Thursday, December 24, 2009

We want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a better New Year, from beautiful Basrah, Iraq. That’s right. While you guys are enjoying a torrential amount of snow, we’ve been blessed to be on the sandy (currently quite muddy actually) beaches of Iraq. We are currently serving in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and this is our Christmas message to you!

From Dave’s world:

This year I have a lot to be thankful for such as my wife, family, friends, and my health. But not my recruiter, he promised me world travel, and sandy beaches. Little did I know when I signed up over thirty years ago that the sandy beach would be here in Iraq without water? This past year has been filled with highs and lows. My top 10 combined list of highs and lows on deployment. (Low first/high last)

# 10 Low - missing Josh’s graduation from Basic Training

# 9 Low - missing our 22nd wedding anniversary

# 8 Low - missing my Grand baby

# 7 Low - missing my better half

# 6 High - the fact that I’m not out on patrols or the gate

# 5 High - I have a roof over my head and a dry place to sleep

# 4 High - indoor plumbing

# 3 High - sharing this deployment with my niece Jessica

# 2 High - sharing this deployment with my daughter Jacki

And number 1 is being on a deployment with fellow soldiers and our contractor friends who are going through the deployment with us. It’s kind of like the movie “Play it forward”. Sometimes you’re there for your fellow soldier when they are down, and sometimes they are there for you. Sometimes the only thing that can get you through the day is a swift kick in the butt from one of the guys or gals that you work with.

I truly am thankful for my family, and our friends that continue to support us in this barren land so far from home. I’m even more thankful that my last ride with the U.S. Army is coming to a close in 2010. I will never look back at my time and not feel a sense of pride and honor for serving my country. I’m ready for Josh and Jacki to become the next generation of soldiers as I get ready to walk away from my final formation.

Let me just say that what we have back home as Americans is not something that should be taken lightly. Seeing the world up close and personal has me proud to be an American! The next time someone around me talks about how bad life in the states is should come here to learn what life without the good old stars and stripes is all about!

From Jacki’s world:

This year has truly been a unique experience for me. Few 19 or 20 year olds can say that they are veterans of war and few soldiers overall can say they have been privileged to serve alongside their father. I feel honored to have been asked to partake in something that’s bigger than me. I’m 20 years old and I am a part of an elite group of people who put their lives on hold for a year without question or hesitation. It’s a rare and beautiful experience indeed.

I have been provided with a classroom that has limitless boundaries as I have learned lessons that it takes some people a life time to learn. I have learned the immense generosity of the American people, as care packages from people I have never met or from people I have known all my life arrived. I have learned to appreciate the small things, like blue jeans and clean water. I have learned to treasure the moments with family, be it far away in a sandy place or within the realm of Skype. I have learned the value of true and lasting friendship. I have learned that I’m privileged to be an American and to be blessed to have all the opportunities I have.

I have a couple months left here before I start living real life again. I can’t wait to slip on a pair of blue jeans or a dress and heels. I’ve got a whole list of things I’ve been waiting to do. It’s about time I start living like a normal 20 year old, or as normal as it gets for me =]. I’ll be starting college in the fall (destination undecided). I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up (thank goodness I strayed from my first career of choice [grandma clown of all things] way back in the day). I just want to kind of live in the moment for a bit when I get back. Take the time to adjust and to learn to make my own choices again.

My father and I hope that you and yours also had a year worth remembering, too. That good fortune and good health has found its way into your hearts and into your home. Please continue to keep the troops in your thought and prayers as this holiday season comes closer. Prepare for a belated New Years upon our return, in traditional Crotteau fashion.

Monday, December 21, 2009

21 Dec 09 – A Great story to share!

A friend of mine (Saundra) sent this to me and I thought it was worthy of sharing. With thoughts of family, Christmas, New Years and our eventual trip back to the good old USA on the horizon I thought this story was fitting. This story makes me think of my own life, and my relationship with my wife and kids. I can see us growing old together and navigating the roads of life together for years to come.

Were both nervous right now contemplating what life without the military will be like? I know I have to find work in order to pay the bills and continue our standard of living. I only hope that when I leave the Army that I can find worthy employment. Susan’s right, even if I didn’t have to work I would have too just to keep my sanity. Not to mention the remodeling jobs and organization of the canned goods that might get me in trouble.

