Last night was the "Farewell to the Troops" party for my boyfriend's unit. So it seems only fitting that today, Mike and I met up with his sister, Laura, her boyfriend, Zach, there friends Danielle and Drew, Mike's army buddy, Adam and Adam's ex-girlfriend and ex-fiancee, Lauren.
I met Danielle, Drew and Lauren last night. More accurately, I saw the three of them last night. Zach pointed out Danielle and Drew to me, and I asked Adam who the chick was. He answered in a tight-lipped, dreamy-eyed, one word response. "Lauren." It took me a minute, but after a second I realized that he was talking about THE Lauren he's been in love with since his first tour in Iraq. "THE Lauren?" Head bobs affirmatively. "For real?" "Yes." "What are... what's going on... what are you?" "I don't know." Fair enough.
Two weeks ago, when Mike and Adam and I went to Cedar Point, Adam told me about Lauren while Mike watched the Cubs game (their last game - he was sad). Lauren was nothing like the way I imagined her. I like her. So did/does Mike. I feel bad saying that.
Boys and Their Toys
Lauren and Adam were wearing Adam's military-issued pants (old style, from last tour). Mike and I were wearing Mike's military-issued jackets (also from last tour), and Mike and Laura were wearing Mike's pants from the last tour. Believe it or not, military-issued clothing camo is COMFORTABLE.
Anyway, Mike and I got there, got suited up, and we shared a case of paint with Adam and Lauren. The boys gave Lauren and I instructions on the proper way to hold our guns, point our guns, aim our guns and shoot our guns. However, Adam still labeled our box of paint, "The Black and Blue Crew." Lauren and I figured that was for us.
Of the four of us girls, only Danielle and I had paintballed before. And my experience was a pathetic one from my freshman year of Grace, barely a week into the school year. Needless to say, my experience was essentially non-existent. Drew and Zach were way prepared. They each had their own equipment and have been going since, I think Zach said he started when he was 13. He's 23 now, so that's a lot of experience. I believe Drew's is comparable. Neither Mike nor Adam had been, but Laura and I refused to count them as in-experienced. They are, after all, military-trained. We were an odd group. We played something like 16 kids (10 and under, and one adult - leader? dad? something). At first, the other team had 6 kids and Drew joined them. The kids pretty much worshipped him. Hard to blame them. He did look awesome with his spare cannisters of paint balls, fake bullet-proof vest, uber-cool gun and the experience that oozed from him.
Our first game, we played on the "tire" field. There were stacks of tires laying about as barricades. We dodged behind them on shot. My glasses fogged up. I got shot in the face. I followed Adam out - he got shot at about the same time I did - and we went to watch our team die. He found Mike, "Come watch Your Man," just in time for the two of us to see Mike also get shot in the face. We have bad timing. We looked for Lauren next, Adam muttering under his breath about how it "wasn't fair" that she lasted longer than he. The game was over soon thereafter. We lost.
Onslaught of the Castle
The second game was a castle game. Drew and now 10 kids plus dad defended the castle. The rest of us plus five kids minus Zach (who tried to take pictures of us with my dying camera, forgot spare batteries like a moron... let's just say that didn't work, and he got shot - he had a nice neck welt for awhile) tried to attach to castle and steal the yellow flag. Mike and Adam instructed us before we left "Stay low. Stay low! Cover our backs. We'll go in." Arrogant jerks.
Needless to say, we girls didn't take to well to this, though the kids we'd earned thought it was "awesome." Mike and Adam went one way, Laura and I the other. Dunno where the others went. Laura and I were crouching behind a barricade in the woods and her gun got shot - the ref told her she was out. I took the opportunity to duck and run up close. Zach tried to direct me to get closer so I could take over covering Mike/Adam, but I got stuck. Every time I popped out to try to move, I got shot at. And there was no cover the other direction. Boo. Eventually, I got shot at, in the mouth like Mike had been the time before, and immediately agreed with Mike's estimation, "Ewww. These are nasty."
I yelled out that I'd been hit and walked out, followed again by Adam who laughed at me for my dirty pants (hello, I had to crawl. I didn't want to die!), my fogged-up glasses and my paint-covered mask. Fortunately, though, he described the rest of the game to me so I could "see" it. He couldn't decide if he was proud or ticked that Lauren and Mike were still in, and his voice changed from pride to disdain too quickly to keep track of. After ten minutes of game time, the game was over. We'd lost. Again. I hate losing.
Interlude and Tire Game
As we trudged out, Mike and I discussed Adam's ridiculous kevlar gloves and how much he wished he had them (when he got hit in the face the first game, he also go hit in the hand). Boys and their toys. We wanted to defend the next castle game- for obvious reasons; Dying and losing = bad, so had to wait awhile.
In the downtime, Lauren and I discussed how much it sucks having a man overseas. She told me some things that helped when she missed Adam and some things that she thought would help that didn't. Really appreciated it.
We decided to go ahead and play a game on the tire field before the castle field was open and meandered our way out. I was the first person shot. I have a very pretty bruise. I took the time between my death and the rest of my team winning (kicking BUTT) to make my goggles not foggy.
Defending the Castle
Defending the castle was fun, but not fun at the same time. Lauren and I shared a table and traded looking over the castle wall and through the holes to shoot the enemy. After a bit, our location was useless, and we both moved to defend other locations. I moved over to Mike. He was sitting on a table, gun through a hole and shooting away at an enemy I couldn't see. I found a hole under the table, a big gash, really and went in there. "Stop shooting! It's our man! It's Drew!" (Drew had finally managed to rejoin our team.) It was too late, and Mike ran out of paint moments later. I shared some of my mine with him and we both went back to shooting. I hit someone! So proud of myself. We won!
