Monday, February 28, 2005
I heard from Al right at lunchtime today - he had been really busy and couldn't call earlier - he's also been able to use the DSN line and call from the TOC - so it doesn't cost anything - yay! For you lay people, that means that he was able to call on the defense systems network and call from the tactical operations center - lol!! Captain Winton (I think I got his name right) has been putting Al to work in the TOC since he hasn't been super busy in Nurseland. Talking to Al today, I know that he is disappointed that he hasn't really been able to do a lot of "real" nursing or put his combat and trauma skills training to the test. I told him though (and I fully believe this) - that God has a purpose and a plan in everything that He does - and that we need to be content in where He has placed him. I would be clinging onto those words a lot harder if Al was in a more dangerous place too.
You know what the BEST thing about today is??? The best thing about today is that it is only 344 days left until this deployment is OVER. That's right everybody - we're at the 200 day mark!!! When all of this first started, I didn't think I would make through the first five minutes - but here we are 200 days into it - and although the days don't go "fast" - they aren't as absolutely miserable as I first thought that they would be either. It really helps that Al goes out of his way to email, send pictures and call. If I didn't have that, I think that I would go nuts.
Speaking of pictures - Al sent a bunch today - I will upload more in the coming days - but here he is in the TOC. I love this picture - he looks so relaxed and happy - and well, just "Al" -- I miss you bunny!!
Sorry for the blurry background - he is standing in front of a bunch of maps - and we want to be good about OPSEC!!
Saturday, February 26, 2005
We didn't get to talk very long this morning because he was meeting his friend to go work out. I think that they have a pretty decent exercise facility for them - it helps to break up the monotony, I'm sure. He said that their chaplain will be back today - and that Al will going to go to church tomorrow morning. It's 0200 there right now - so his morning will be happening soon.
Em and I got a neat surprise when we came home this morning - a big box full of goodies from our Homefront Hugs family. Teddy bears, videos, a ball, airplanes for the kids - bath stuff and scrapbooking stuff for me --- it was just nice to know that somebody was thinking about us - and any mail that's not a bill is always good mail!! ;-)
Cindy also included this note which I would like to share with y'all:
It is the VETERAN, not the preacher
Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the VETERAN, not the reporter,
Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the VETERAN, not the poet,
Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the VETERAN, not the campus organizer,
Who has given us freedom to assemble.
It is the VETERAN, not the lawyer,
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the VETERAN, not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.
Friday, February 25, 2005
i love you!! i miss you!! it is 'almost' spring here - mommy came home early from work today and we went for a walk after I took my nap --- well, i sat in my wagon and mommy walked slow - it was very pretty outside - wish you could have been here to walk with us!!
go faster mommy! go faster!
then we went and looked at some pretty flowers - mommy got me out of the wagon - and i walked around in them!!
hmmm, daffodils are pretty!
after that, i climbed up and down and up and down and up and down my slide for a while.
then, mommy came inside and messed with all these packets for a long time - she mixed some water up with some dirt - and stuck this stuff in it - and it's supposed to grow into something that she takes outside later - and - get this - supposedly we're gonna to be able to eat it later this summer!
mommy made dirt cups!
is it spring where you are at too?
love and kisses - xo xo xo - emelia!!!!
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Main Entry: support
1 : the act or process of supporting : the condition of being supported
2 : a means of obtaining the necessities of life (as food, shelter, and clothing) : a source of livelihood esp. in the form of alimony or child support
3 : something that provides support
I have been thinking about this word a lot lately. About the it’s true meaning – I have gotten to really see it played out in my life – and more importantly, Al’s life, in a huge way. After he finally got to “Sand Land” – I decided to sign him up for a couple of support organizations – not really expecting anything exciting to happen – I just thought that he might get a couple of letters – a box or two – I just really wanted him to get stuff people other than me – and other than his mom - that would show him that people care about him.
Well, all I can say is WOW. A big, huge, gigantic WOW. I want to tell you a couple of things about the organizations that I signed him up with – in hopes that if you have a deployed soldier – that will you sign them up too ---- it has been a wonderful stress reliever for Al to be able to get emails and letters from “general Americans” telling him that he is supported (there’s that word again) and cared about.