Susan don’t worry so much about me finding a job, remember I was looking for one 30 years ago when I found this one. Until then I may have to work on my customer courtesy skills for example “Good afternoon would you like to super size your order?” Or maybe “Mrs. would you like paper or plastic”?

My resume is ready and soon I will be out there hunting for a job where I won’t have to make left turns ever again.

To all of you that still read our blog I thank you for your patience between writings. I’m going out on the road again taking care of some property management issues. If everything goes good I will be back to Basra for Christmas! Until then enjoy your family time this holiday season. You never know how precious it is until there is an ocean separating you from your loved ones!

All: When You Have Some Time, Good Read.

This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News. In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Here goes...

My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car. He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet. "In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in, "Oh, bull!" she said. "He hit a horse." "Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars -- the Kollingses next door had a green 1941Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford -- but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines, would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that.

But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough, my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.

It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother.

So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving.. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits – and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.

(Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church. She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I'd stop by, he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored."

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

"I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

"No left turns," he said.

"What?" I asked.

"No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happens when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."

"What?" I said again.

"No left turns," he said. "Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer. So we always make three rights."

"You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.

"No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works."

But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

"Loses count?" I asked.

"Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.

"No," he said "If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."

My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at


They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.

A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."

"You're probably right," I said.

"Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.

"Because you're 102 years old," I said.

"Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.

That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:

"I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

"I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, Or because he quit taking left turns. "

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

So love the people who treat you right.

Forget about the ones who don't.

Believe everything happens for a reason.

If you get a chance, take it & if it changes your life, let it.

Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it."


Stay tuned for the Christmas message that me and Jacki co wrote!

That is all,


Ugandans getting a care package
Same as above

Jackis first camel kiss

Basrah snowman

Dave and Jacki getting ready for Christmas


Dave and Jackis little Christmas Tree

A Iraqi Christmas tree

Basra Bazzare

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9 Wed 09-hi how are you?

I’m sorry that I don’t update our blog more often. When I’m out on the road it takes a while to get caught up again on e-mails and letters. I spent a few days last week up in Adder (Tallil) doing inventories, transferring some property, and helping with container management. FYI – Containers are either a 20’ or 40’ long box that looks like a semi trailer without wheels. With the U.S. downsizing we are working longer hours moving equipment to where it’s needed, or sending it back to port, hopefully to be used in Afghanistan.

Those of you that have sent us boxes of goodies over here should know some of us are putting on the weight we lost. A friend of mine and his wife sent us some rice crispy bars with chocolate. I vowed I would only eat one a day, and then amended it to two a day, and then it was one at a time. The next thing I knew the bars were gone. I suspect that Jacki came back here and ate some of them in my absence. Then there was Harry’s homemade sweets, again Jacki made like a magician and made them disappear!

Last night Jacki and I decorated a Christmas tree in my room that my friends from Camp Ripley sent me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the local reporters don’t come knocking on my door tonight trying to get a picture of it. We worked nonstop putting the decorations on the seedling (I meant tree). It was fun while it lasted and time with my daughter is one of those treasures here that I cherish the most!

Most of you that really know me, would know that I don’t complain much. Last week I moved out of my CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) with indoor plumbing to the plywood palaces. Knowing me you know that my hearing leaves something to be desired and on more than one occasion people have to repeat things. My new roommate snored so bad on the first night that I finally snapped and asked him to roll over. Trust me when I say it didn’t make a difference. I turned the AC on in hopes that the white noise would drown him out. That didn’t work either! The next night he fell asleep right after watching a movie and was louder than a washing machine with an unbalanced load. I tried my ear plugs with a pillow on one side and a pillow on the other side of my head. The only thing that got me was wet hair in the morning from sweating. I feel for him but my own health was at stake. Three nights of sawing wood, crashing trees and the furniture moving inside of the CHU was enough.

Your probably wondering why did I move and not him? Well I’ll tell you I have less than 60 days and he has over 8 months left here. The choice was easy partially because my tote and two duffle bags had already been loaded into a container for the trip home. The other reason was it was the right thing to do in my eyes. Face it I’m down to the bare essentials now (Pictures, Books, and my Crocs).

