"

I end the conversation abruptly with "My ex-husband put himself on an internet dating service, while we were married, using pictures I had taken of him. He abandoned me in California, took my children, and moved way the hell to Maine, completely disrupting not just my life and his life, but the lives of our children and our extended family to be with a woman he had never even met. No thank-you. I do NOT want anything to do with any kind of dating service."

"Wow", Mr Limo driver says to my coworker, in aside..."She has issues"

no kidding...

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