The first organization is HOMEFRONT HUGS www.homefronthugs.com – their link is in the ‘support’ section on the right of our blog. This organization is run by an amazing woman – Alessandra Kellermann – and their motto is “Where No Soldier is Forgotten” – they offer adoption for not just the soldier – but they are also willing to adopt the soldier’s family too.
We have been adopted through Homefront Hugs by a great group of “labatorians” who work at a Veteran’s Medical Center in New York (not New York city – a pretty part of the state of New York) --- their names are Dave, Jack, Helen, Theresa, Barb, Deb, Mary Jane and Cindy. Cindy is the coordinator of their Homefront Hugs activities and she is super sweet. She has sent several emails to both Al and myself – and even her hubby has taken the time to email Al – he has really enjoyed that. We really appreciate their kind words – and just their willingness to reach out to us as a military family. We really look forward to developing a relationship with our adopted family over the next year.
Here’s a picture of them:
From left to right – Helen is in the blue labcoat, Dave is in the back, Theresa is wearing the checked blouse, Barb in the white labcoat in the back holding a flag, Cindy is wearing the peach scrubs, and Mary Jane is right up front (and looks to be about my height – I’m 5’1” :-).
The next organization is Soldier’s Angels. www.soldiersangels.com – This is also a great group – Al has already gotten a ton of letters from people – which is a great diversion for him – he has retired Army personnel writing to him and everything. He loves it. Yesterday, while I was at work, I got a text message in my email from somebody (A Soldier’s Angel) who wanted to send Al a package and wanted to know some things that he needed --- I decided that calling her back would be a lot quicker than 10 text messages back and forth – and I ended up having a really neat conversation with a mom named Alli who lives in Florida – I told her a couple of things that Al needed – but she was SO SWEET when she ended the conversation – she has both her church and her bible study praying for Al by name – and I told her that most of all – out of anything that we appreciated that the most.
So, I am here to tell you that there are still some great people left in this world. People who care about our soldiers – and especially about our deployed soldiers – who understand that they are trying to good some good in Iraq – and who want to support them individually – and their families too.
Support means many things to many people – to me, it means knowing that I don’t have to take care of Al (and the guys that he’s with) all by myself – I have Dave, Jack, Helen, Theresa, Barb, Deb, Mary Jane, Cindy, Alli – and a countless host of other people standing behind me in prayer and concern. Blessings to all of you – you have no idea how much your efforts mean to both Al and to me and to our families!! Thanks for making these days of deployment much brighter!
I'm disappointed that he still hasn't gotten his birthday box and his Valentine's box - I sent them as soon as we got word that it was okay to ship packages - the end of January - it should not take over a month to get packages to him. Bleeeeerrrrrgggghhh! I will be pretty disappointed if he doesn't ever get them - I put quite a bit of work into both of them - the sentimental value will be what will really bug me about the whole thing. He also wasn't able to get his refrigerator (he's letting another friend use it), his cooler or the neat thermos/mug set I gave him at Christmas ("missing in action").
Al said that he will work on getting the pics from his camera to his thumb drive and then to the slow computer to send to me - whoo hoo! Look for those sometime at the beginning of next week.
Anyway, he's back - he's safe - and he's happy - yay!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Al is doing good - really good. He actually laughed and sounded genuinely happy for the first time in a long time - everything didn't feel rushed and he said that things are settling down - that they are getting into a routine - and that they feel good about stuff. That makes me happy and it makes me breathe a HUGE sigh of relief. I know that he is super excited to see friends today that he hasn't seen in over a month too. He promised to take tons of pictures for me - so hopefully I'll be able to post those for you soon.
He told me a funny story that they were emptying rounds or testing rounds (my girl brain didn't quite understand) - anyway, bullets were going off early this morning - "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM" - and the chaplain, who Al shares a tent with - was saying in his sleep - "Come In!" - the bullets would go off again - "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM" - and the chaplain would yell out, "Come In" - it had everyone cracking up!! It's got to be pretty crazy to have a big group of guys sleeping in a tent together - I'm sure that I'll get plenty of more stories before this year is up!
I wrote this list tonight for my Army Wives board . . .
