Thursday, March 31, 2005
Al is still plugging along. He said that the days are getting longer for him - which I feel bad about. I think both of us have our up and down days - thankfully, I am "up" right now and can support him through this time. Things are going to be hard this summer - they have already started having 90 degree days.
This is a care package week. I have been busy baking and packing boxes tonight. Al is getting brownies, a new summertime pillow, clean - good smelling sheets, new flip flops for the shower, some new DVD's and a bunch of other goodies -- in a minute, I have to figure out how to use the vacuum sealer that my best friend bought me for Xmas so I could send Al baked goods - wish me luck!!
I wrote this for Al on my lunch yesterday:
Starting to forget and forgetting to remember you -
Always in my mind - forever in my heart - no longer in my arms.
Losing your touch has made me lose touch with everything else -the casual brush of a stranger or a friend's embrace shocks me to alertness.
The realization that I am still human - and not the robot that I pretend to be.
Being numb is what gets through the next minute while my love lies dormant in this winter of deployment -
Waiting, waiting, waiting to be fully whole again.
A methodical repetition of days drums by while life goes on without you here -
Filling empty time with stories of other soldiers and the nightly news, "anything" to understand the life that you are in.
I hold your pictures in my hands, look at you with the Iraqi children - see your arm around your buddy and I grow jealous for your touch.
Today I know what the weather is like in Iraq (dusty and hot),
I know the political condition of your area (stable?),
I know what time it is there (early evening) --
I know that as I write this that you will be drifting off to sleep soon,
And I also know that it will be nine more hours until I get to do the same.
If only knowledge could bring me physically closer to you -
if only emails were embraces -
and phone calls were kisses.
The memory of holding you is a shadow on my flesh, a dream waiting to be awakened once again and I write these these words to remember to not forget you.
Monday, March 28, 2005
LESSONS I'VE LEARNED
By Mandy B, Wife of SGT Erik B
Now that the journey has almost come to a much-anticipated end, I find myself looking back, and discovering that I've learned some precious lessons along the way…
I've learned that dads need their kids.
I've learned that two-year-olds hurt & need their daddies more than I expected.
I've learned that kids know more about what's going on than we think they do.
I've learned that moms can fix more than just broken hearts; we're pretty handy with tools when we have to be.
I've learned that I can chase away monsters just as well as my husband can.
I've learned how hard it is to cook for just two people, one being a two-year-old.
I've learned, in my husband's absence, just how much he does to help me out.
I've learned that a family is a family, no matter how many miles separate them.
I've learned that I can hold down the home front pretty well on my own, but I'd much rather have best friend there to help me.
I've learned that we are a team.
I've learned that it's no fun being without the one you love on special days.
I've learned that love can go the distance.
I've learned that trust is the most crucial quality that a relationship can hold.
I've learned that love can withstand all things.
I've learned how much a late-night phone call home can mean.
I've learned that a package is like a little piece of home in an unfamiliar world.
I've learned about sacrifice.
I've learned that just hanging out together is so precious.
I've learned how nice it is to feel his arms around me.
I've learned how quickly two weeks goes!
I've learned just how long 15 months really is.
I've learned that freedom really is not free.
I've learned that there is always someone else worse off.
I've learned how lucky we are to be living in the United States, be free, and be safe.
I've learned that there is always someone sacrificing for the rest us to have that freedom.
** The one that really got me was how fast two weeks is - and how slow fifteen months is. That's how I feel right now. I know that on April 8th - that we'll have three months in - which seems "fast" - but I know that the nine months that we have left will DRAG on and on!!
I'm glad Mandy's hubby made it home safe - HOOAH!
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Al called this morning at 1200 - and get this - we got to talk for TWO HOURS. Absolutely no one was in line waiting to use the phone - and it was so nice to just get to talk and talk. Definitely a great Easter surprise!! The medical missions from Friday and Saturday went really well - he was just upset that there so many birth defects and other "unfixable" problems. Internet is out in the TOC right now - but we will upload pics as soon as we are able.
He called back later this afternoon while company was over to wish everyone a Happy Easter (I will post pics of all of that tomorrow) - he said that he was up late because they watched the "Passion of the Christ".
Church this morning was wonderful - Em and I went to the 0700 service. I got tears in my eyes several times just thinking about My Savior's sacrifice. I also missed Al really bad - I pictured us at church together - holding hands - it made me so sad. As I walked out, there was a Marine in full dress uniform two rows behind me - I could hardly choke the words out - but I told him that my fiancé was in Iraq right now - and that I really appreciated his sacrifice.
Al will be home before Easter next year. Less than 320 days to go.
Friday, March 25, 2005
He was able to call me every day this week at lunchtime. It was really nice - I missed his call today though just as I was coming around the corner to my cube. My work has been insane this week - the vendor for the software that I manage at the office was doing a maintenance visit this week - and we had a ton of work to get done, not the least of which included upgrading all the users for the software. So, I'm sorry that I haven't been posting like crazy - but I have been busy doing other stuff!
Hopefully, I will hear from Al and be able to post some pics for you this weekend - no matter what, we pray that everyone has a very Happy and a Very Blessed Easter!!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
I wrote this for him in honor of our anniversary:
This is what love is . . .
