“SHOTS ARE READY!…One for you!… Do you have one?….DOES EVERYONE HAVE A SHOT?!?!” This was the start of a party I threw in East LA before I headed out for my first deployment to Afghanistan as a Navy augmentee to an “Airborne Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance” unit. I was nervous about not knowing what was to come, and a party back home was a chance to escape the current monotony of doing busy work in my current job. I was ready for the excitement that I had been promised when I signed up but that had eluded me so far.
I only had a week before I was to deploy, so I took three leave days and flew home, where I had built a reputation for throwing good parties. A few months before, I had thrown a themed pool party, with an ice luge, dancing stage, open bar, and several other drinking games that everyone had loved. I couldn’t disappoint this time. I had a reputation to uphold. But it was also more than that: It gave me a way to do what I knew best, even in my current state of despair and uncertainty: bringing people together to have a good time.
I had to get everything together quickly. I supplied the whole party, so no BYOB needed. I was getting a DJ and was gonna have beer pong and some food “y tener una peda,” as was customary of any good East Los party. Finally, I needed a space, so I convinced my grandmother to let me use her house. Her backyard was big enough for a few foldable tables, a grill, and some patio furniture… Succulents, vines, and other types of plants lined the red cinder blocks that served as the dividing wall between properties. The large brick-laden pillars of the Spanish style awning dominated what was a fairly small area. But it was comfortable. A place that spoke, “It’s gonna be a good night.” As a finishing touch I lined the awning with Christmas lights and put my grandma’s dearest possessions in safekeeping. And so, the party began.
Everyone now remembers the party as “the night Andre got everyone fucked up.” I had accomplished my goal of bringing people together and having a good time. But the memory is more than just that of a great party. It’s a memory of the good friends and the life I had before the military. It is the memory of who I was, before I went off to the abyss of war that would change my life forever.
Andre Castro is majoring in social ecology at UC Irvine. He spent six years as a CTR (Cryptologic Technician Collection) in the Navy and did two deployments to the Middle East. He was boots on ground supporting Special Forces operations in Afghanistan and a crew member of the USS Anchorage conducting primary threat analysis and direction finding.