One thing we would do when I first went over to Iraq in spring 2003 was watch Sex and the City when we were off duty. We were located in Baghad International Airport, in a shelled-out bakery. It was a one-story, adobe building, high like a warehouse with a lot of space inside. Charlie Company had one section; Alpha Company had another; the officers slept across from us in another building. I slept in the area with all the women, but if I had to go to the bathroom—we had Porta Johns set up outside, I had to walk through someone’s sleeping area.
On our time off, we’d sit there in our cots or in foldable stadium chairs, and set up this carry-around DVD player where you’d pop in a DVD and it had a screen to it, like a laptop or an iPad. It was so itty bitty, so small, but it was something we could have over there; you could get them for $200 at the PX. And so my one friend introduced me to Sex and the City. She had mentioned this show that was on HBO and she asked me if I’d ever heard of it, but it wasn’t something I’d watched. She had the DVDs, so we’d sit there on our off time and eat MREs and watch Sex in the City. I’d only eat the buttered noodles and crackers from the MRE because I guess they made me feel safe and cozy. It was me, my girlfriend and some of the British soldiers, most of them lounging in their PC clothing, their black Army skivvies and a gray tee shirt , but me, I actually brought with me some cute polka dot pajama pants from Target and little yellow camp tee shirt that I got in a thrift store, and if it was off-time, I’d be wearing that.
I felt good in those pajamas. I could strip myself of the very masculine uniform and bring out a little of my real self. The pajamas were cute, and fun and bubbly. And I think the whole Sex and the City really tapped into that femininity. I really liked the message of the show. It was really empowering. So even though we were in a war and I was far from home, I was happy.
I now actually own the boxed set. When I watch Sex and the City today, it brings me back to Iraq, to lounging around in my pink polka-dot pajamas with my friends. I loved those people. I don’t think I appreciated them then nearly as much as I do today.
Combat-Ready Kitchen opens and closes with the memories of DJ, a marine who bonded over a shared MRE in a bunker while being fired on by Saddam Hussein, and Sergeant Michael Kent Jr., who fed his lunch rations to starving local children in Honduras. This page features the soldier stories that didn’t make it into the book, as well as others from the dozens of veterans who responded to my query on the military.com website and in its newsletters. Military.com, thank you so much for your help!
If are a veteran or soldier and would like to share your experience of eating field rations while deployed, email me with a description and photo or send me a video link. I’d be honored to post your story in the gallery.