Knowing you – seeing you in my mind’s eye – sharing the same thoughts at the same time in a different place, a different time.
Feeling your touch – even though it’s only a memory – a faded treasure – knowing the hope that I will feel it again.
Seeing your smile on the first day we met – having your picture in a frame on my desk – having you in my heart most of all.
Feeling that feeling deep down within my soul that I would do anything for you – climb any mountain for you – try harder to be a better person with you and for you.
Having my heart do flip flops when the phone is ringing and I know that it’s you – having those flip flops be just as intense as the very first time you called and I heard your sexy Southern voice.
Serving God with you – to have the knowledge that together we believe in a bigger “Someone” – that we know what it means to pray and hope – that we believe that we are together for a reason – that there is a purpose and a plan in everything – even in what we are going through now – to be excited about teaching Sunday School together someday.
Laughing at your jokes and knowing that you understand mine – for there to be an understood silence between us when things aren’t funny anymore. To have the worst day ever and know that you will be able to turn it all around with one offhand comment. To know that you know what the difference between a raven and a crow is.
Wanting the things that you want – not because I am a weak person with no identity – but rather because my identity has been permanently altered since I met you. To know that I no longer want to be the person that I was without you – to try new things just because you want me to.
Paying my bills because it makes you happy. To have to go to the “Financial” section of any given bookstore that I happen to enter just to see if there is a cool book that I know you would like. To have my mailbox chockfull of fiscal magazines on an almost daily basis. Listening to “Money Talk” just because you enjoy it so much – even though you’re not even here to hear it.
Not losing the essence of myself simply because I am your fiancée – having you love and accept me for who I am – knowing that you understand that individuality is essential to a healthy relationship – that instead of looking to me for your happiness that you look to yourself and to God (and visa versa for me).
Doing the silliest, smallest thing with you - whether it’s putting together a puzzle – watching a movie – or letting you win at Trivial Pursuit (hee hee) – and having it be the best feeling in the world. To know that I can grow old with you and be content and happy.
Watching you with Trey and Emelia and respecting the parent that you are – and the one that you want to become. Having you play with them out in the yard and peeking out the window just to watch. To know that Em misses you too – and that she points to your picture and says, “Da Dee”. To have a wish that we will make a baby of our own someday.
Picturing our future wedding and getting a huge grin at the “I Do” part – and an even bigger one at the “You may kiss the bride part” - but knowing in my heart that I already said “I Do” to you the first day that we met, the first time we kissed, and that I say “I Do” every day that we get one more day to love each other.
Having you in my dreams every night – going to bed saying a prayer for your safety, protection, joy and success. Having a phone on each side of me in bed so I don’t miss you calling in the middle of the night ---
and knowing that it is exactly
until you are home for good.
Monday, March 21, 2005
They Are So Damn Young
From the CASBAR Colonel: Sent to me by my old buddy, xxx xxxxx, MG USAF Ret. This is written by a Navy Commander at a port in Kuwait ... No commentary needed, the 3-minute read below says more than a 20-page article could about our warriors and the constitution of our men.
"I was going to the gym tonight (really just a huge tent with weights and treadmills), and we had heard that one of the MEUs that had come out of service in the "triangle" was redeploying (leaving country). We saw their convoy roll in to the Kuwait Naval Base as the desert sun was setting.
I have never seen anything like this. Trucks and Humvees that looked like they had just come through a shredder. Their equipment was full of shrapnel blast holes, and missing entire major pieces that you could tell had been blasted by IEDs. These kids looked bad too! I mean, sunken eyes, thin as rails, and that 1000-yd. stare they talk about after direct combat. Made me pretty damn embarrassed to be a "rear area warrior".
All people could do was stop in their tracks and stare... and feel like me...like I wanted to bow my head in reverence. A Marine Captain stationed with me, was standing next to me, also headed to the gym. He said, "Part of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 8th Marines, sir. Took the heaviest losses of any single unit up north as part of Task Force Danger, sir."
As the convoy rolled up, all of us watching just slowly crept toward these kids as they dismounted the Hummers and 5-tons. Of course, we were all shiny and clean compared to these warriors. This kids looked like they had just crawled from Iraq. I had my security badge and ID around my neck, and started to help them unload some of their duffle bags.
A crusty Gunny came up to me and said "sir, you don't have to do that..." I said, "Gunny... yes I do..." They all looked like they were in high school, or younger!! All held themselves sharply and confident, despite the extreme fatigue you could tell they had endured. "You guys out of the triangle?" I asked. "Yes, sir." 14 months, and twice into the grinder, sir" (both fights for Fallujah).
All I could do was throw my arm around their shoulders and say "thanks Marine, for taking the fight to the bad guys...we love you man."
I looked at these young kids, not one of them complaining or showing signs of anything but focus, and good humor. 'Sir, they got ice cream at the DFAC, sir?" "I haven't had real ice cream since we got here..." They continued to unload...and after I had done my handshakes and shoulder hugs, the Captain and I looked at each other ...
They want ice cream, we'll get them ice cream. You see, a squid O-5 and a focused Marine O-3 can get just about anything, even if the Mess is closed. Needless to say, we raided the closed DFAC, much to the chagrin of one very pissed off Mess Sergeant and grabbed boxes of ice cream sandwiches (as many as we could carry), and hustled back to the convoy. I felt like Santa Claus.
