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Jeff's Afghan Diary: Coping With Bad Feelings
August 13, 2007

      Tomorrow I am scheduled to be on a helicopter flight out of Do China to begin my route to Bagram Air Force Base, to fly home on leave. 
The flight will probably be cancelled, because most of these flights are – some higher priority mission takes precedent and we get stuck here, in the middle of nowhere, without a way to get to a major city except by convoy.  So while I hope I get to fly out (it will eliminate the need to convoy me to Waza Khwa, which will be a help to the other guys in Do China), I don’t really expect it; I expect the flight to be cancelled like most of the others have been.

      It’s hard to describe my feelings about anticipating being home.  I’m really looking forward to it, but I think the time at home will be over so quickly, it will be disappointing.  Two of our teammates just got back from being home on leave, and both of them have been depressed about having to come back to Afghanistan.  I talked to one of the infantry Soldiers here in Do China who had gone home on leave a month ago; he said when he got home, Afghanistan was like a bad dream to him.  It wasn’t until he had to come back that the realization hit him that it wasn’t a dream, and it wasn’t over.  I expect I’ll have some of all those feelings when I have to return.

      It’s too bad that I have to think about the negative feelings of returning before I even get home to visit, but I guess it’s my way of steeling myself for the inevitable downer of having to come back to this place.  Perhaps I don’t want to allow myself to get too happy, because I know it’s temporary, and the happiness will have to go away.  But I’m glad I’ll be able to visit my family, even if it’s only for a couple weeks.

      Speaking of feelings, I have come to realize that most Soldiers over here, myself included, don’t allow themselves to fully feel most of the feelings that go through our heads – most of them are negative and would only interfere with getting our mission done.  So we stuff all the anger, disappointment, fear and resentment into some dark hole, deep inside of us, where they can’t get out and hurt us or others.  Especially others – nobody wants to be the one who lets all the negativity out to affect the rest of the team.  Pain?  Suck it up, Soldier.  Rage?  You’re not alone – just hang in there, everybody feels it.  Let it go, it won’t help you and it doesn’t change anything.  Just focus on the mission, and perhaps try to enjoy what few little things we have to give us some comfort: a good meal, an occasional movie, a book, talk about a favorite team, whatever keeps the real feelings at bay.  It’s a dehumanizing mental process, but it allows us to cope.

      When I start to allow the feelings to come out, tears come to my eyes – feelings of frustration, anger and helplessness start to surface.  I don’t have anything I can do with such feelings, so I shut them off.

      Hopefully, when I get home, I’ll have better feelings.  I’ll be able to let them out.

-- 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.