This is my tree. There are many like it, but this one is mine.
There are certain things that you learn to live without in my line of work. I miss some of them more than others. I love art, live music, and the feeling of my gigantic bed with my down comforter on top of it. But of all the things that are kept from me in this wonderful country, I miss great food the most. Don’t get me wrong an MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) is delicious cuisine. Still, after being on a mission for a week, then killing myself in a two hour workout that results in bleeding shins and locals running away from me because they think I am a white American demon brought to Earth to throw anything he can pick up and jump on anything he MIGHT be able to clear…well…a huge pile of Penang Curry would go a long way.
This leads me to the latest instance where everyone I’m co-located with reaffirmed their already pre-existing belief that I am truly insane. We had just finished a three-day firefight that, in short, sucked worse than that movie where John Travolta plays a girl.
However, as we were leaving this God forsaken valley I looked over and saw what I can only describe as one of the most beautiful things my eyes had ever beheld. There before me was a pomegranate tree. This wasn’t just any tree, this tree was green – really green – and let’s just say there aren’t a whole lot of living plants where I am working right now.
So there it is, in all its splendor, looking at me with its little green eyes, pretty much just pleading for someone to love it – to enjoy the fruit already waiting on it’s branches. There was no other course of action. I had to have it. I decided we (as in my entire team) were going to stop and transplant this gift from God away from this valley of murderers to my FOB (forward operating base). And that is exactly what we did. Yes, I was berated by my fellow soldiers who thought getting out of our vehicles at this juncture was near suicide, but I kept my eye on the prize. I knew that there was a greater good that had to be accomplished.
It didn’t take long for the story of my tree to spread. I wake up every morning, I walk over to MY pomegranate tree, water it, and check the fruits of my labor (pun intended). I have in the past few weeks enjoyed some of the most delicious arils my mouth has ever tasted. In case you don’t know, I’m from CA. The pomegranate is not indigenous to CA, but has been there long enough for me to claim it as a CA fruit. They’re a little taste of home. MY tree is outside my hut, and the unspoken rule is very clear – no one gets near it. I’m a pretty amicable guy outside the cage, but touch my tree and it will bring you a certain and painful death.
I don’t have a nutritionist. I don’t have a physical trainer. I don’t have a million dollar MMA facility. So I make up for it with extreme violence (sometimes taken out on inanimate objects), some creative workout plans, and now a pomegranate or two. My tree is just the latest of my eccentricities that concern my fellow mates. On most missions I wear a hat with a big fat peace sign emblazoned on it. I’m not trying to do the Full Metal Jacket “duality of man” thing – seriously, you can ask my wife. I just like the hat. The pomegranate tree, the peace sign hat, and my love of “classic” 80s tunes is the trifecta that makes me the weirdest guy in country. We might be rolling onto a target, and out of my vehicle someone just might hear some classic Prince, or perhaps even Madonna.
If I were a bad guy and I looked out my window and beheld a bunch of dudes who look like I look (220lbs, beard, way too many guns for a single person, and one of them in a peace sign hat) rolling into my hood, and they were listening to Duran Duran while they ate pomegranates, I would pretty much surrender right there and then. Either that, or I would decide that this group of infidels wasn’t worth the effort and explosives it would take to blow up…plus then I’d have to run away before more of them showed up…and its hot outside today…I really don’t want to get all sweaty and sandy for these guys do I?
Anyway, assuming I don’t get blown up, shot, or otherwise made dead, I will be back in the good old USA soon, and I am fired up about it. For the first time since 2001, I will be fighting full time. Being a special operations soldier and being a professional fighter at the same time might sound like an easy gig, but I assure you it isn’t. Now I have my green light. I have been told to get as good as I can and win every title I can.
My new mission is to be the best fighter in the world. You’ve heard this from a lot of guys, so I know it might ring hollow, but I now have total clarity and total focus on the task ahead of me, and I’m not big on failure.
My future opponents have something to fear. I will be spending every waking moment with the best guys in the industry. They are going to have to lock me out of the gym. I’m not going to be taking for granted the fact that I now have real mats and rings to train with. I won’t be taking a fight only days after graduating Ranger School. I’ll be 100% ready and focused. Even worse for that next opponent, he will have to deal with me imagining that he just stole my last pomegranate. It might seem funny to some of you, but when you have been deployed where I’ve been and seen what I’ve seen you realize a single piece of fruit is a really big deal…and that guy across the cage just took mine.
Thanks again for all your support!
Tim “TKO” Kennedy