An-young-ha-seh-yo! (Hello!)

So I made it to South Korea. After stops in Chicago and San Fransisco, I found myself on a 12.5 hr flight to Seoul International Airport. The trip to Chicago was really short and never left the terminal to find my connecting flight but had the chance to buy a BLT from Great American (?) Bagel Company, that’s right! I was surprised too. A huge dinosaur skeleton stood in the great hallway of the huge airport amongst hundreds of busy, yet sleepy travellers that early morning. All things considered, the flights within North America felt short and easy to manage. My voyage to Chicago was so quiet, I didn’t have anyone beside me and the plane was near empty.

However, my flight to Seoul was packed and extensive. I thought I would have a great cross section of travellers with me but instead I found myself amongst a plane full of American and Canadian soldiers. I was sat beside a gentleman named Jon, he lives in Colorado but is originally from Texas. He has served in Afghanistan (4 years) and Iraq (a lot longer but I don’t remember exactly how long). His first words to me were “My name is Jon, I’m drunk and I like bourbon. I also have some meds to knock me out. All you need to know is, if you need to climb over me while I’m passed out, go for it. But don’t hit my head, that’s all I ask.” I laughed and replied “Not a problem, thanks for the warning!” After talking for the next few hours about life in the military, he admitted why his breath had the strong pungent stench of liqour. He had been in a traumatic helicopter crash in Afghanistan that now makes him nervous flying. I understood and told him that I didn’t mind to which he responded with the first of many unnecessary handshakes. I told him “I’m not much of a bourbon man but I do, like many Canadians, love my beer.” He was surprised and proceeded to buy us both a shot to give me a lesson on the varying qualities of bourbon. I didn’t need the shot though, I felt like I was drunk just simply off his breath! We talked a long while before he passed out off prescription Valium and a stream of shots. Probably wasn’t the best combination of mind altering substances but the man has seen the worst human kind has to offer in his many years of service. He has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), he told me “you don’t get PTSD when you get home from the war. No, much sooner than that, you get it right away.” Jon told me that from years of serving overseas, he couldn’t sleep in his bed. He slept on the floor with his rifle for at least a month or two because thats all he knew for so long. His wife was very understanding as to not make sudden noises during night because his natural reactions were combat responses, not fit for normal suburban life.

Along with bourbon, Jon also loves Canada, especially Ottawa. He has visited many places in Canada including Toronto, Edmonton and a few small cities in Quebec. He said many times he had to come to Canada to get his young trainees out of jail for getting arrested being rowdy after nights of partying. But he loves and worries about his “kids,” that’s what he calls them. Every soldier under him that he trains, he considers his “kid.” The brotherhood, he called it, that everyone in the military shares. A common bond that cuts across race, religion, and (despite being called a brotherhood) gender. I should remember this because he did tell me five/six times with a slight slur but I appreciated it nonetheless. He said “we, in the military, don’t hate on civilians for not sacrificing all that we do, we just look for a simple thank you once and a while.” I thanked him.

Jon is an American Republican. I am a Canadian Liberal. I enjoyed our chat because we shared many stories about life in general. He told me about ‘southern hospitality’ and great places to dine in the US. I told him about how cold Ottawa gets in the winter and how it’s ‘francophone,’ not ‘francophile.’

Good Flight with Jon, I just wished that his liqoured breath wasn’t so strong.