Note: This is an archived post from J McClain on the legacy Best of Us website available at

As we sit here five days away from Memorial day I’ve been reflecting  on my time spent in Afghanistan and some of the friends who aren’t here  anymore. I started remember small details that start sticking out to me  as clear in my mind  as they ever were. I once sat under a canopy of  camo netting surrounded by Hesco barrier (big baskets filled with dirt  to stop bullets) waiting for our little outpost to get shot at for the  third time that day in the heat of August just bullshitting with my  brothers about what we would eat when we got back or the terrible things  I can’t mention that we would do to get our hands on a Klondike bar. I  looked up through the camo net as I lie on a makeshift bench in my IOTV  (now just a glorified plate carrier to hopefully stop bullets) with my  helmet right at my side ready at the first sound of contact to get to  our defensive positions , and I had one clear thought that I can still  remember ” God what I wouldn’t do to just be able to lie out in the sun  and just soak it up and maybe even take a nap”. Through everything I  deal with everyday I’ve decided to embrace that thought and pursue  that  very activity. Lying back on a lawn chair I look out at the forest that  stretches out before me as the wind whips some wind chimes hanging up  back and forth.

It gives me time to look back and appreciate being able to just sit here  and relax and take in the experience , the sensation of the wind  blowing against my skin the birds I can hear in the trees , and the  smell of the lilac bush. Taking it all in just living in that moment I  can stop thinking about the things that were the places I’ve been and  the friends I’ve lost and just exist in that moment. Life is full of  these opportunities these instances where we can put everything in our  heads aside drop all that baggage and just embrace the fact that you’re  here and you’re alive. Go out and take advantage of these opportunities  go out and use them. It can provide a great deal of grounding or at  least it kind of has for me.

In the end sometimes it’s the little things. The passing thoughts the  plans you had in your head with what you wanted to do when you get back  that can bring you closer to those we didn’t bring back or what you  might feel like you left behind there.