by: Nicole McKernan,
From time to time we are all guilty of looking at the water and not seeing the lake, looking at the trees and not seeing the mountains, looking at the people and not seeing our friends. Imagine this scenario: You are a young man raised in The Bronx with most of your family living in the Dominican Republic.
You have just returned home on a short leave from your second tour of Iraq in three years. Your current assignment in Iraq has placed you in the outskirts of the one of the poorest sections of Bagdhad where you have been witness to the horrorific living conditions of the local people in addition to an enemy that is constantly threatening you with yet another IED, mortar, or rocket propelled grenade. All you want is to have the taste, touch, and smells of home.
During your short leave you plan to visit a few days with the family of a fellow soldier stationed alongside in Iraq. You had met this family before when you were invited to spend a weekend with them during the late fall of last year. The Smith Mountain Lake area was beautiful then with a relaxed atmoshpere among the friendly foks that lived along the lake shoreline. It was certainly different than The Bronx.
It is now summer and we can tell you about the visit we had just last week with Ramon Vazquez of the 82nd US ARMY Airborne. Let me take you on a tour of this area through his eyes.
â€œIâ€™M ON A BOAT! I never thought Iâ€™d be on a boat, itâ€™s a big blue watery roll!â€
â€œIâ€™M ON A BOAT! I never thought Iâ€™d be on a boat,itâ€™s a big blue watery roll!â€ Ramon Vazquez yelled into his video camera as the Sea Ray hit speeds around 35mph during a classic sunny day on Smith Mountain Lake. With the waves being tossed around the boat, he was singing the popular song by the Lonely Island. His first time on a boat was a ride to the Statue of Liberty, this boat was a little different than the last one.
Even though he claims to sink like a rock when he tries to swim, he felt comfortable near the water. He leaned over the boat gathering water in his palms, water that he used to throw on everyone on the boat. I was the only one actually immature enough to try to get him,sadly Iâ€™m also the only one who couldnâ€™t reach the water no matter how hard I tried. After being doused with water, clouds began to roll in threatening the beautiful day. The boat was stopped at the Crazy Horse marina to enjoy some of the best Mexican food around the lake at Mexico Viejo.
He scarfed down the highly reccomended chicken nachos and enjoyed the chips and salsa with the restaurantâ€™s famous white sauce. After filling our stomachs full of delicious food, we decided that the weather looked nice enough to get back out on the boat. The two of us gathered on the bow of the boat and entertained ourselves with water fights, sing alongs, and calling the boat Bumble bot while trying to get it to transform.
Once out of the Blackwater area, the boat sped towards the bridge. Going under the bridge, we stopped the boat at a friendâ€™s dock. Almost immediatley, Ramon was offered a ride on their jet ski. While speeding back and forth, Ramon became a serious jet ski driver. He was a non-swimmer, scared to death that even with a life jacket he might sink straight to the bottom, but he was also a daredevil who liked to experience new things. He sped by the dock, waving to the sea of cameras waiting to see him pass.
Once off the jet ski, the clouds came back. It was getting dark and no one wanted to be caught on the water at night in the middle of a storm. The boat was being turned on when the key broke off right into my fatherâ€™s hand. Ramon burst into laughter and made Hulk jokes for the rest of us to enjoy. After some scrambling and impressive hotwiring, the boat was started. As we headed back to the dock, Ramon had a giant smile on his face.
He spent a few days doing unusal activities, meeting new people, and having fun while trying to get everything mechanical to transform.
â€œI had so much fun. Iâ€™ve never even met people as nice as the people here. We showed up at those peopleâ€™s house without any notice and they offered us food and drinks. We borrowed that guyâ€™s boat and he gave you wine and water. I donâ€™t even know my neighbors back in New York,â€ Ramon mentioned over the phone after he left.
He had so much fun he is planning to come back as soon as he is out of Iraq. Just the smile on his face could renew everyoneâ€™s respect for Smith Mountain Lake, no matter how long theyâ€™ve lived here.