The next morning I sub leased a room on the other side of the tracks. The room is sectioned off by plywood walls and the door allows the water in from the recent rain. It didn’t matter about the indoor pool, I was in heaven!

For those of you that believe the desert is dry you have another thing coming. The last few months they have spread gravel out here probably 6-8 inches deep. After walking back and forth through it you felt as if you ran a marathon. There was the usual soldier grumbling about why the gravel had to be so thick. Even the locals made fun of the preparation for rain. In years past the elders that I deal with would tell you that if you got over the metric equivalent of an inch it was a miracle. Let me just say that there is an unseasonable amount of rain that has come down the last few weeks. I’m not a weatherman but the ditches are almost full, and the mud is slowly covering the sinking gravel. Like any soldier were now complaining about the lack of gravel and the mud that were tracking into our living quarters. Trust me when I say with my new room I have to get up in the middle of the night and head down the road outside to get to my bathroom. In the mud I am so thankful for my crocs, instead of being cursed with flip flops!

Pictures for Susan to post will be sent home soon. I have more to share with you of my adventure for now let me leave you with this story. I love this story, I must be getting soft in my old age?

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,

I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.

My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,

my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,

transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,

completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,

Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.

In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,

So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,

But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.

Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,

Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,

And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,

A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,

Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.

Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,

standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear,

"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!

Put down your backpack; brush the snow from your sleeve,

You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,

away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts.

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light

Then he sighed and he said "It’s really all right,

I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,

That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me,

I'm proud to stand here like my father’s before me.

My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"

Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."

My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam',

And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while,

But my wife sends me pictures; he's sure got her smile.

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,

The red, white, and blue... an American flag.

I can live through the cold and the being alone,

away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,

I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.

I can carry the weight of killing another,

Or lay down my life with my sister and brother.

Who stand at the front against any and all,

To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright,

Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."

"But isn't there something I can do, at the least,

"Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?

It seems all too little for all that you've done,

for being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,

"Just tell us you love us, and never forget.

To fight for our rights back home while we're gone,

to stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,

To know you remember we fought and we bled.

Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,

That we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

That is all,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

26 Nov 09 – Thanksgiving Statistics

Wow two postings in one week! I know your thinking it, but don’t count on it in the future. I just wanted to provide some Thanksgiving statistics to help you understand how many soldiers are here on the ground. Did you know that in order to feed the Soldiers on the ground their Thanksgiving meal that it took over…

37,102 lbs of Stuffing

13,544 pieces of Cake

41,515 lbs of Potatoes

9,702 cans of Sweet Potatoes

40,826 lbs of Ham

7,188 cans of Cranberries

And a combination of 77,648 lbs of white turkey meat, and 73,296 lbs of dark turkey meat!

Can you say you’re thankful that you don’t have to do the dishes, I know I can!

Last Statistic for you from Minnesota!

98% of Americans say “Oh Shit” before going into a ditch on a slippery road.

The other 2% are from Minnesota and they say, “Hold my beer watch this”!

Have a great day!


25 Nov 09 – Happy Thanksgiving

First off to those of you still reading my blog I want to thank you for being patient. It is hard sometimes to write of the routine here that is only broken by sleeping in a little on Sunday, going to church, and then to work later on. I’ve said it before and I will say it again I’m living Ground hogs day over, and over, and over again.

Jacki and I participated in a talk show tonight with radio station KNSI AM 1450 out of St Cloud. It was fun, and the talk show host Dan “Ox” Ochsner was the one who interviewed us. He even pronounced our last name right on the first try! What a nice break from doing the same thing every day. Tomorrow we’re suppose to do a couple of TV interviews which could be fun we will see.

Jacki mentioned tonight on the radio show that we have different blogs, hers is fun and light, and mine on the other hand is serious; somewhat sad. Not sure what she meant, I try to be upbeat.

For example Thanksgiving away from your loved ones is tough to explain unless you’re over here. You try to be strong and show your soldiers that it’s going to be OK, we will get through this. You know one of those leadership things where you lead by example? When inside you’re missing your family, glorified rice, and stuffing with just the right seasonings. Instead were working a normal day and eating in a mess hall that would soon close if it were a business in the cities. Sure it’s all you can eat, the bigger question is how much can you handle? Now Jacki on the other hand would have a bright side along the lines of at least we don’t have to do the dishes! She might also wonder how much money she would make off her dear old grandma playing cards.