"Thank you, sir.." again and again from each trooper, as we tossed up the bars to the guys in the trucks. I'm thinkin', "Son, what the hell are you thanking me for? I can't thank you enough."
And they are so damned young ...
I will sleep well, knowing they are watching my back tonight."
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Al called at 1230 today - we got to talk for almost 45 minutes - it was so nice. He is safe - but we would like to ask your prayers for an unspoken prayer request if possible. Thank you!
For today's entry - I would like to send up a "shout out" to my friend Denise and her husband Tom. Denise is a June 2003 mommy just like me - and she has the cutest son, Jarrett. Anyway, her husband, Tom - was deployed during Jarrett's first year - and although he is home now - he may have to leave again soon. I just wanted to let Denise know that military community is supporting her and Tom and their kids.
Tom marched in the Bataan Memorial Death March today:
Test your endurance - Exercise your patriotism. The Bataan Memorial Death March is a challenging 26.2-mile march through the high desert terrain of White Sands Missile Range, N.M. This memorial march is conducted in honor of the heroic service members who defended the Philippine Islands during World War II, sacrificing their freedom, health and, in many cases, their very lives.
The conditions they encountered and the aftermath of the battle were unique. They fought in a malaria-infested region, surviving on half or quarter rations with little or no medical help. They fought with outdated equipment and virtually no air power.
On April 9, 1942, tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers were surrendered to Japanese forces. The Americans were Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marines. Among those seized were members of the 200th Coast Artillery, New Mexico National Guard.
They were marched for days in the scorching heat through the Philippine jungles. Thousands died. Those who survived faced the hardships of a prisoner of war camp. Others were wounded or killed when unmarked enemy ships transporting prisoners of war to Japan were sunk by U.S. air and naval forces.
I really respect Tom for doing the march - but I also respect his service and sacrifice to our country as a whole. Thank you Tom - and thank you Denise!!
Friday, March 18, 2005
So, when I was at work this afternoon and I got this picture:
I realized why he had called me so early. He had gone on a convoy today to the other camp --- and he got to see his friends Jason and Troy. He said Jason may end up moving to his location, so he's excited about that.
I understand why he couldn't say anything. Convoys have become a huge issue because of attacks. Although his location is "safe" - they still need to be careful. It's kind of like driving to Walmart --- except doing it in an armored Humvee - driving like a snail in a long chain of vehicles - with sand blowing all around - with people trying to shoot at you and bomb your vehicle. So, it becomes a "mission" even thought they're just driving to get/give supplies. I just need to be smarter and pick up on the clues next time - lol!
Hope y'all have a happy weekend - I have to figure out how I'm going to till up the start of my garden!!
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I spent my evening watching the OC and the Apprentice - and doing this:
Yes, those are 11 boxes. No, they are not all for Al! His church, Parkway Baptist, got together and Sunday School classes donated stuff for the guys that Al is with. So, in addition to Al's boxes, I packed up six boxes for them. I'm sending a pile of Al's books from nursing school - because there are a bunch of people that want to take classes on medical stuff. I'm also sending seed starters and, of course, Al's ninety nine financial magazines that he subscribes to - lol!!
Sending a shout out to: Major Weaver, Major Giese, Captain Winton, SSG Spikes, Specialist Davis, and 1SG Feazell ---> Your boxes will be on the way tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
First, let me give you some background -- Al is National Guard -- as such, I knew absolutely NOTHING about the military. You see, when you are dating or married to someone in the National Guard - the 'Army' is this cute little thing that your soldier does once a month. In your mind you consider it sweet that they go 'out in the field' and you picture small groups of soldiers huddled around the camp fire roasting marshmallows and basically playing "Boy Scouts" - except they are grown adult men.
Yeah, they have to go away for two weeks every year and that kind of sucks a little bit - but, they seem to enjoy their contribution to the military - so, you play along. Well, when Al got put on alert last Spring - I kind of started to realize that this National Guard thing might be a little more serious. But, Al reassured me - he said (in his sweet Southern voice) - "Baby, a lot of people get alerted and never have to go". So, things went along fine and dandy - and then he went to his Guard weekend in July. BAM! He definitely got deployed - for AUGUST. FOR 545 DAYS.
So, I went from knowing absolutely NOTHING about the Army except that I thought Al looked cute in his uniform - to being engaged to a FULL TIME Army nurse. Add on to that that I live a state away from his home unit - and that, at the time, I knew nobody in Birmingham who was also in the military.
I searched and searched on the Internet for support - finding a little bit of information. I also ordered a couple of books - yes, they have books for that kind of thing - "Married to the Military", etc. Finally, in October - by this time, already two months into full time Army life, I stumbled across www.armywives.com. And I found all the support that I had so desperately needed and had been looking for.
Over the past several months, the wonderful ladies on that board have been gracious - and they have taught me so much. Most importantly, I have made some "true" friends. I have learned that Army wives (and girlfriends and fiancee's [like me]) are the most dedicated, honorable, fun loving, friendly women on the planet. Through that board, I met "Katie" -- and of course, through Katie, I met her boyfriend "Billy".
