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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Stuck in the Desert
March 29, 2007

      Stuck in the desert.

      We are “stuck like Chuck” as they say over here, wheels hard into the soft dirt which endangers every vehicle which ventures off the beaten path.  It’s nighttime, dark, we’re unsure of where our road went (what passes for a road out here, at least), two of our vehicles have mechanical problems, and one of them is up to its axles in silt.  We halt for the night.

      Sleeping in a HUMMWV is sort of like trying to sleep in a chair at your kitchen table.  There are no headrests.  Your legs are cramped in front of you.  Besides the upright position, we are wearing all our “body armor”, the protective vests and helmets we are required to wear while transiting the country.  All we can do is slump our head down onto our chest and try to sleep the best we can.

      Except me.  I volunteer to stay in the gun turret and watch for anything bad to come up against us.  From midnight to dawn, I watch in silence.  Nothing happens, except I lose sleep.

      Even the Army calls this a “watch.”  While “on watch,” the guard will ensure the safety of his teammates by watching for any danger and arousing them from sleep if necessary.  Danger is the reason we are best protected in our armored HUMMWVs - there is no protection from bullets when one is lying on the desert sand in a sleeping bag.  Some soldiers venture outside their vehicles to sleep in order to stretch out and actually get some rest, but there are risks with this.  Most decide to remain cramped inside, while the guard provides overwatch.

      It’s been a long and exasperating journey so far - we have been driving for almost 20 hours on what was supposed to have been a six hour trip.  We have had numerous times we have had to pull a vehicle or two out of mud, we’ve gotten lost, and we’ve had truck breakdowns.  Some of the vehicles have had transmission problems develop from the workload of pulling 13,000 pound HUMMWVs out of mud over and over.  None of our vehicles are in good shape - the abuse of the desert terrain has taken its toll.

      Dawn in the desert comes quietly, noiseless but vibrant.  It awakens me and cheers me.  The promise of a new day brings the hope we will reach Doa China soon, and I will be able to rest.

-- Jeff Courter

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Charles Henderson

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.