> jumping into life.

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My best friend is in the Army.

She joined right out of high school, got a medical discharge after two years, then joined again last year. Part economic draft and part pride.

We talked last night for the first time in a while. We've been best friends since second grade, and we were pretty different even then. Our families and personal histories have always made a good contrast: her's pretty rough, generally, and mine looking pretty much like it was designed by Norman Rockwell.

If we met today, I'm not sure we'd get along. But nearly two decades of friendship seems to carry over: we understand each other in a thorough and unique way that so far is greater than our differences. She likes the reaction she gets from telling her friends that her best friend is a hippie--"No, really! She doesn't even shave!"--as much as I enjoy telling my friends that my best friend is in the Army.

My best friend is in the Army.

Last night she told me that they gave her the vaccinations for smallpox and anthrax; they gave her a grenade launcher and top-secret security clearance; they gave her shipping orders for the end of November.

The end of November, this year.

She's a linguist, Military Intelligence; she's one of five translators for 5,000 people and the only female. She tells me she'll be safe.

"The best way to start a fight in Iraq is to have a woman in a public position of power," she said. "They'll keep me on the base."

We don't talk politics.

She listed all the dates she'll be missing: Christmas, her first wedding anniversary, her birthday, my birthday, her husband's birthday, her second anniversary, another Christmas, another birthday. All of 2008. Most of 2009.

She wants to start a family soon; her husband's getting a dog while she's gone.

Can I say it again? My best friend is going to Iraq. At the end of November. She's in the Army.

I can't believe she'll be gone all that time. I mean, I hear it on the radio every day but seeing it put in such personal terms made me shiver. I'd like it if you kept us posted; tell her there's a blogger out here thinking about her. Maybe she should blog.

It feels like you are holding eternity in your hands in this moment but try as you might, you don't get to keep holding it. You can only let go into the next moment.

Thank you for bringing us your beautiful love story. I'm proud of her, proud of her accomplishments and proud of her intelligence and proud of her courage (I believe we can be proud of someone we have never met and have no claim to, for another contributes to all of us, and I am deeply pround of incredible young women such as you two friends).

I wish her wisdom, guidance, and safety, and for you both much peace.

I'm sorry she going; sorry anyone has to go. Our niece got back last January from her year of duty - she's a doctor - we were all very worried about her but she survived. Your friend will too, I hope and pray.

Thanks for your warm thoughts, all. It does make me consider taking up prayer.

Beautiful essay. And: ow.

Harsh. But lord knows the Army needs translators. (I mean, they need to come home, but you know what I mean.)

Tmorph, thanks.

Dave, they do need translators. I can't imagine that the tensions between all parties involved are improved by a complete lack of communication.

tell me more? nika

I understand. My son is in the Guard.

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