This winter was really rough on me. Since I am brand new to all this Army stuff, I am brand new to all this deployment stuff - and Katie was one of the awesome ladies that kept me sane when Al finally left for the Sand in January. Katie has a great sense of humor - I would love to tell you some of the stuff that we have laughed and joked about together, but I would run out of room. Suffice it to say, she knows that laughter is the best medicine for a broken heart.
Well, last month, her boyfriend Billy FINALLY came home!!
Here is a picture of them when they were reunited:
When I first found out that Billy was finally home, I knew that I wanted to tell their story on this blog. You see Billy and Katie are a success story. I know that a lot of people don't realize it - but being deployed is HARD and returning from a deployment is HARD. A lot of military relationships don't last. A lot of times when their soldier is gone halfway around the world - the person left behind can't take the stress and strain of being by themselves. Or when the soldier returns, transitioning back to civilian life puts too much pressure on their relationship. The reason that I want to tell their story is that Katie and Billy MADE IT. Knowing them, knowing what they went through - knowing what cool people they are - makes me know that Al and I can make it too.
Iron sharpens iron -- and Katie and Billy have been my iron - they have taught me about sacrifice - and about love. While Billy was gone - not a second went by that Katie didn't stand by him 100% - and when I told her that I wanted to tell their story -this is what Katie had to say:
"About us.... We met through mutual friends (who swore we had met years before because we've always all hung out for the 3.5 years I'd been in college) on Dec. 6, 2003. We hung out everyday until I left to go home from Christmas, he was deployed on Dec. 18th. I was shocked, we had just met but I was ALL about him, I was skeptical that he'd be as into me as I was into him and I was SO disappointed that I had finally met this WONDERFUL man who was PERFECT for me and he had to leave! We spent Christmas and New Years together and then he went to NY for his MOB. I visited him and met his family over V-day when we all went up to NY and then on Feb. 17, 2004 he was gone. He was stationed about two hours south of Baghdad, he ran convoys and was the gunner. No one in his unit was killed, several people received purple hearts though!
Let's see... what else would you like to know? I knew before he left that I wanted to be the one who was there for him through all this, whether it turned out that we were just friends at the end or not, I knew that I would have wanted him to stand by me so I decided I'd stand by him and see what happened. I fell in love with him while he was gone, I mean I really liked him before he left but we didn't know each other well enough to be in love. By the time he got leave in July I was DYING to tell him how I felt but it just didn't seem right to say it over the phone. So we've been together about 15 months now, he has to finish school (he'll graduate in December) and then hopefully we can live in the same city again. Right now I'm in OH in law school and we went to college in WV. We will get to live together this summer though which I'm really looking forward to. Our birthday is two weeks from yesterday! We didn't get to celebrate together last year (that was the first time he called me from over there and I bawled my eyes out) so we are very very excited for this year!! Can you tell I like to talk about us!? I'm sure thats way more than what you were looking for! Have fun blogging, let me know how it turns out!!"
You see, everything in life is a gamble. You have to love and you have to hope - and you have to believe in the moment. You have to toss your hopes and dreams up to God and trust Him to take care of them. Thank you to Katie and Billy for helping me see a real life example of things working out.
Welcome Home Billy. Sorry it's a month late - but I really appreciate your sacrifice. Katie, thank you for being my friend and for your sacrifice also - you and Billy remain in my prayers!!
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Al is doing great - there has been some 'talk' about him moving locations - but we haven't seen anything definite yet. He is staying busy and working out and the phones are operable again in the TOC, so he's gotten to call two days in a row. I'm spoiled, huh? His current location is pretty much the most ideal place that I could pick for him. He never gets bombed or mortared and it's very protected overall.
I also found out that he was able to sign up for leave. He's a 1 LT - which is basically like the Army's idea of middle management - the enlisted get first dibs on R&R - which is fair, since they do a lot of the 'hard' work anyway (sorry, honey!) - so, Al may not get leave if it is between him and an enlisted person getting to go. That will be hard to swallow - but he signed up for one of the last available slots (September) anyway, so if I can get through the whole summer - I can make myself get through the whole fall - although it will still suck. I also get more vacation time starting in August - so it all works out well. Please cross your fingers and say some prayers that he will definitely get to come home!!
Well, I don't have bunches of other news. Al got his Easter Basket care package in the mail today - (Yay!) - and he also got Ally's (Soldier's Angels) care package too (which he loved!!) - I still owe everybody pictures and I will put those up tomorrow.
Monday, March 14, 2005
I had a wonderful weekend with Al's mom --- I will post pics tomorrow at work where I have 'fast' internet . . . it is so nice to be able to get together with her and just have fun - she's so sweet - and out of anybody in my life right now - she 100% understands my need to try to be there for Al and support him - the good, the bad, the ugly.
Last week, I got my first 'comment' on the board. I haven't advertised this blog too much except to Al's and my family and friends - but, I did post on the Blogger forum to try to get some ideas for site layout and content. I'm not too sure if that person found us that way - or what. But they had some interesting things to say. The older that I have gotten in life - I have learned the hard way to not respond out of anger about something. That instead I should mull it over and really "think" about what I want to say.
So, I don't want to bait anyone - I don't want to get a running discussion going - I don't want this blog to become anything other than what it's for: to support Al and to provide his family and friends information on where he's at and what he's doing. But, it has bothered me very much since then - so I feel that I must say something.
