Saturday, January 16, 2010

What Was Your Name Again?

Story By: SGT Natalie Rostek

FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq – You never really know who someone is until you care enough to ask. I'll be the first to admit that there are many people in my life I would say that I know, but when I try to think of their names I draw a blank.

I know I'm not alone on this.

A wise man -- I'll call him Sgt. Maj. Richard Hairston -- once told me, "there are a lot of Soldiers with interesting stories but no one talks to them long enough to hear them."

I thought about that and you know what? It's true.

That Soldier at the dining facility who watches you swipe your card. You know, that guy. He may have just had a baby. Maybe his dog died. Who knows?

What about the guy at the laundry facility? The one to whom you give your underwear. Do you know him? Do you even know his name?

I used to make fun of my dad, Joe Rostek. He could start at one end of a room and by the time he reached the other side he would have interacted with everyone there.

"Hi. Good morning. How are you today? Nice seeing you. Take it easy." Or he would just shake their hand.

I noticed myself doing it when I went away to college. On my way to class I found that I could not pass someone without making eye contact, smiling, and saying something. Anything to let that person know, "I acknowledge your presence."

I do it now too. "Good morning. How are you? Looks like you're having a good day. So where do you work?"

I just find it awkward if I don't.

I am my father's daughter which may be why I went into public affairs. I love talking to people. There are so many people out there with stories, really, really good stories. Sometimes when I'm conducting an interview, we get off topic. Then the person tells me something and I'm blown away.

Did you know there are Soldiers out there who play in rock bands back home? Did you know there are Soldiers who are on their fifth deployment? Did you know there are privates and specialists who were restaurant managers, teachers, and lawyers but left their jobs to join the Army?

The funny thing is, I not only know, but I can remember the names of these Soldiers: Jorge, Scott, Ryan, Jonathan, and James (but he goes by his middle name, Brad.)

I know their names because they left footprints in my life. They weren't just passing faces, they were voices. I feel confident saying I know these people. I don't just know "of" them but I know them. If I saw them out on the street I could approach them and they would remember me too. It's all because I took the time to talk to them.

Now, you don't have to be public affairs like me to talk to people. I just got lucky. My dad is a contractor in Baltimore city but I bet if I asked, he could tell me the names and family members of his work crew, his customers, their neighbors, the homeless guys on the corner, the vendors at Camden Yards, and the waitresses of every diner in the city.

And I'm sure they know him too.

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