The second country my cartoonist pals and I visited while on our USO-NCS tour was Djibouti. Located on the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is bordered on land by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and by sea the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. And just for kicks, it is a stone’s throw distance across the water to Yemen. Good times.
Let me tell you now, Djibouti had by far the toughest living conditions I have ever experienced. While I never heard what was the exact temperature, it felt hotter there than in Kuwait, likely due to the intense humidity that was always present. It was as if you showered in the morning, toweled off, and were instantly wet again. I actually developed some sores along my wrist where my watch was. One of the guys even changed his shirt three times one day in an attempt to stave off the inevitable stink. And because of the humidity, there was a very real danger of contracting malaria from one of the resident mosquitos, so we were all on malaria meds for this portion of our trip.
We were assigned to Camp Lemonnier, a military base established by the French in the 1950s, and now occupied primarily by the United States Navy. In fact, this base is the ONLY U.S. military base in all of Africa. It is a tough part of the world in which to serve. Due to the danger in the area, everyone was restricted to base, so our arrival was welcomed as a nice distraction from their routine. After spending three days there, my heart goes out to the men and women who are there between nine months to a year.
On night two, the gentleman below sat for me. He was memorable for several reasons. 1. He thanked me profusely for coming to see them in Africa. 2. I had been there longer than he had been! He just arrived that day for his nine month stint, I had been there since the day before. 3. His name is also Chad. And the strangest of all is #4. While drawing for him, the topic of West Point came up in conversation, and Chad said he graduated in 1994. I looked up and said to him, “I attended your graduation.” He looked dumbfounded, so I explained that my cousin was from the class of ’94, and was currently teaching at West Point. I went to my cousin’s graduation, so therefore I also saw Chad graduate!
Tomorrow I will wrap up my thoughts about Djibouti.