Sunset In the Desert
By Brant Parker III, Army
Writing Type: Array
By Brant Parker III
I was in the U.S. Army, 10,000 miles away from home, and had been deployed to Operation Desert Shield/Storm. As on so many other nights, I prepared to take my turn on guard duty, and this night was no different. My buddy Paul and I were lucky, which is odd to say considering we were in the middle of a combat zone. But this night we were assigned to the 50-caliber on an APC. We were on point for our firebase. Our duty started at 1800 hours, so we headed out to relieve other guards for the night rotation. After guard change, we arrived at our post at 1805 hours and took our position for the night.
Paul sat in the driver's hatch, and I sat in the TC position manning the 50-cal. As we settled down into our positions, day was ending, and night was slowly enveloping us and everything around us. The sun had started to set, and neither Paul nor I paid much attention to it as it slowly sank behind the horizon. We were too busy talking. When Paul and I got together, we always talked about the “world.” Although we were soldiers on active duty in a war, neither one of us considered that we would not be rejoining the world we had left behind. It was a pleasant diversion to talk about what we were going to do when we got back home. We talked about our favorite foods we were missing and how we were going to eat as much of them as we possibly could when we got home. Then there was the beer we were going to drink, and which brands were the best and inevitably we shared stories about being drunk and stupid. Finally, the conversation would get down to the women we were going to chase once we left this hot, gritty piece of hell. There was never any doubt that we would be going home at some point.
Suddenly, I noticed the sky and prodded Paul to look. It looked as if an unseen hand had just painted the air as if it were a piece of giant canvas. The colors were so vibrant. The majestic purples complimented the brilliant royal blues. Streaks of rosy pink shimmered like diamonds on this masterpiece in the sky. A few billowy, white clouds made a background for this awesome scene. The sun was glowing a fiery orange red, almost like a giant pumpkin ready for the carving knife. As the sun slowly, slowly made its final descent into the western sky, the brown, desolate desert sand seemed to magically transform into a sea of shimmering shards of light. In those few fleeting moments everything around us seemed to come together and create the most magnificent sunset I had ever seen in my life. Never in a million years would I have imagined such a breathtaking sunset in one of the most dangerous places on earth during one of the most perilous times of my life. Paul and I sat together in that APC and watched in silent amazement until darkness blanketed the daylight. I tried, without any success, to recall a time in my life when I had ever seen such an extraordinary sunset. That night I felt as if I had been a witness to the power and majesty of the Almighty. My thoughts turned to God and I thanked Him for all the gifts He had given me.
For many years after that incredible night, Paul and I would refer to that amazing sunset. We wondered if we would ever again get the chance to see another spectacular sunset. Many years have passed, and I am now retired from military service. I often reminisce about that night of guard duty with my buddy Paul and that incredible desert sunset. I am certain I have never seen another one like it, and it is probably safe to say I never will again.
During that troubling and most dangerous time of my life, I wondered if that sunset was a sign from God wanting me to appreciate His grandeur that I had taken for granted. Was that His way of quietly telling me things would be OK and I would make it home? Honestly, I will never know. But when it comes time for me to leave this world, I hope I get one more chance to see that memorable and beautiful sunset on my final journey home.
Notes: Cincinnati Va Writing Group C/O Ron Nash