Today like most days I find myself day dreaming of the things that I miss the most. Sure family, friends, cold beer, adult activities, and indoor plumbing rank right up there. But sometimes the day dreams are about homemade bread fresh out of the oven. Spreading the butter watching it melt as it spreads, topped by some homemade strawberry jam. Sometimes when you close your eyes you can actually visualize it. Instead the smell from outside crashes your day dream and you’re suddenly faced with reality. Sure it’s doom and gloom here sometimes. But Jacki is right, it’s all about choices. If you remember one of my phrases is it’s up to you if your glass is half empty or half full. I do try and live my life like its half full!

Others ask what it is like there. What do you do? My job is logistics which covers everything from food to ammo; trucks to two wheelers; boots to tanks; water wings to airplanes. My section deals with just about everything except dispensing bulk fuel. Trust me if someone somewhere needs it, forgot it, or just ran out of the last one it becomes a problem for logistics. I think my buddy Teddy said it best:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." --

Theodore Roosevelt

Then again maybe Teddy should have said that Logistics is the difference between a click and a bang when you pull the trigger. Our job here as logisticians is not one that is often rewarded; we’re expected to expect the unexpected. Like Teddy said above we are the guys behind the scenes with dirt on our faces that make stuff happen. We’re the ones who are there before, during and after a mission to make sure it goes off without a hitch?

I didn’t mean to say Logistics is a thankless job when it is, but being the part that changes it from a click to bang is the reward. Replacing a Soldier’s worn out boots, getting his HUMMV back up and operational, or providing the heater that warms his room at night is all the thanks that we need. Taking care of soldiers and their needs is what Logistics is all about!

I want to finish this edition of my blog with Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for my family, my friends, and the world I left behind. I’m thankful for indoor plumbing, shower shoes, and the health of my loved ones. I’m also thankful that you’re able to read this in English, not Russian, Arabic, or Chinese. Most of all I’m thankful for those who gave the ultimate gift so that we can partake in the festivities of the upcoming seasons as Americans. Tonight as you lay snuggled in your bed say a prayer for the families left behind. Sleep well knowing that somewhere out there a soldier is on duty protecting the homeland. I’m going to ask that when you say a prayer tomorrow or the next day that you include the soldiers and their families that have given up more than we will ever know.

Let me leave you with a thought that I shared with my sister Susan. My thought is that the mistakes that are made in life should be like a library book. You check it out as a new edition, learn from it, and return it to the shelf. If you sign it out again use it only as a refresher for you to remember the life lesson that you learned.

That is all,


P.S. Jacki might be right in her observations?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

10 Nov 09-Happy Anniversary Dave

I just wanted to send a quick blog out announcing it’s my anniversary today. 30 years ago today I was sworn into the military. Back then I was eager and willing to do what my country asked me to do. Back then, it wasn’t what it is today. Our biggest threat back then was the Soviet Union and fear of nuclear war. I joined in a time that was considered the cold war era. Me and my brother in law Richard were sworn in together and were part of A Btry 1st Battalion, 151st Field Artillery. (Kind of like a Walmart store number). My physical was done by my hometown doctor, and I took my entrance test in the recruiter’s office. My commander at the time retired two years ago, at the time I joined he was a lowly Lieutenant, at the time of his retirement he was a full Bird Colonel.

I’ve known quite a few young officers that are now very high in the food chain. As far as my career goes when I joined at 17 all I could think about was 6 years and I’m out of here. After my brother in law left the unit to go back into the active Marine Corps I was kind of lost. My first years were miserable to say the least. The AST (Admin Supply Training) guy in the front office was not soldier friendly and took every opportunity to get one over on the soldier. He charged soldiers for equipment they didn’t lose. He Issued out used clothing and kept the new for whatever reason. Let’s just say we didn’t see eye to eye and he was often mad at me for doing right by the soldier. On more than one occasion he caught me helping the soldier without his permission. One month I came to drill and found out that I had been transferred to another unit. His story was that my move was for my benefit and possible promotion. Not likely I joined in 1979 as a private, went to basic training in 1980 as a private, in 1981 I went to my advance individual course to actually earned a military title and job. Yep you guessed it I was still a private. Rumor has it when he quit his job in Cloquet he went to work for the post office in North Carolina. He was arrested for stealing mail and cashing checks. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

