Sunday, December 22, 2013
New Poem: "Major Griffith"
"Major Griffith" is the latest poem in my poetic memoir, A Wave of Poetry. The element I was supporting was stationed in the city of Sabang on the Island of We, the nearest area left relatively intact by the tsunami that also had a salvageable airfield. Our mission was to receive relief supplies, usually delivered in C-130 Hercules', and then to off-load the Hercs and upload helicopters, usually Chinooks, bound for the truly devastated Banda Aceh province of Indonesia.
The conditions in Banda were appalling. Open sewers were the norm there, and the tsunami distributed the raw sewage everywhere and mixed it with mud, debris, chemicals, and heaven knows what else.
Major Griffith was the Air Force tactical commander forward-deployed to Banda. His mission was to receive our Chinooks, off-load them, and then upload them into trucks for distribution to the victims of the tsunami. I only saw Major Griffith once when he flew via helicopter to Sabang to brief his counterpart on his situation forward. I will never forget it.
At that time, I had been in the Air Force for almost five years, and in all that time I had never seen an officer in such rough shape. Major Griffith was plastered waist high with mud and human excrement. His boots were in ruins--completely unsalvageable. His face was dirty. His eyes were red. He looked unhealthily thin.
This was actually no wonder. He and his command were literally "in the shit." The mission of mercy was so dire that he had no choice but to run twenty-four hour ops, so he was utterly exhausted. He reported that there was nowhere to sleep anyway, nowhere to pitch a tent. His airmen were dropping from the heat and fatigue. All of them had rashes and coughs. Many had diarrheal illnesses.
I gave him just about all of the dermatological medicine from my meager supplies as well as a whole bunch of hand sanitizers--all I could spare without jeopardizing my own mission. I also gave him my deepest respect. I hope my poem does him and his command justice.