TV. Steak. Plumbing. Privacy. For many Americans, those items are banal conveniences, but for Army Reservist Maj. Wendi Brown, they were luxuries for which she gained a new appreciation during her eight-month stint in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan has taught me to appreciate how we live here in America,” she told the AFRO during a recent interview. “The living situation in Afghanistan is very basic…pretty much community living… I have to go outside to use the bathroom; I have to go outside to take a shower. It’s very different.”
That’s why returning to the familiarity of her home in Washington, D.C.’s Tenn Quarter—and visiting her parents’ home in Detroit—during a two-week respite earlier this month was so comforting. Watching the daily news, taking a shower without dozens of other people alongside, lazing in a queen-size bed for a few extra minutes offered a keener pleasure.
“Coming back home I see things a little different,” Brown said, including the treasured American pastime of shopping. “It was interesting to see that people’s priority was going shopping,” added the Detroit native. “In Afghanistan the priority is staying alive.”
In the Middle Eastern country, danger is a constant reality for military personnel such as Brown, who were deployed to fight the “War on Terror.”
“The Taliban bombs us at least once a week,” she said. “But, we’re very good with security and accountability so we’ve been very fortunate to have very minimum casualties.”
Stateside, Brown works a nine-to-five as the assistant director of administration and support at the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement. In Afghanistan, the Howard University alumna works for approximately 12-16 hours daily as the executive officer of the Fourth Battalion of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, which manages transportation logistics for the Army’s Southern Command.
“We don’t get too much down time,” said Brown. “Maybe on Sunday we get to sleep in a few hours. But for the most part, you’re putting in long hours every day. You keep working until the job gets down.”
For that reason, there’s very little socialization between military personnel on the base, Brown said, and little to none between their battalion—which is mostly confined “in the wire,” meaning they remain in a secured zone and don’t go off into the field to fight—and the Afghan locals.
Though Brown says she remains committed to serving her country, that duty can take a toll.
“I have a very strong prayer life and I have one or two confidantes——that I talk to as a support system and that has helped me tremendously,” she said of what helps to sustain her. And, of course, there’s always the thought of home.