Instead of looking at myself - and thinking about being here without Al - I try every day to think of his life - and what he's going through "there" -- it's hard sometimes - in America we are taught to not see past the nose on our face - but that's what love will do for you - it can melt the heart of even the most selfish person on the planet - I find myself thinking of Al so often - Where is he? What is he doing? Is he safe?
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