Victory is Ours
We played another tire game, unanimously deciding that it was the better of the two fields we'd played on. There was more room to move around, and neither team had a distinct advantage. As Adam pointed out in the car on the way home (Lauren had to leave early, so Adam caught a ride with Mike and I - jerk made me sit in back), "Any time you have the defense, you practically have it in the bag. You just need to weight for them to come to you." I finished, "And pick them off."
In any case, this tire game was fun. The teams were split up the same way they'd been the last game, and we switched sides. We were numbered off and split up, so we had about four adults (people over 20) per team, and 8-10 kids/team. I actually didn't die, I shot people, and I was able to figure out a bit more on tactics, thanks to Zach's coaching on the way from the castle field to the tire field. AND I was able to direct Adam (who after my Man left, took his spot at the next barricade) to shoot one of the kids. And one of us (both of us, probably) managed to kill Drew. Our team was victorious. Hurray!
The Last Stand
The last game that we all played was a little bit pathetic - and totally rockin'. The four of us were down to our last few paintballs, and even after we finished off the last bag, we each had barely half a tank. After Laura gave us the remainder of her bag, we each took a handfew and added them (I insisted this wasn't fair - Lauren and I have decidedly smaller hands than the boys), we still only had just over half a tank each.
This time, however, Drew, Danielle, Zach, Laura, Adam, Lauren, Mike and I insisted we play on the same team, and that the kids - all 16 of them - could play us on the same team.
Given the numbers, we did well. But that's not saying much.
Danielle, Drew, Lauren, Mike and I took the left side. The plan? Stay back, move up as can, conserve bullets. Within just a few minutes, Mike moved up and I went to take the barricade so I could get his back.
I got safe, checked left and right, saw Lauren, Danielle and Drew behind me, motioned to where the guys on the right were and took a shot. Then I went back to Mike. He motioned that he'd be moving up (I knew watching the whole season of "Band of Brothers" would one day come in handy) and ran.
As he ran, a terrible thing happened. The adult on the other team stood, saw him running, and shot him in the head. In slow motion, Mike fell forward and into the barricade. Mike held up his hands, "Hit! I'm hit!" The guy stood up and shot him AGAIN! Close range! That pissed me off. The guy stood again - Mike finally off the field - and I shot him in the face, the chest, and the arms. And then I shot two other people. One of whom didn't get off the field.
Drew called to Zach and they confirmed that left only two of their guys, and we still had Drew, Lauren, Laura, Danielle and I left. Note: military men = kaput.
There was one guy who kept dodging behind the barricade at the far right of the park. Following Zach's instructions from earlier, he was my target. I finally got him in my sight and managed to set my gun so my next shot would take him out. I shot. No more paintballs. I opened my canister. Empty. I scanned the ground. No good ones. Crap.
After a few minutes, I turned to Drew. "I'm out of paint."
"Zach just got out."
"Drew! I'm out of paint!"
"Out of paint!"
"If I run, will that draw them out enough that you can take them out?"
"Really? Yeah! Go to the left and run, not straight down the middle, but close. Don't stop. Just sprint." Let's just say, I'm not a sprinter, but I did my best. I got shot five times. And I as I ran, I freaked as I counted heads. There were 6 kids left. Six.
I now have two marks on my right shoulder, one of right knee, one on the left of my side, one of my left thigh and one in the middle of my back - one of the ones from the right shoulder was from an earlier game. Stink.
After I got out, it wasn't long before the rest of my team ran out of paint. I didn't even have time to join Mike and Adam at the side to watch the rest of the game. When I did, Adam said, "Nice shooting. Remind me not to piss you off." We got our butts kicked, obviously. But it was good fun. And seriously, it's not like we had even numbers.
Most of us were done, but Mike and Adam played another game. Lauren left, I turned in my gun and Mike borrowed Zach's gun. I always feel bad because Zach is trying sooooo hard to make Mike like him, and he's so shy that he doesn't feel comfortable talking to him. Today was the first time Zach really felt like he could have a conversation with him and not have to be careful. He couldn't even tell Mike what type of music he likes. But here, he was so proud to let Mike use his gun. Laura and I exchanged glances and laughed. I feel especially bad because Mike has NO IDEA he intimidates Zach.
The boys just randomly joined a team, and I tried to get my camera to work, but couldn't take pics through the heavy screening. Zach offered to go on the field again, but noting his slightly less-swollen neck welt, I passed.
We all moved up to the screen. Mike running to the same place he'd been running to the past game. He got shot in the chest. He'd taken off his jacket and his other two layers, so had only one lightweight t-shirt in-between the paintball, the five feet from the shooter and his skin. He has a HUGE welt in the center of his chest.
He lay on the ground, the wind knocked out of him for a minute. Before he stood, he held up his gun and his arm. I couldn't hear, but imagined him yelling, "Hit!" He stood and got shot in the back by the same guy. The same adult. Also has huge welt on his back.
The game was over while I waited anxiously for Mike to get off the field. Adam beat him off and asked me what had happened with Mike - the game was over -and told me what happened to him.
We were starving so Adam, Mike and I stopped at McDonalds. The nice boys gave me all their pieces for the McDonalds Monopoly game, while we discussed the trouble on wall street, what we'd do with $100,000 and I was quizzed on appropriate battle tactics. The men told me they wished they could practice on-the-field training with paintball guns and not guns that held blanks. Who can blame them, right?
We discussed our marks and bruises, decided Adam had appropriately named our "Crew" and had a fun time.
They laughed at me for "taking one for the team." Adam said he'd have just turned himself in. Mike patted me on the shoulder (the left shoulder, fortunately), and I said that they were a bunch of wimps.
And I'm standing by that. At least, until they leave.
20 days and counting until Mike is deployed.