Here is the comment:
I honor your husband's service to our country. I mean no disrespect, but I hope you are open-minded enough to question these assumptions. True, patriots of the American Revolution secured these freedoms once, and they have had to be re-won periodically--most notably WWII. Nevertheless, there has not been a war fought in the last fifty years where U.S. freedoms were threatened. Those who believe that have been brainwashed by government jingoism.
I'm sad to say that U.S. troops are in Iraq for reasons other than securing those precious freedoms for Americans.
Okay, I have thought about this long and hard . . .
First, I want to thank you for what you have to say. It means a lot to me to be able to live in a country where we are allowed enough freedom where EVERY viewpoint can be heard. Even though you disagree with me on a fundamental level on almost everything that you said, I still agree very much with your right and privilege to say it.
That being said. I would like you to consider for five seconds an Iraqi person's opportunity for freedom --- before Saddam was removed from power, if someone opposed his political party - they would have been murdered, raped or brutalized for their beliefs. Mass graves have been discovered - the man gassed an entire population of people (the Kurds) because they were inconvenient - his sons put their political opponents alive into wood chippers for God's sake - but, you're right - lets just focus on "American freedom".
In America, we live in a commercialized paradise - where you can walk into Wal-Mart every day and pull anything that you want to buy off the shelf - stick it in your cart - pay for it - and it is "yours" --- the poor in this country have the ability to receive welfare to better themselves and to improve their opportunities in life - we, in America, with our "freedoms" - can pull up to any random gas pump - know that there is gas to put into our car - not have to wait in a long line to get it - and best of all, when we swipe our credit card -- we know that there's money in the bank to pay for it. How do you think that freedom is defended? How do you believe that we should protect our country? Do you put gas in your car? Use electricity? Shop at Wal-Mart? Eat at Taco Bell? You are a consumer just like me - and just like Al, before he got the shaft and got stuck in a desert wasteland full of third world poverty, hunger and disease.
How precisely would you suggest that we fight wars? Should we wait each time to defend our freedom until we get attacked on American soil? Should we wait for another Pearl Harbor before it's 'okay' to protect the "American" way of life? The problem is, Pearl Harbor already happened - on 9.11.2001 --- and the sad thing is, that in today's mixed up political world - there is no clear enemy. There is no "Axis of Evil" - there are handfuls and cells of terrorists who every day threaten not just me, not just my children - not just Al - but whole countries - whole ways of existance -
I don't think enough people realize and understand that the economic sanctions placed against Iraq were slowly starving a nation of people. That, for years, they had been deprived of the ability to have foreign trade - to receive foreign subsidies - Saddam was still living high on the hog w/ oil money in elaborate palaces - while the everyday Iraqi citizen was being starved to death. Now, don't get me wrong - do I believe on a fundamental level that they are happier being bombed - invaded by a foreign nation - and having what few freedoms that may have had in Sadaam's reign taken away from them? No. I don't. But, we are not living for today - I don't believe that Al and his fellow soldiers are there for today - I hope that in time, when Iraq gets rebuilt - that people will see that we had a good intent for being there - to help protect ourselves as a nation - and to help the Iraqi people become a free nation also.
The thing is that I have never heard Al talk about "political" reasons for being in Iraq - I have never heard him speak negatively about the Iraqi's at all. I have never heard him say anything other than how sorry he feels for them - how much the children are wonderful - how hopeful he is for the country - how much he wants on an individual level to help them have a better life. When he says those things, it makes me cry ---- because nobody 'here' in the media - in the nation at large seems to understand that although the soldiers may have to carry guns to protect themselves --- that they are fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters ---- and that they relate to the Iraqi's on a VERY basic level. When Al looks into they eyes of a little boy over there, I know he can see the eyes of his son, Trey - who he can't be with right now - whose fifth birthday he will be missing next month. I believe that he tries to love that little boy with as much love as he would give his son if he was here and the chance.
So, if you read this blog for any reason other than to support Al or to try to 'understand' what we are going through - or to try to relate to soldiers - please try to open your heart just a little tiny bit and realize that there is no black and white in life. In everything there is yin - and in everything there is yang. Do I believe that we should be in Iraq? I don't know - I can't answer that --- all I can tell you is that we ARE. And that on a very human, very selfish level - the love of my life - my soulmate - the person that completes me, IS. And, because of that - no matter what - I have to support him. Is the Army a wonderful institution all the time? No. Is it full of bureaucracy and people that make mistakes? Yes. But, I truly believe, in my heart of hearts - that when those soldiers lie awake at night - thinking of their homes, their families - that they want the best for all the little boys and all the little girls that see everyday rubbing their tummies for food.
There is an old adage that you can't know or understand someone's life until you walk a mile in their shoes ---- I have learned the hard way these last months how true that statement is. I feel so bad for not supporting the military more until I "was" military -- I feel so guilty for not relating more to the Iraqi people until Al "was" in Iraq - I point my head down in shame of how many times I have held an 'opinion' on something that I knew NOTHING about.
