I haven't yet mentioned the worst thing that happened to me in this reservists training. I lost my wedding ring.
Since I got married, I have worn my wedding ring always and everywhere, and that includes on field training in reservists. I've never had a problem with it, and I've never even come close to losing it. This time, I even decided to take some precautions: I taped over the rings (I wear - wore - my wedding band and another ring on the same hand, a celtic design that I bought in Boston which served as an ad hoc engagement ring for me). It was a blue Finding Nemo plaster (oh cursed plaster). In retrospect, it was probably the plaster that did it - the slick surface of the plaster was probably more slippery than the rings would've been on their own, and sometime after getting off the helicopter and assembling at the start line for the mission, I realised that my rings were gone.
I can't really describe how incredibly downcast and demoralised I felt. Even before the mission started, there was a sense of disaster, a stroke of ill-luck. I felt like a complete idiot - the kind that could lose his wedding ring, for gawd's sake. I cursed myself for not putting the thing on a chain (a thought which had come to me before, and which I should've acted on).
That night, in the short span of time we had before the mission started, I went back along the trail several times trying to look for it - a hopeless task since it was dark and I couldn't use a torchlight. I held on to the hope that I could come back after the whole thing and look for it again, even though, as my CSM put it to me very rightly, it would be like looking for a needle in a needlestack. The missing ring haunted me for the next one and a half days.
After the exercise was over, I borrowed a land rover and went back with a few guys to look for it. As it happened, there was other, military, equipment that was lost and needed finding, so I took the combined search party out. We found the lost military equipment where it had been dropped, but when we went back to the landing site to look for the ring ... well, imagine looking in an area the size of a football field, overgrown with grass and mimosa, and without metal detectors to help us. I'm very grateful to the 5 guys who helped me look, including my CSM, who was nursing a back injury, but almost an hour of concerted looking couldn't turn it up. It was, as my wife's students would write in their compositions, to no avail. To be honest with myself, even had the ring been on the landing site, the blast of the Chinook's rotors would've sent them flying off to god knows where.
So, if anyone happens to come across two rings taped together with a blue Finding Nemo plaster, drop me a line. The rings have immeasurable sentimental value. You'll recognise them: our names are engraved on the inside, and the wedding date 14th Dec as well.
In the meantime, I've just come back from the jewellers where a replacement ring has cost me $570. Ouch.
Damn you Salazar. Damn you.