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Where Fridays are Sundays

August 14, 2011 | Colonel Fred Johnson

I slept in this morning but was up before the alarm went off at 4:30 AM.  I have made a commitment to always sleep in on the weekends. It’s Friday, “Juma,” the Islam holy day and the Ministry of Defense is closed so we only work half days. 

Today is my Sunday.

The first hour of my day doesn’t change, weekend or not.  I sleep in a room with 20 other guys so I am careful not to wake anyone up.  I have a head lamp that is next to my rack and I put it on.  It lights the way to my wall locker where I gather hygiene items and then it helps get me to the door without bumping into anything. Once it the hallway I turn off the lamp and stroll the thirty or so feet to the bathrooms.

There are two bathrooms with two sinks, two toilets, and three shower heads each.  I’m up well before anyone else and I normally have my pick.  The only exception is the infrequent times when a sleepy-eyed Soldier, Marine, Airman, or Sailor meanders in to use the latrine.  Of the four toilets there is only one seat and it sometimes rotates from latrine to latrine. I look in both bathrooms and choose the one with a toilet seat. 

I’m convinced the scarcity of toilet seats is pay back for my wife and daughter and the too many times I forgot to put the seat down at home.  

At the sink I prepare to brush my teeth and shave.  I put a bottle of water on the counter and turn my IPOD on to “shuffle.” The bottled water is for brushing and rinsing because the running water is “disinfected but not safe for consumption.”  The IPOD is to set the tone for the day. I usually get two, sometimes three songs, during personal hygiene.  It’s the only time I listen to music and I’m at the mercy of the “shuffle god” inside the IPOD who capriciously provides my early-morning entertainment.  I have no bad tunes on my IPOD, only those that produce happy thoughts.  Today, I hit the jackpot with back to back Jack Johnson,

Johnson’s song, “Better Together,” transports me to a 6th floor balcony of a condominium in Indiana that overlooks the Ohio River.  I’m with my two girls and the dumbest dog in the world. The view and the company are divine.

I’m there for a cherished moment.

I towel off my face and then I'm back again. I turn off my IPOD, pack up my hygiene kit and head to my wall locker.

I dress into the my Army running gear and walk down to the “Goat Café” dining facility to grab a cup of coffee.  The “Goat” is open 24 hours and I have my choice of “regular” or “strong” coffee. I normally split the difference and go half-and-half.  The sun is coming up and the morning is cool.  It almost smells like fall and I’m reminded that I haven’t seen a baseball score in two weeks and I wonder how the Cardinals are doing.  I also make a mental note to pull down the Florida State Seminole football schedule.  I take my coffee to the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation, or MWR, phone center.  The room is empty and I sit down at the phone furthest from the door so I’m not interrupted.

This is my favorite part of the day.

I dial a series of numbers, pray that I get a first-time connection, and wait for my wife to pick up. “Hello” echoes from the other end.  I take my first sip of coffee and for 15 or 20 minutes I’m propped up with pillows laying in bed next my wife Laura and my daughter Madelyn Gail. The dumb dog sometimes even makes an appearance. I would not admit it to anyone but I almost miss her. It’s 5:00 AM here and 8:30 PM there - the alpha and omega of the day. We completely fill that time and the 7,500 miles of space.

Those moments are ours, just us three.

I hang up and walk to the Warrior’s Gym for the start my Sunday morning run.  Sundays are for long distance and today I plan to run the ¾ mile loop around Camp Eggers ten times.  The loop is a lollipop with a short side street out and back. I’ve only been here two weeks and I’ve memorized every step but have yet to be bored.  Each segment of the loop offers something special and unique.

I set off to run the “stick” of the lollipop, my favorite part of the course.  I pass under 50 feet of green overhang provided by the only trees on the camp.  For the 50 feet I’m carried to other green spaces of other Sundays.

And, then, I’m back.




  • Laura Johnson
    8/14/2011 8:24 AM
    The phone call you mention is my favorite time of my day. It has become a ritual that I must prepare for. All work must be done - I must be in my "jammies" and comfortable (couch or bed) and then I close my eyes say a little prayer that you will call. Then I wait - eagerly and anxiously until I hear my favorite voice in the world - the voice that gently reminds me that one more day is done and that I will get through this.
  • Marla Perkins McDaneld
    8/14/2011 8:44 AM
    As I sit in comfort on this Sunday morning sipping my Bunn-brewed coffee, I am transported to another world. Thank you for sharing your blog with those of us enjoying the freedoms that you and so many others afford us. Thank you-the words seem so lame. I pray for you and others I know. I pray for all that I do not know. I pray for the families who also make huge sacrifices. Another sip of coffee here, and I glad you have the "Goat."
  • Fred Johnson
    8/14/2011 11:15 AM
    Thank you Marla. The "Goat" has pretty good chow, as well. Best regards.
  • Sarah Christine
    8/14/2011 12:43 PM
    Wow it's amazing to hear how you wake up everyday, how you live. It's so different and I like being able to read your blog. It gives a good sense of what it's like. My fiance is in basic right now. I am just trying to prepare for the future a little. It's hard being apart but if feels better to hear your day.
  • Fred Johnson
    8/14/2011 9:59 PM
    Great to you thiis morning Laura. Have a great day and until tomorrow ...
  • Fred Johnson
    8/14/2011 10:01 PM
    Your fiance iis in great hands Sarah. He is a part of the best and greatest team in the world. Thank you for supporting him.

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