So, let me finalize by saying this, Sir or Madam, if you have such a huge problem with Al being in Iraq - if you question his motives, or the Army's motives - or heck, even President Bush's motives for sending him, so much --- and you think that you have all the answers -
Why don't you go and fix everything - so Al can come home? We have a wedding that we would like to be able to plan, a house that we would like to build - and future to make together.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Today, while I was talking to him right before lunch, he said the smallest thing that made me so sad and so happy at all the same time. He said that he and the other guys that he's with have started calling their tent "home" --- he didn't know it - but tears instantly came to my eyes. I'm so happy that he's getting settled in and feeling comfortable (that was the happy part) - but at the same time it just kills me that his 'home' is anywhere but here. I want his home to be with me - in our house - with our kids - with our future. Again, THANKFULNESS comes to the forefront - be thankful for what we have right now - and right now, I am just thankful that Al is happy.
This was posted on the National Guard Army Wive's Yahoo Board that I frequent . . . it's wonderful:
Subject: Thanksgiving letter from Lou in Iraq
Hi everyone, just wanted to wish you all a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!! I also wanted to share part of our Thanksgiving ceremony with you. This message is titled Perspective and I think you'll understand why when you get done reading this e-mail.
Recently, our 1SG asked (with the Chaplains' prompting and encouraging of course) that everyone write down 5 things that they are thankful for this Thanksgiving, the responses he got will blow you away. If you do not have a great Thanksgiving or cannot find something to be thankful, after reading this e-mail, you might want to take your pulse!! Before I tell you these responses, let me set the scene a little, for those that might receive this letter and not know the who/what/where/when/why of this message.
My name is irrelevant, and my unit name is also unnecessary, but I will tell you that I am a Sergeant in the US Army stationed with the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul, Iraq. Over the last 30 days we have been through the grinder; sustaining higher death rates, injuries and number of attacks than we have seen in any 90 day time period that we have been in Iraq. More than half of the last 75 people killed in all of Iraq over the last 30 days, we're Screaming Eagles!!
Our camp has seen rocket attacks, mortar fires and sustained injuries on convoys, just like most other camps here in Iraq. About 40% of our unit was able to go home for R&R leave over the last month and a half, which meant that the 60% that did not get that opportunity, not only got cheated out of their chance, but had increased responsibility on the camp (picking up the slack of those that did go on leave), while the others were gone. More than 90% of all of the soldiers over here have not, or will not, spend a whole years' worth of holidays with their loved ones.
For those of you that do not know this, the most important thing for a soldier is not his money, nor is it his clothes, car, shoes, or his rank. it is his TIME!! More than 250,000 active duty US Army soldiers, (the most I can remember during my 18 years of service) will miss spending the most important times of the year with their loved ones, in order to give others (Iraqis in this case) a chance to live in peace and experience freedom. That means no Valentines Day, no Easter, no Memorial Day, no 4th of July celebrations, no Presidents Day weekends, no Labor Day weekend, no Thanksgiving, no Christmas, and definitely not New Years Day celebrations.
As a matter of fact, more than three-fourths of those 250,000 soldiers have not had a real day off for the last 9 months!! (Having the day off while your camp is taking incoming mortars or rockets is not really a day off now, is it??!!).
I did not state all of that to make you feel bad, or even sorry for us, it was merely for you to understand where some of these responses are coming from - you will see why that makes a difference. Now, without further ado, here are some of those responses (names withheld, but irrelevant anyway these could be from any soldier out here):
~ I have been on more than 200 convoys in the last 6 months and I am thankful that I still have my arms and legs.
~ I have been in the Army for 14 years and I am thankful that this is only the 4th Thanksgiving and 5th Christmas that I will spend without my family, because I know other have spent much more time away from their families.
~ I am thankful that I only sustained hearing damage during a convoy that was hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), one of my soldiers lost both of his legs.
~ I am thankful that I have a beautiful wife and kids at home waiting for me when this is all over. I know several soldiers that have gotten Dear John letters, and their wives will not be there when they get home.
~ I am thankful to wake up in the morning, after getting 4 solid hours of sleep. Most of the time I can only sleep for an hour or so before I wake up in a panic!
~ I am thankful to be an American. I know that one day I will leave this place, these people cannot say the same thing & they live here!
~ I am thankful that we serve a mighty God that gives us strength and courage to face the unknown everyday.
~ I am thankful that I was able to serve my country, and I would do it again if given the chance, because America is worth fighting for. (this soldier lost an arm during an IED explosion)
~ I am thankful that we have the opportunity and the ability to help these people, most countries can t even help themselves, let alone another nation.
~ I'm thankful for having such great friends, comrades and soldiers around me, there is nothing in the world like being a soldier fighting next to someone you know would give his life in defense of yours, whether you deserve it or not is not even the point. it's called duty!
~ I'm thankful that I have had this time away from my family. As hard as it has been on us, it reminds us how good we have it back home.
~ I'm proud to wear the uniform of an American soldier because there are no other soldiers in the world that do what we do, and I m thankful not to be fighting a bunch of motivated, dedicated, highly trained warriors like us... the death toll would be staggering!
~ I'm thankful to walk on the same ground that Jesus and the disciples once walked, this is the chance of a lifetime!
~ I'm thankful that I was not killed when that mortar exploded 10 feet away from me, unfortunately my buddy was (this soldier just transferred in from another camp).
~ I'm thankful to be stationed in this camp, where the leaders care about the soldiers well being and safety enough to be up at 2 AM, walking around the perimeter and making sure the guards are awake and alert.
