Monday, August 31, 2009

HAPPINESS IS A MATTER OF TIME & PERSPECTIVE

Dear Friends,

Now, I want you to do something for me...I want you to be completely honest with me. I know what you are thinking, “Oh, my gosh, what in the world is Bob going to ask?” “Is he going to ask, ‘Really, what was that Swedish tourist girl like forty years ago?’” No! It isn’t anything as drastic as that...but, it is no less important! Do you remember when we were all stationed there at Iraklion Air Station forty years ago...thirty-seven years ago...thirty-five years ago...and we used to complain about Iraklion Air Station and Crete? Tell me if I am mistaken, but didn’t we used to say things like, “I’ll be glad to leave the ‘Rock’(Crete) and go back to the ‘World’ (USA)?” Or, perhaps, it was something like, “I can’t wait to get off of this God-forsaken island and go back to the land of fast food and even faster women."

Now, I am not being critical...I used to say the EXACT same things, or perhaps even worse. After all, I was there for a total of two years, eight months! But, have you noticed how our perspective has changed over the years since we have been gone from Crete? Sometimes I think that we used to say the things that we did about I.A.S. and Crete, because it was in vogue. We wanted to be like our friends and say the things they said, so that we would be considered, “cool”. But, in the years that I have been gone, my attitude has changed, and I think that your attitude has probably changed as well. So, how do we reconcile the differences...the way that we felt when we were stationed on Crete, and the way that we feel now? I think that Nikos Kazantzakis, in his novel, ZORBA THE GREEK, summed it up very well, when he said, “While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize - sometimes with astonishment - how happy we had been.”

Ha. Ha. I have to smile and laugh! Does that not sound like us today? When we were on stationed on Crete, we were truly not aware of just how happy we really had been, that is, until we had left Crete! And, now, when we look back on those wonderful days spent on Crete, we now realize, that for many of us, those were some of the happiest days of our existence!!!

Take care, stay well, and let me hear from you.

Your Friend and Fellow “Silent Warrior”,

Bob Armistead
ADDENDUM: Dear Friends, I think that perhaps I need to add a little clarification to the above post. I was not intending to imply that we were unhappy while we were on Crete, but I was implying that many of us failed to recognize how happy we had been while we were on Crete and perhaps did not realize the full positive impact that Crete had on our lives until after we had left. If I had been unhappy while I was on Crete, I certainly would not have extended for another year at the end of my initial 18 month tour, and, I would not have extended for an additional two months at the conclusion of that one year extension. AND...if I had been unhappy on Crete after my arrival 40 years ago, I would never have returned last year for a three month vacation, nor would I have returned again this year for another three month vacation. I still maintain my original conviction that we ofttimes complained, not because it represented our true feelings, but because we heard others complain, and not wanting to appear different, we echoed their complaints. I hope this will help to clarify my position.
Bob (the not-so-Silent Warrior)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bob,

I am probably going be the spoiler on this one. I can honestly say I loved being stationed on Crete. Maybe it was because I did not spend my tour tied to the base the way some of my friends did, or maybe it was because inside I think I was running away from troubles at home, and Crete seemed to be the answer. I'm not sure. What I do remember is that I experienced the entire realm of emotions on that base and can't believe how vivid some of those memories still are today. I witnessed some of my greatest joys there, like seeing friends get married in the base chapel and sharing that experience. I witnessed great pain and sorrow as well. I stood in the "ER" and watched a friend breath his last breaths as he died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident off base. I fell in love on that base and then had my heart broken as she married my best friend (true story), right there in that same base chapel. Maybe it was my youth, maybe it was the closeness of the small base, I am not sure which, but I loved being stationed there. Maybe I was the oddball, but I would do it all over again in an instant.
Steve Dietz

mac said...

Sorry BOB,But I'm like Steve.I never stayed on base much at all except for a p/T job.I found my wife( girl friend then) and away we went.All over Crete and weekends to her village.Beach most of the time.I fell in love with the OLD country living and people right off.I was shocked in 1976 went I took leave from IRAN to have my family stay at IAS until my tour there was done and met a SSGT in pass and ID that said the base SUCKED.He stated he did not go off base much.I felt sorry for him as he had no idea what he had lost.I have seen much of the world and there is no place as good as Crete even today.

vesparider said...

While I was there I made lifelong friendships, saw the most beautiful town in the world (Agios Nicholas), almost killed myself (through stupidity) playing with an unexploded mortar shell, saw a marriage melt down, and developed an unhealthy appetite for alcohol. I was 18 when I arrived and 20 when I left. I joined the Air Force expecting adventure, wild women, and life-changing experiences. Well, Crete was not what I was expecting. I was too often bored and took solace in drinking way too much at the Airman's club. I would love to have been stationed there if I had been a bit older, married, and could appreciate the beauty and simplicity that is Crete.

mac said...

Bobby,I am sure your are correct in the fact that many had their eyes closed there.I just did not see many as I was too busy having fun.like you said they opened their eyes later and found Crete to be a great place.I understand people can feel lost when they go to a new base or country.I feel as you do that Crete brought the best out of most who were lucky enough to be stationed there.I would do it again in a heart beat.I understood what you said and I agree...

Anonymous said...

Bob,
"Live the dream" for many of us. I got to the rock 40 years ago in August and was first on Dawg Flt. Speant my 18 months and had a great time getting off base with friends, travelled all over Crete and some other Greek islands. Pcs'd to the Far East and was given Crete for my only chance to get back to the European Area. Since I had great memories of the rock, I said why not? Came back, did alot of travelling again, met my wife there, got married at the base chapel, and now,(36 years married), as two X1's we have a wonderful life and great memories of Charlie Flight and the rock. I went for a visit back in mid 80's and Crete hadn't lost it's appeal, just more hotels and tourist. The locals were great, even saw my old landlord and neighbors in Iraklion. Since Jo and I can't be their, you live the dream for us. Thanks for your post, it was a good life then.
Sterling & Jo Calabio

Steve G. said...

Sometimes, things were not fun for me on Crete. The regimen of the work schedule changing every four days always threw me off balance, but it made me closer to my compadres. Getting any sleep was a challenge. However, sometimes exciting things would be happening and I would think to myself: "This will never happen to me again." I will never forget sharing a beautiful house with Wilton P. Rosier the third. "Rosy" was always ready to party, because he always slept at work.
Stevie G.