Let me regal you with a tail about Marines, paint thinner, khat, and the first AIDS Clinic of Djibouti City, Africa.
This will be short, but funny enough to stay around for.
I, RP2(SW) was assigned the task of getting volunteers together from Camp Lemonier to go into city and renovate a space to be used as the first AIDS Clinic in the city.
It has been a long time since I was deployed there, 2005. At the time there was an overwhelming population of refugees from all the surrounding countries. If your looking for it on the map its a little country about the size of Rhode Island, tucked between Somalia, Ethiopia, & Eretria, on the coast of the Red Sea.
Here we are, I had successfully negotiated with the local hardware stores to get the necessary supplies and I take my contingent of enthusiastic young Marines off to get the job done. Were all having a blast, painting, drilling, hanging shelves, we give them the works. I’m off making sure supplies are unloaded and the paints being mixed. Well some of us get paint all over ourselves.
This is the biggest OSHA no-no; but, were all young and dumb and we start rinsing our hands in the paint thinner. Now… it worked, it burned so bad, but it worked. It became a contest between some of the Marines how much of the burn they could take. I know, I’m a NCO, I should of stopped this. Life lessons that you learn in hindsight.
As were packing up to leave. A Djiboutian soldier stops me and offers me a chew of khat. Its a drug, it was peddled at the time by the Djiboutian Presidents wife. We were banned from consuming it. He won’t take no for an answer. So here I am, leaving an offended Djiboutian soldier in the dust, because I basically have to ghost him mid sentence.
Now were packing it up fast, and we head out of there. It isn’t the most interesting story. But, I think its an important memory for me because in this warzone situation we were still able to be humanitarians and have fun. It’s not often fun is associated with a warzone.