A Day in September to Remember

Bedridden on a momentous day in September

 In this excerpt from my book “Kissed by the Taliban,” I am flown from a hospital in Afghanistan to a U.S. military facility in Germany.

CHAPTER 8 – Happy Anniversary, Assholes
September 11, 2010, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan


“It’s time to go,” a voice says.

Go where, exactly?

I’ve been told once or twice already, I’m sure. But I can never remember where “where” is. I’m not even sure how long I’ve been here, at Bagram. Could be a day. Could be twelve, for all I know.

“You’re going to Germany. Landstuhl,” according to the nurse with the name I can never catch. Or maybe it’s another nurse. There must be more than one. I don’t know. These pain meds make everyone look the same with only slight variations. It’s as if I’m being treated by a legion of scrubs-clad Cabbage Patch Dolls.

What’s Landstuhl?

The word swirls in my head like a gooey caramel. Laaaaawn-shtooool. The nurse tells me it’s a military hospital in Germany. Sounds good, I tell myself.

I’ve never been to Germany.


Yes, I have.

I was just there on a layover on the way into Afghanistan last month.
No. Two months ago. But it doesn’t count if you don’t leave the airport. I’ve been to the Charles de Gaulle Airport in France a dozen times, though I never went to Paris. That’s embarrassing. I guess I’m going to Germany. Why again am I going to Germany?

I mean to ask the nurse, but I forget. That rocket knocked every journalistic instinct out of me. Usually I can’t go two seconds without asking “why.”
She reminds me (again) that I’m heading to the American military hospital, where I’ll receive follow-up care for my eye. Apparently the damage to my skull is also pretty bad. The rocket completely shattered the side of my orbital socket. She tells me that in x-rays it looks like dozens of fractured splinters because there are so many fragments floating around there. For now I’ll forgo the grisly details, thank you very much, Ms. Kindly Nurse, whose nametag I can’t read, even with my good eye, because of all the wonderful narcotics floating around inside of me, making my insides feel like warm velvet.

Just give me more of those happy pills.


This gurney isn’t nearly as comfortable as my bed, but since I’m apparently going for a ride I’ll overlook its posturepedic shortcomings. It will be nice to see something other than that antiseptic white hospital room. As I’m wheeled out of the hospital doors, I breathe deeply the bouquet of aromas Bagram has to offer: jet exhaust, burning trash, and just a hint of fecal matter from the trucks that suck shit out of the latrines. Still, it’s good to be outside.

They load me onto a vehicle for a short ride to the flightline, then wheel me onto a waiting plane bound for Germany.

There are others. Like me. Each one on a gurney. They are soldiers. Injured soldiers. Soldiers with injuries much worse than mine. I can tell because of the way their handmade quilts lay across their bodies. Each of us has one. They are crafted by the caring hands of Midwestern housewives, replete with patriotic, apple-pie images from back home. My quilt covers my torso, tapers down to my legs, then peaks at the tips of my toes. Two of the soldiers’ quilts lay flat where legs should be.

I ask one of the flight nurses if I can keep mine; it’d make a cool souvenir, I tell her. She says no, then eyes me suspiciously, like I’m going to somehow smuggle this handsome handmade blanket off the plane in my rectum. We take off. Someone gives me pills that thicken the dense head-fog in which I now permanently exist. The plane vibrates rhythmically after leveling out, lulling me to sleep like an infant on a long car ride. When I wake up mid-flight, the soldier next to me is asking, “What day is it?” to no one in particular. Barely audible above the whirl of the plane’s propeller-driven engines, a voice says, “September 11.” There is a collective groan in the plane.

Thanks again, Bin Laden. Yours is the gift that keeps on giving.


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