TOP TEN REASONS WHY IT IS BETTER TO BE IN JAIL THAN TO BE A DEPLOYED U.S. SOLDIER:
1. When you are in jail, your civil liberties guarantee you a warm, cozy bed – soldiers sleep wherever they can – sometimes in leaky tents – sometimes on the ground.
2. When you go to jail – you definitely know when you have to be there – there’s no discrepancy about your ‘start date’ – you can also safely countdown to the day that you definitely get to leave – it won’t change 15 times and OPSEC doesn’t prevent you from telling your loved one about it.
3. You don’t have to MOB to go to jail – there’s no training involved – step out of your front door, do something stupid – go to jail. It starts instantly and there’s no fear of “jail” hanging over your head because it happens right away!.
4. In jail, you can sleep with your “girlfriend” every night – all night (okay, I know this one’s gross!)
5. Mail service is always fast and speedy in jail – soldiers can wait weeks and weeks for mail that sometimes never comes because somebody stole it.
6. In jail – the phone works great – even if do you have to make collect calls – there’s no such thing as waiting weeks for an inmate to call – they stand in line for hours because they don’t have anything better to do – unlike soldiers who are busy defending our freedom!
7. When you are in jail – you get a free representative who only cares about whether your legal rights are being protected – sure wish the same was true for our soldiers – might want to ask a Vietnam Vet about that one!
8. It’s cool and trendy to be in jail – ask Winona Ryder or Michael Jackson – all the stars do it – almost as much as they whine and moan about war. Back in the day, it used to be cool for Hollywood stars to join the military – think of Elvis Presley or Jimmy Stewart. My how times have changed.
9. In jail you get guaranteed time to sleep – lights out at 10 p.m. – lights on at 6:00 a.m. – you also get a FULL hour of recreation time ---- I wonder if our Marines who cleared out Fallujah got a schedule like that?
10. ****DRUMROLL PLEASE**** And the final reason why it is better to be in jail than to be a deployed US soldier,
TWO WORDS ---
Four guys have been lost from Al's brigade already. They weren't anywhere close to Al - in fact, they weren't in the same company - or the same unit - three were due to accidents - one was due to an IED - it's very frustrating - and I feel so much for their families. It could be any of us - at any time. I made the brilliant decision to read a Cosmo article "My Fiance Died in Iraq" on Valentine's night - I don't think I've cried that hard yet. Al and I are very sorry for the losses that everyone has experienced.
Al is staying put where he is at - which is good and bad. Good because he already knows what this location is like - and with that, he already knows what to expect. He has good "chow" (gotta love this military lingo) and the conditions aren't nearly as bad as some people have it. Bad because he's separated from some of his good friends that I know that he misses. He will be helping to run the TMC - Troop Medical Clinic - where he is at.
I have posted some new pictures that Al sent me. I love the one of the sunrise - every part of God's creation is beautiful if we only take the time to see it.
Sorry for the long time between posts - I ran out of things to talk about and I had foot surgery on Friday - nothing exciting - just barfing from anesthesia and a sore foot. I learned an important lesson too - crutches suck.
Al is taking a trip tomorrow to see his friends at another Camp - I hope to have lots to tell you then!
Monday, February 14, 2005
Just wanted to tell everybody "Happy Valentine's" -- I wrote this for my Army Wive's board - maybe it will apply to your life too!!
Valentine's Day to me has always meant a holiday where you were supposed to "get stuff" - where it felt good to be the girl that got flowers from her boyfriend. Where I could stick my face in some roses - or even a big box of chocolates - and be able to hold something tangible in my hands to know that I meant something to someone.
When I was growing up, my mom always made a huge deal out of all holidays - Christmas, our Birthdays - and, yes, Valentine's. Having been the center of attention in my mom's eyes, the first year I was in college was kind of shock to me when I realized that my mommy wasn't going to be there to be my Valentine - and I hadn't really done a lot to get the real kind of Valentine - the kind that a lot of other girls on campus seemed to have. I didn't want to be the only girl on my floor not getting flowers, so I went to the campus bookstore and bought myself some roses and a balloon.
I had some equally disastrous Valentine's as the years went on - never really anything that satisfied that Hallmark chasm of rose-scented, chocolate laden emptiness that filled my soul. Every year that I was with somebody, I would get my hopes and expectations up so high - and even if I did get flowers, it wasn't quite what I expected - it didn't quite "do it" for me.
