It started as a school project with his students. Nasir wanted to get involved and thought it would be an excellent learning experience for his students. He contacted the local USO chapter, and after speaking with the manager, Mira, he had all the information he needed.
The children were each given a list of items that were needed for care packages and a letter to their parents explaining the extra credit activity and a permission slip. In addition to their supplies, the children were to each write a letter to a soldier serving in Iraq. The response was tremendous. The children and their parents were both involved in the activity, and they were all giving something back to those brave men fighting in a foreign land. In the spirit of the activity, Nasir participated as well, writing his letter, collecting the supplies that were needed as well.
They had a field trip to the warehouse where the packages were packed and shipped. Each child had their assigned station and they worked the whole morning into the afternoon putting together these packages that would be mailed overseas, in the hopes of bringing a small slice of home to soldiers waiting to receive them. The letters were collected and sent too.
That was to be the end of it, until a package arrived in Nasir's box in the teacher's lounge a couple of months after the fact from a Lieutenant Colonel Spartacus. It was full of letters responding to all of those that the students had sent. Even Nasir received one from a Captain Agron. From then on Lieutenant Colonel Spartacus' squad was adopted by Nasir's fourth grade class. Most of the children maintained their correspondences with the soldiers and once a month they would put together care packages again to send.
It started out more as a curiosity than anything when Nasir read Agron's letter. Their relationship started the same as with any pen pal; likes, dislikes, etc. It progressed into stories about their families, their childhood, and it developed into a real friendship. In between letters and emails, there were a few phone calls too. Agron finally suggested a video call in their last phone call. Nasir was nervous and excited. He was happy that he would finally be able to see his friend, and to be honest, he maybe a little smitten with him too.
The date and time were arranged, but Agron's video chat request never arrived. Nasir was naturally a little bit upset but he understood. The man was conversing with him during a war after all. Three days later, he found out why.
Lieutenant Colonel Spartacus called Nasir on his cell phone. There had been an insurgent attack during a routine patrol. Agron was badly wounded as was his best friend Donar, but Agron's brother, Duro, did not make it.
"They are not sure if his leg is going to make it," Spartacus sighs through the static-filled line. "Donar's going home in a few days. He'll still be here through his initial therapy and then he will be shipped to Germany to finish his PT and OT therapy," he explains. "Fuck," he mumbles to himself, "I still have to tell him about Duro…" Spartacus sighs heavily. "I know he was very much looking forward to your video call Nasir. I just wanted you to know what was happening and why he didn't call you," he explains.
Nasir is still dumfounded by the information. "Can-can I still write to him?" Nasir asks.
"Of course. He'll need that now more than ever I think. Look, we really don't know what's gonna happen. He has no other family, but I will make sure you know what's going on, either through calls or emails. He…he wanted to make sure you were informed if anything ever…," Spartacus coughs and clears his throat. "Shit! I forgot about Jager," he growls.
"Jager?" Nasir asks in a daze.
Spartacus laughs softly, "Their dog. The boys found a puppy out in the desert and took him in. The three of them took care of him and such," he explains.
"Agron never mentioned…," Nasir blinks and tries to wrap his mind around what Spartacus is saying.
"Well, Donar was supposed to ship him home, but now, with his injuries, they really can't take him. I don't know what's gonna happen to him now. I don't think Aggy could handle it if he was just abandoned especially after…," he mentions offhandedly.
"Well…I could take him," Nasir says quickly. If only to give his friend some piece of mind while he recovered.
Nasir stands in the hanger nervously gripping Jager's lead. The dog patiently waits, seated on his right side. The soldiers disembark the plane and walk into the hanger. Jager's ears perk up and the Shepard quirks his head to the right. He barks and lunges forward. Nasir releases the lead and watches him run towards the tall man wrapped in camouflage that is limping towards them. The man sees Jager run towards him and his face splits into a wide smile encased in dimples. He catches the dog as he jumps up to lick his face. He stumbles back a bit and slowly sits on the ground to roughhouse with the Shepard, as the dog yelps and plays with his missed companion.
Nasir approaches cautiously watching the exchange. The soldier looks up at him and smiles gratefully as he stands up. Nasir strains his neck back to look up at him. "Nasir?" the man asks.
Nasir smiles and offers his hand, "Welcome home Captain."
The captain smiles warmly as he takes Nasir's hand and pulls him into a giant hug. "Thank you," he murmurs in a quiet hoarse voice into Nasir's shoulder. Nasir tightens his hold when he feels warm tears cool against the linen of his dress shirt.