I recalled this story on International Women's Day, a day when men celebrate, through the gift of flowers, the love of their life. Although a true man, of course, would never give flowers to the love of his life only once a year. It is a story about flowers, the roses of Asadabad. The bouquet of this story can still be thought of as the best and sweetest of all, past or present.
He was a commander of a Special Forces group in Asadabad. She was a nurse in the Afghan field hospital. I imagine their contemptuous smiles - "Chit-whore." Oh, how I would wipe those grins off their faces, if I could...Oh well, there is a better judge, who sits above us...
He had been working in the field along with his unit, sitting in the APC for several days. Now it was time to return to the base. There she was. Waiting. Faithfully and hopefully waiting for him.
He came across a fabulous rose bush, with roses more beautiful than any rose he had ever seen. He stopped to cut some flowers and lay them carefully in the APC's ammunition bin - what better place to keep them safe and fresh in this dry and harsh Afghan wind?
Then the ambush happened. On their way back to the base they were attacked and there followed a short battle, of the type they had fought so many times before and which was so familiar to them. The machine guns spat back, cannon roared with confidence. Who could think about flowers now? Finally, the three APCs escaped and sped recklessly into the relative safety of their base. No losses. No wounded. Thank God!
She had been waiting for him, worrying, aware of the firefight. He waved casually to her as the APC pulled up. "Hi!" He dropped through the hatch and re-emerged. She was somewhat confused as he handed her the thorny sprigs with their flabby petals. "Bumpy road, you know..." But she knew, from the shells clinking around inside the carrier, where the roses had come from and the cost. And nothing was now dearer to her than those thorny sprigs and the fact that he returned.
Whenever he brings her flowers, for any and every occasion, she thinks about the roses of Asadabad, the greatest bouquet of her life.
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