What’s the craziest lesson you learned while deployed?

That being a liaison officer (and brown) at a U.S. Embassy is awesome!

The embassy

My job at that time required that I correspond with the host-nation military to authorize U.S. cargo through the country. Man… these guys never responded to my memos. Not once. Ever! I sent emails and faxed. Did I call? A few times in the beginning, but what for? No one ever picked up anyway.

I could’ve failed to apprise them of incoming cargo, and it probably would’ve gone through anyway. Because it’s America.

Here’s a rule of thumb that veterans secretly carry: The further away from the flagpole, the better. Or as the saying goes, “Cat’s away, mice will play.” And we played!

I didn’t wear my uniform once while there. I’d show up to work later and later, then leave earlier and earlier. I went from suit-and-tie, to no suit, to no tie. And I drove all over the place. I had this apartment that could fit like three families. It was huge.

I did all my work. I just didn’t bother volunteering for more. I had to check into a meeting via video teleconference once a week with my parent unit. I always said that the camera was broken so that I could sleep during the meeting.

Being brown

The security briefs would say to avoid talking to the locals. Eh. Apparently, they didn’t believe I was American anyway. And if you claim to be Canadian, it’s like being American but not as contentious.

But I didn’t even need to do that much. My family background is Spanish-Filipino, and I speak both languages (moderately well). In the Middle East, Filipinos are slave labor. They didn’t see me as worth anything anyway. And so, it was like I was too worthless to become a target.

In the U.S., if someone asks me, “Where are you from?”, he means, “Why are you not black or white?” Or, “What country are you from? Not what state.” Because apparently being brown disqualifies me from being American.

The funny thing is, the rest of the world seems to believe that, too.