As I got older and I realized my worth as a person in God's eyes, Valentine's Day didn't really seem to matter as much. And, when I went through what I went through to have Emelia - I developed a greater realization of God's love for me - and that insatiable Valentine's need just seemed to fade away.
Last year, Al and I started dating exclusively right after Valentine's - at the time, we were still just talking on the phone and the computer - so, we were at the stage of "not wanting to send the wrong signal" - I had sent him a CD and a book - but only because it was his birthday - I spent hours in the card shoppe trying not to say too much but trying not to say too little either.
Now that we have dated a year, and are engaged to be married - and now that I am at a completely different place in my life ---- I just want to say to you guys that get flowers or expressions of love tomorrow - how happy I am for you - I know that that will be an instant rush and 'high' of love --- but to look at your heart - and to look in the mirror - you are more than those roses that will lose their luster by the end of the week ---- you are loved - and whether the expression you receive tomorrow is big or small - just know that the important thing is that God has given you somebody to share your life with - a partner - whose daily "I love you" should mean much more than a factory produced card.
And for those of you who don't get anything on VDay (and I may be in your fold - it will be interesting to see what Al does or does not pull out of his hat) - please remember that your worth or the love from your partner is not dependent on a romantic expression of love. You can look in the same mirror - see the same love that God has for you - and know that you were created for a purpose - and that God has you with your partner for a purpose.
I think for all of us ladies whose loved ones are deployed right now or who have been affected by deployment or absence in the past, that we really and truly and maybe for the first time, know that love is not dependent on money, or tons of effort, or that it even has anything to do with Hallmark at all ---- love is that feeling that whenever we hear a certain song, or smell a certain smell - or hear our loved one's voice after several days of absence, or take their letters and hold them against our faces as happy tears drip down our cheeks ---- that is love. You can't bottle it, you can't sell it, it won't lose its luster by Friday - and there's no extra charge for delivery --- at the end of day tomorrow - roses or no roses - that love is the best Valentine that you could ever, ever have gotten. Treasure it and hold it close to your heart - that kind of love is rare and precious - just like you.
I love you!
Friday, February 11, 2005
Al is doing good. He may stay where he is at - or he may go to where he was supposed to go originally. He finally got to be a nurse again today - and work at the TMC (Troop Medical Clinic) - so that was exciting. They told him that they should also have mail in "a couple of days" - they have to move it from one place to another - which makes me really happy - I hope gets some in time for his birthday on Monday - my baby will be 38 on Valentine's - awww!
Let's see, the 17th marks the first day of the Islamic month of Muharram - and Ashoura (the 10th of Muharram) is the holiest day of the Shiite Muslim calendar. It marks the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammed (680 AD) - he was beheaded in Karbala. There were lots of bombings last year during this time - over 180 people were killed in attacks at Shiite shrines. They are already starting to seal off borders again. I feel bad for the Iraqi people that things have to be this way. It's got to be really hard to have somebody take over your country and tell you where you can go and stuff. We as Americans can't even really fathom it. My prayers are with the Iraqi people during this most holy time.
The woman in in this picture is kissing a painting of Hussein. It's an AP picture - but was in Stars & Stripes - I couldn't find it anywhere on the Net - so, I want to give them credit. The picture is dated 2.10.05.
Hmmm, I read a neat thing about Denzel Washington today - I got an email about it - and I didn't know if it was true or not - but it is. He pretty much rocks:
Hope everybody has a happy weekend - I will catch up with y'all on Sunday - maybe Al will have gotten his mail by then!
Thursday, February 10, 2005
I found a couple of cool things today . . .
The article basically says that the Army has finally figured out that a happy military family = a happy soldier (duh) - and that in order to keep the family happy - the soldier has to be at home more (double duh) - gotta love that new millenium thinking going on there. Sheesh.
Also, I FINALLY found a good map of Iraq - all the ones I've found SUCK. But this one rocks.
