Michael Peterson – Performing Artist
We are in Baghdad Iraq to entertain deployed US Military and DOD Civilians.
As we wake up around 6:30 am, it is already approaching 110 degrees in the shade. Before the sun sets it will be in the mid 130's.
Preparing for departure, we are informed that several US Soldiers died recently going in and out of the gate we are scheduled to travel through today as we drive to our shows.
This was supposed to have been their last week before heading home.
Well... wait a moment.. this is our last day on what is likely our last trip to Iraq.
Change of travel plans. (Thank you Colonel Chambers.)
We wind up taking Blackhawk helicopter rides instead of Humvees drives to several Forward Operating Bases around Baghdad to offer music "shows" in small dining facilities.
Eventually arrive back in Baghdad at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
There we find a small contingent of US troops in the center of a very large contingent of Iraqi forces.
A good old fashioned "Barbecue" is planned in honor of our visit. I have no idea what the meat is but the sauce and cole slaw are incredible due to the heart and meaning behind the event. All around us there are Soldiers on guard with ready weapons on each corner of the balcony just in case we take any enemy fire.
Speechless again... appetite questionable.
The stage is a loading dock.
In front of us stand about 75 US Soldiers.
Behind us to our right... behind a cheap wire fence... about 25 Iraqi Soldiers and civilians. (They have been banned from attending... but there they stand.)
The refrigeration unit on the semi trailer next to the stage is almost louder than the speakers for the show. Our small speaker system and the stage lights can't handle the strain and blow fuses 15 minutes into the show.
It is nearly pitch black. What now?
I invite the remaining 50 or so soldiers to come as close as possible. I play another 45 minutes with no speakers or lights. It is perhaps the most memorable exhilarating show business experience I will ever have.
I feel pretty certain the toughest part of the day is done.
Wait. No helicopter flight home tonight? What?
We are soon escorted to our new quarters. They are approximately 6ft by 8ft. A makeshift room built with unfinished 3/4 inch plywood. No air. Sweltering heat. Thin mattress and pillow.
I have a splitting headache... I am feeling jumpy and wound up to say the least...
Then it hits me. This is where our soldiers sleep every night for a year-long deployment. Wow. I tell myself I will never complain again.
Sleep? Are you kidding me? NO PROBLEM.
For years when I've been too wound up to sleep after performing concerts, I've listened to Belleruth's Healthful Sleep imagery. I'm now totally conditioned to hear the first few bars and words of the intro and nod right off.
I turn on the sleep audio and wake up in the morning grateful for everything... especially the ability to sleep well even after an extremely stressful day.
Thank you, Belleruth Naparstek. Guided imagery really works - even in a war zone.