Lessons I Learned From The Army
Living With Less
by Brandon Hunt
A Strange Land
And so it was that I arrived in Baghdad as part of a convoy trailing dust. We rolled into the city by decree of federal orders.
No fanfare. No pomp. Just strangers sent there by powers greater than us.
We drove past an open market of tent stalls, displaying the varied colors of vegetables and fruits, along with the earthy stink of animals for sale. People dressed in robes and sandals thronged the market, many watched us with blank expressions as we passed by.
I felt as though I were gazing upon a scene from two hundred years ago, at a way of life that now appeared incongruous with 2003.
I noticed a distinct lack of color in the city, which may be skewed now due to years and imperfect memory. Buildings were plain, dreary and, again, built many years ago.
Everything had been touched by dust and desert. Brown and beige were all that existed. I looked at the skyline, it too was dust filled and bland, only by looking directly overhead could I see any blue.
A New Life
Back then, Baghdad was jarring to my soul, my sensibilities, and all that I was accustomed to. It was the first time I had been so far away from home and all the little comforts I took for granted.
The year I spent in Iraq was the ultimate lesson of deprivation, of learning to get by with less.
Upon arrival we didn’t have access to ice or coolers, let alone refrigerators. We had a lot of water bottles, with no way to keep them cold.
Under the Iraqi sun, clear water bottles heat up fast.
However, a trick to cool water bottles was passed around. As we would convoy to and from our Areas of Operation, I would slip a bottle into a sock, tie it to the outside mirror, and then drench the sock in water. As we drove along the roads, the wind and wet sock would cool the water bottle enough to make it drinkable.
Eventually we were supplied with coolers and ice to keep our water cold.
In the early days of our deployment, we had to make do with less, it was the motto and reality of my life at that time.
We rigged up a shower system of tepid water --- we had a time limit on our showers.
We endured primitive bathroom facilities for a time; we washed our clothes by hand in small plastic tubs; we lacked any method of cooling our tents. We did our best to improve conditions, but generally we learned to get by.
As our time in the country lengthened, we gradually brought our living standards closer to what we were used to.
Because of my Army experience, specifically my deployment to Iraq, I truly understood what it was like to live without the abundance I was accustomed to.
I’m not advocating a life of austerity. But having less in life is a distinct possibility for us. The cracks in our society are evident.
Over the last couple of years, we have all had to get by on less in one way or another. Not because we choose to, but rather we are compelled to do with less. Perhaps it’s putting less gasoline in the car, buying fewer groceries, and so-on-and-so-forth.
In terms of emergency preparation, there is an inherent understanding that you expect, at some future point, you will have to make do with less.
There are so many events happening right now, all of which contribute to issues around food production and supplies.
Are major, long-lasting shortages on the horizon? I don’t know. It’s possible. But that’s why we prepare, right? We prepare both physically and mentally as best we can, with full awareness we will get by with less. Our period of plenty may be shrinking.
The Frugal Years
So where can we look?
Lately as I have been researching for Emergency Zone, I’ve returned over and over to the Great Depression. If any modern Americans had to go without, it was the generation of those lean, desperate years.
They had to become skilled in stretching resources, repurposing items, and finding new uses for common objects.
My grandparents were children of the Great Depression. They carried that experience with them their entire lives. Even after the Depression they didn’t have much, and I didn’t really understand that as a kid. I do remember one grandpa was a skilled, do-it-yourself cowboy, and my other grandma was a farmer who had one of the best gardens in town.
My grandparents didn’t waste anything. They knew how to live with less, because they had to, but they were skilled, happy people.
If you want to be frugal, and learn to get by with less, then look to our history for sources, whether it’s recipes from the Great Depression or even earlier. American history is filled with lessons on frugality, of people living with less.
The great asset of our time is the abundance of information and our easy access to it (at least for now). We have the ability to learn from the past like never before.
This post was inspired by pondering upon Thanksgiving and gratitude. I suppose it’s just natural around this time of year to experience an increased sense of gratitude. I’m grateful for the life lessons I learned from my short time in the Army.
I can’t predict what lies ahead for us, but I feel there is a palpable sense that most of us will experience a lack of resources in our lives in the near future. With inflation alone I have chosen to go without some of the basics.
I don’t like to focus on the negative in posts, but we have to acknowledge the existence of numerous problems, which could impact us all for quite a while.
However, as we give thanks this season and enjoy time with family, let us keep in mind the need for preparation and the possibility of living with less.
All the folks here at Emergency Zone hope you have a great Thanksgiving.