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I have a good friend who has been deployed in Iraq with his PA National Guard unit for nearly a year now.  Anyone who has ever had someone they care about in a combat zone will understand how nerve wracking that can be.  Luckily, we got word from him recently that he should be home soon, which was some of the best news I’ve heard in a while.

The one sunny side there has been to him being overseas is that we have managed to stay in pretty consistent contact with him in a way that I would guess many friends and family of soldiers have not.  You see, along with being a great father, a loving husband, and a good friend he is a geek, something he shares with the rest of our little circle of friends.  Now, I know you’re thinking: What does being a geek have to do with being able to stay in contact while deployed to Iraq?  Allow me to enlighten.

Our entire group are those people you always hear about that play a game called World of Warcraft.  If you have never heard of the game (and, I can’t imagine how considering the size of the player base and the marketing Blizzard has done) it is a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game, or MMORPG for short.  My wife and I, along with our friends spend many evenings as Orcs or Night Elves battling across a fantasy landscape.  The height of geekdom, right?  Well, take into account that this game has allowed me to meet and befriend people from all over the world.  When was the last time you had the opportunity to hang out with a group from all over the U.S., Canada, and even a few Europeans for an evening.

In addition to WoW, many of us use a program called Ventrilo, basically a Voice over IP program that lets us actually talk to each other while we play.  Great for strategizing, even better for socializing.  The combination of the two has made me some good friends over he lst few years, and allowed me to hang out with my local friends even when we can’t get together physically.  Call me a geek if you want, look down at me as “one of those gamer types” if you must.  It doesn’t phase me, I’m quite comfortable in my geekiness and gaming is only the merest facet of it.

The reason these two things are apropos to my friend in Iraq is that we have been able to continue to play with him and even talk to him on a frequent, sometimes even daily, basis.  Before he left he invested in a laptop and, even though connectivity over there can be sketchy, he still is able to log in and knock out a couple quests or battlegrounds with us while chatting a bit. You can’t imagine the weight it takes off your shoulders to hear a friend’s voice over Ventrilo after hearing the latest casualty news.

I feel honored to have a friend like him.  He is definitely one of my heroes, and my respect for the man knows no bounds.  And, I know that all of us back here in Pennsylvania are chomping at the bit to have him back home.  I’m just grateful that he’s been able to talk to not only his friends, but his wife and kids so regularly.

So, Godspeed, my friend, come home soon, come home safe.  But, until you do, I’ll see ya in Azeroth.

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