By Staff Sgt. Derek M. Smith, 411th Engineer BrigadeJanuary 9, 2013
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Resting in a secluded patch of a training site in Grafenwoehr, Germany, a simple bench sits. Old and worn, its rough, moss-covered surface faces away from training facilities and housing in an almost prideful defiance.
When it was placed and by whom may have long been forgotten. Its purpose may be argued, as it is out of the way and appears abandoned and unused. In an area where service members spend countless hours of training for future missions in far-off lands, this simple bench seems to only speak of the past.
A lifetime ago, it seems, engineers of the 411th Engineer Brigade from New Windsor, N.Y., trained here in preparation of assuming the lead in the full military engineering mission in Afghanistan. As members of Joint Task Force Empire, they looked ahead to being the sole engineer command deployed. Now, training in Germany is a distant memory and an out-of-the-way bench may seem of no significance to the preparations of their mission.
Nearly a year removed from the training, and countless rotations of units which followed, the bench calls out. How many hear its call? The foundations of the mission were laid here. Those foundations support the operations conducted today, no matter how weary one may become with the mission, the foundation may always be rest upon - like a sturdy old bench.
All things past touch the present and shape the future. Even the roughest of surfaces may reflect.
The training and preparations continually evolving around this bench lay foundations for missions to come. During operations, service members reach back to lessons learned and develop from base concepts created prior to deployment. How many plans and concepts were developed around this simple bench? How many people sat upon its weathered surface, looking to the future, reflecting on the past, or simply took a minute to enjoy the now?
A sadness sits over the bench. How many brothers and sisters-in-arms sat here before going off overseas, but paid the ultimate sacrifice? Within the eroded and cracked wood reside countless hopes, dreams, plans, wishes and regrets of thousands who took pause in this quiet corner of the world.
Some may say that relics of the past belong there. They should be discarded to make way for the new. What is the relevance of a neglected bench from a forgotten time which appears as if it turned its back to the present?
Though, upon second look, that bench may actually not have its back turned to the now; it may actually be looking to the future - not in sadness, but actually with content.