~ I'm thankful to be in Mosul and not in Baghdad or Tikrit, those soldiers really have it bad (those are the worst areas for attacks in all of Iraq).
~ Before I came over here, I didn t realize how blessed I was to have clothes on my back, food on my table, a place to sleep and friends and family that love me. Most people over here will never understand those blessings.
~ I'm thankful for living in a country that stands behind it s soldiers, supports them in their efforts and tells them so, even if they are not so sure of it themselves. There is nothing worse than the feeling of coming home to a nation that is thankless for your sacrifices.
~ I'm thankful that we are fighting this war under President Bush and not someone like Clinton of Gore. At least I know what President Bush stands for and I can support someone that stands for something, it's difficult to support a president that you don t respect or even know what he stands for.
~ I'm thankful that we trained so hard and that we learned so much from our history, to fight this war in a way that causes the least amount of casualties as possible. I don t know how many nights I've spent thanking God for not being a soldier during some of the battles of WWI, WWII, Vietnam or even Korea. those soldiers have given more than we can ever hope to give!
~ I'm thankful that even though I have limited use of my right arm (from a grenade attack), that I still have a right are to be thankful for!!
~ I'm thankful that I am able to sit here, among comrades, friends and co-workers, share hard times, good times, sad times, and some laughs, and than eat some turkey, and drink some juice, because there are many in this world that face famine, death, war, fear, hard times, and lack the ability to do anything about it.
Those are just some of the things that your soldiers (America's Army still with an average age of 19) are saying that they are thankful for today. What are you thankful for? In my mind, one of the greatest things that we have to be thankful for, is being given away by those who have no concept of its true meaning, or even why it is such an integral part of our culture. Hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and women have lost their lives in order to give you what you have today. If you cannot appreciate what that means, maybe you ought to spend some time at your local VA hospital and talk to some veterans so they can explain to you their meaning of FREEDOM!!
May God's richest blessings be upon you this holiday season, and when you forget to be thankful for what you have, just remember that there are more than a 250,000 soldiers who can find a reason to be thankful in the middle of a combat zone. Why can't you?
In Christ, Lou S.
Submitted by Sarge, US Army veteran, Former Cav Trooper and former member of the 4th Inf Div., Purple Heart recipient
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I also got to talk to Al on lunch today which was nice. We have gotten to email back and forth a lot more the last couple of days too - trading jokes back and forth, etc. It makes time go so much faster when I hear from him. He makes me laugh in a way that few people can --- here is an example of one of his silly emails that he sent me:
Reasons why English teachers die young:
Actual Analogies and Similes Found in High School Essays
- Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
- His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
- He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
- She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
- She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
- Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
- He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.
- The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
- The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.
- McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
- From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
- Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
- The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
- Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
- They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.
- John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
- He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.
- Even in his last years, Grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
- Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
- The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
- The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
- He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
- The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
- It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
- He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.
- Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any pH cleanser.
- She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.
- It hurt the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally staple it to the wall.
He got mail yesterday -- he got his printer that I mailed him (whoo hoo for nobody stealing it), the Girl Scout cookies - took a week and a half (yay for the new address), and a BUNCH of stuff from the awesome Homefront Hugs people!! He said that the guys have been teasing him because he gets the most mail out of anybody - the chaplain asked him if he's going to get his own conex to put it all in.
I am going out of town this weekend to visit his mom again - and I have a list of stuff to try and find in his house -- cross your fingers for a missing Army outfit and that I find some nursing CD's! I will be going to the FRG meeting too.
Al said that hopefully he'll be getting two new medics at his location - he lost the ones that he had -- and that things are going to be better organized now because they have a new group of people down there to help them out. He said that everything is going very well -- whoo hoo!!
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
On that note, I read this article today --- I pray that Al would do the same for the guys that he's with right now. Sometimes the smallest things show the depth of a person's commitment:
Army reservists reject plane ride in show of unity
Date: Monday, February 28 @ 00:00:55 Topic Our Towns
SALT LAKE CITY -- When the chartered plane carrying them to Utah from Fort Carson, Colo., had no room for a few of their comrades, the 30 Army Reserve soldiers of a Utah National Guard unit opted for an all-night bus ride rather than leaving two or three members behind to find their own transportation home.
It was a testament to the 395th Finance Battalion's sense of camaraderie, forged after a yearlong deployment in the Persian Gulf.
"They deployed together and they wanted to come home the same way," said Master Sgt. Gary Younger. "If they couldn't get the whole unit on board, then it wasn't worth it to them."
The Army Reservists, mobilized in December 2003, returned to Fort Douglas early Saturday morning after an all-night bus ride from their final staging area at Fort Carson.
A Salt Lake City policewoman welcomed them at Fort Douglas, with her cruiser's lights and sirens blazing.
The soldiers served in Kuwait, Iraq and Djibouti, paying out checks and cash to private vendors providing support services to U.S. troops.
Staff Sgt. Robert Skraznas, of Layton, said the battalion paid for food, tents, generators, portable rest rooms and chemicals to clean them -- "anything having to do with sustaining and maintaining U.S. troops in the field."