Last night, as I was driving home - I actually saw somebody w/ a car that had "almost" as much patriotic stuff on it as mine. On my car, I have FOUR ribbons, a National Guard sticker, and "I Love My Soldier" sticker, and an American Flag cling. This pick-up truck had the four ribbons - but it also had the "Blue Star of Service" - which signifies that they have an immediate family member at war. http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Mar2000/n03282000_20003282.html
My friend Erin and I crack up at work because we call all of my patriotic stuff - "bling" - so now I have to track down the Blue Star Banner magnet on the net today - lol - I get ribbon envy when I see someone that has 'bling' that I don't have!! I totally honked and waved to the guy as I drove by. Living in Alabama is a nice feeling - a lot of people have ribbons and flags on their car. People can say all they want to about the South - but having lived here 10 years this August - I've learned by experience that you'll be hard pressed to find a more patriotic part of the country. God Bless the South, HOOAH!
Well, it's off to work for me --- maybe Al will get to call around lunchtime if he's not too busy.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
Al has done a lot since August - he was in training at Camp Shelby for a while - and did everything that went along with that - a land nav course, gas chamber, night vision, etc. Then he went to a Combat Casualty Care Course in Texas which was very intensive, which was followed up by almost a month at NTC (the National Training Center) in California. We got to spend 10 wonderful days together at Christmas - and he left for the sand on January 8, 2005.
Yesterday marked a full month that he has been there. He was at Camp Buehring in Kuwait for almost the entire month. I was really worried that he would be in Iraq for the elections - and he was supposed to be - but "Army Planning" took care of that one for us. I think that's probably the only time that I've ever been thankful for an Army delay!! ;-) The nice thing was that there were no troops lost as a direct result of the elections - I believe that 35 Iraqi's were killed though - which is sad - I read a story about a suicide bomber who tried to attack a line of people waiting to vote, but he only ended up blowing himself up - nobody else was injured. People spit on him as they walked in to vote.
Al is now at an undisclosed FOB (Forward Operational Base) in the Karbala area. He's not at his final destination yet - but he'll probably stay where he's at for a little while again. As long as he's safe, dry, well fed and content - I'm happy. He said that the food is really good at his current location - the best that he's had since he's been over there (it's also contracted out to a private company, so that's probably why - lol!). He was able to buy a "SPAWAR" phone card (only 4 cents a minute - take THAT, AT&T!), and we talked for a bliss-filled 45 minutes this morning. I knew I was going to be late to work - but I could have cared less!!
He was so sweet on the phone. We were saying all the typical lovey-dovey stuff and then he went on to tell me about his journey 'north'. He said that Iraq is VERY third world - and I said, "Well, duh!" He said that it's very agricultural in the sense that people really do have to utilize the land and nature to survive. He said that he saw donkeys pulling carts - and all kinds of livestock. He said that the people are unbelievably poor - that adults and children just run to the roads when they're driving by - rub their tummies and point to their mouths and say, "food, food". I'm going to put together care packages of hard candy and craft kits for Al to be able to pass out. I know it's not much, but it's something.
Since he's not at his final location yet, he still hasn't gotten any mail - but by reading the 155 sites, I've found out that mail trucks have started pulling in at lots of the locations. His conex is all ready for him when he does get where he's going - and his fellow medical officers have already been setting aside equipment and supplies for him for when he gets there. I'm really excited for him to get his first three care packages that I sent him. I'm going to hold off for another week to send him anything else - although I try to send him a letter almost every day. On the days that he was 'in transit' - it really helped to still be able to talk to him on paper.
I got pretty spoiled once he was settled into Kuwait - he called once a day - and we could email back and forth - so when he was on his convoy into Iraq, it was really hard to go without hearing from him again. By yesterday - Day Three of no communication - I knew that I should have heard from him already - so I was getting kind of edgy. Last night, I went to write him his daily email - and I was in such a terrible mood - that I couldn't send him one. I went to go to sleep - and I felt really bad. Here I am, with a comfy house to live in, clean sheets, my daughter Emelia to keep me company - and I'm in a bad mood because I can't talk to him? Give me a break!! I hauled my hiney back to the computer and typed him out a nice email. I often make myself think about WWII and Vietnam wives whenever I start feeling bad - I remind myself that even if I don't know where Al is - God does - and that helps. In the modern day military, we actually have it really good and I need to remember that.
Okay, I'm going to close and get to work - here's the only picture that I've gotten from the sand so far:
I used Paintshop to fuzz out the name of the camp - just so you don't think the sign has graffitti on it :-)