Meanwhile, nearly 400 Army Reserve soldiers from two Ogden-based units are scheduled to travel to Fort Bliss, Texas, for final training before deployment to the Persian Gulf. The 146th Transportation Company is scheduled to report for duty in March and the 872nd Ordnance Company in June.This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D2.
This article comes from The Daily Herald http://www.harktheherald.com/
Monday, March 07, 2005
I drove back from Tennessee yesterday and God really hit me over the head with some stuff. I realized that I had been focusing on the completely wrong thing --- that instead of looking at “how long” it was going to be until Al and I were together – that I needed to instead just look at the fact that we had one another at all. I thought about how lucky I was to be so much in love with such a great guy – and that in “10 short months” we would be able to move forward with starting our life together. I felt a lot better about things by the time I got home.
I heard from him again this morning (3 a.m.) – and he said that five guys had now left to go to another Camp. He seemed kind of ‘bummed’ about that – and said that they might not have the Troop Medical Clinic (TMC) open every day now. He is trying to keep busy – working out, helping out, etc. I told him that if “the Army didn’t need him, that they could just send him on home!”
He also sent a bunch of pictures this weekend. As I look at the ones of the children, I am reminded of Al’s son, Trey – and my daughter, Emelia. I think about how I would feel if my country was at war – and my primary concern became survival and protecting my babies. I am so thankful that Al can help the Iraqi’s in even a small way, I’m so proud to know him. I know how loving he is with me and the kids, and I can just picture him trying to get the Iraqi children to smile – or trying to comfort them. When I think about those parents – and the heartache that they must have about their country being at war, and their children being in danger – it helps me realize that the sacrifices that Al and I are making are very small and insignificant in comparison.
Friday, March 04, 2005
He is doing very well. He was on his way to work out when he called. He told me that the mail had gotten "hung up" somewhere - because NO ONE at their Camp had mail prior to the 15th of February ---- I really hope that they find that mail conex wherever it might be!! He was VERY sweet and cheered me up a lot.
He said that he has been busy looking at home plan books - and that he just wishes we could look at them together. Even though we are so far away from one another - we both feel very close in spirit ---- I'm so thankful that this deployment isn't changing that and I am looking so forward to getting to "Mrs. Big Al"!
Em and I are going to Tennessee for the weekend. We're going to visit her Godparents - it will nice to get out of town and see friends. We don't have anything "huge" planned - a little shopping and watching DVD's and eating junkfood!
We pray that everyone has a safe and happy weekend!! Be blessed!
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
This sign has been up on my way home since Saturday --- driving to my part-time job Saturday morning - there were yellow ribbons plastered everywhere. It felt so good to be a part of the military family and know that someone else was home, that they were safe - and most of all, that they were very, very loved.
I finally remembered to take a picture this morning - and I just want to say from the bottom of my heart . . .
"Welcome Home Ted!!"
**I can't wait to make a "Welcome Home Al!" sign!! :-)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Well, this entry would be a lot less of ironic if I hadn't just gotten done typing the whole thing and hit "Publish Post" - and had it disappear - ugh!
Since Al and I have started this deployment process, I have learned SO much - I've learned about the Army, I've learned about patriotism, I've learned what love really means. Out of all of those lessons though, I think one of the most important has to be what I have learned about patience. From the beginning, Al and I had our patience trusted: when things went back and forth with training, when 'lock down' happened more than once, when we were waiting to see one another for Christmas leave, even down to waiting to find out when he was finally going to fly out for the Sand. You would think that by now, I would have the lesson mastered - but it was proven today that I am but a mere novice when it comes to this virtue.
Al called yesterday and said, "Baby, we're getting a huge shipment of mail tomorrow - a big, metal box FULL of mail" ---- and I instantly let myself hope all over again. You see, I have been waiting for several weeks now for Al to get his Birthday and Valentine's packages - that I mailed on January 31st - that I wanted so much to get there in time for the 14th --- to no avail. That day came and went, and Al got one measly package from me - his first general one - and then nothing since.
I don't know if I have some strange repressed need from a long ago summer camp experience, if my parents spoiled me too much with care packages when I went to college - or if I was a neglected soldier in another life - but, it is SO important to me that Al gets mail. I know it's silly - but when he hears the words, "Mail Call" - (I don't even know if they even say that or not) - I want him to KNOW that there will be mail in there from me. Heck - if I could mail myself to Iraq - I probably would!!! So today, when Al told me that he got packages 4, 5, 6 and 7 - but no 2 and no 3 ---- I was absolutely crushed. I put so much work in them and I was just devastated - and, to turn a phrase, "I lost my patience".
Then, one of my Army wife friends reminded me - that if God wanted Al to have those two packages, he would. She said that Al will probably be having a really, really bad day one day - and the packages will arrive at the perfect time. Of course, I started crying --- why can I trust God with the big, huge, gigantic stuff in our lives - but I can't trust him with the little stuff? Why can I trust that He has Al in the palm of His hand right now, that He is protecting and blessing him every day - but that he can't keep track of two little boxes of "stuff"?
So, 'patience' has been pounded into my head once again. I am putting Package 2 and Package 3 as a trust offering on my mental altar to our gracious Father - and looking forward to mailing Package 11 this week - it will have his Easter basket in it - and I will be muttering "patience, patience, patience" to myself until I find out that Al gets it safe and sound - lol!