My attitude changed after he left and I was brought back to Cloquet. The new guy SSG Delvin Simonson fixed my pay and got me promoted not once, but twice to catch me up where I should have been. The promotion wasn’t as nice as the back pay, even back then. He taught me a lot about smoking mirrors and how to play the shell game. What happened is that when he was going to be inspected he would box up all his problems and mail them off to himself. In other words he would look really good for the inspection and a couple of days later the box would come back in the mail and he was back to work. He brought me in for additional pay to help him stay afloat. I didn’t mind I learned a lot from him and the experience that it gave me.

After my six years were up I opted to stay a little longer in hopes of landing a full time job. I had several interviews without much success. In fact one of the interviews was all the way down in Anoka. I worked the night before so my dad drove me down. I changed into my dress uniform in the Armory men’s room and was walking down the hall to my appointment when this guy stopped me. He told me my branch of service and U.S. Army devices were on the wrong side. He offered to help me and I was thankful for his assistance, in fact he adjusted my ribbon bar as well. Thank god he helped me before I made a fool out of myself. I thought to myself that I must have been tired when I had placed my devices on my freshly dry cleaned dress uniform. When I got into the interview the president of the board after introductions were made said “please tell the board what’s wrong with your uniform”. It turns out the guy that helped me was next in line and he helped me all right! Man I was so embarrassed. The good news is he didn’t get the job either.

Because I was still a part time I went before a promotion board one day, interviewed for a full time job the next. Basically I was told that I passed the promotion board and would be promoted to Staff Sergeant. Shortly after that I was offered a full time job as a specialist two levels lower than Staff Sergeant. It wasn’t a question of what to do I wanted my foot in the door so I was almost promoted and then reduced in a matter of days.

It took a little getting used to stepping down a rank and having to explain to everyone that I didn’t get in trouble I did it to get a job. After a few years thoughts of promotion were again dancing in my head. The bad news is upward mobility back then was tough. Someone had to retire or die in order for soldiers that worked full time to advance. What was harder was watching all the part time soldiers getting promoted ahead of me. It wasn’t fair but it’s one of those life lessons that you deal with. I loved my job and loved helping soldiers.

When I started full-time I worked in Duluth up on top of the hill. I had the opportunity to transfer to Anoka to take over a rather large mess. It was my opportunity to prove myself and show that I was capable of making it right. When my unit in Anoka disbanded several years later I was selected because of my ability for the new unit that was forming in Anoka. It was tough building an organization from the ground up; I sometimes worked three to four weekends in a role. My boss “Pete” always promised that one day we would kick back and take it easy as a reward for all of our hard work. That day never came. 30 days a year vacation, after two years of hard labor I had 60 days of vacation on the books. I sold back 52 days to pay the bills.

I left Anoka where I was with a Forward Observer unit (Guy on the hill top calling in artillery rounds on the enemy) unit for the Aviation world in St Paul. Several years later I was promoted and after a few years I transferred to the Air Defense Artillery in Brooklyn Park. Ironically the guy in Duluth that was my boss became my employee as I advanced. Before he retired he told me he was nervous when I was selected ahead of him for promotion. He confessed that he wasn’t the nicest to me and feared retaliation. Instead he said I showed him that it was all in the past and I taught him things to make his job easier. You know me I’m not one to carry a grudge! My motto is “make love not war”!

I’ve worn three different utility uniforms (OG 107, BDU, ACU), and three different dress uniforms (Khakis, wool, cotton/poly) in my time. Now that the end is near I finally have a pair of boots that you don’t have to shine, a work uniform that you don’t iron, and dress shoes that were manufactured to always shine. The other highlight is a can of brass polish is a thing of the past, the brass now days has lacquer on it for a permanent shine. You might think I’m crazy to leave but I know in my heart it’s time.

I learned a lot from my past and made a vow early on that I would do what I could for my soldiers. I always gave equipment to the soldier first and took care of my own needs only after their needs were filled. I’ve done all the jobs from dish washer to Chef in the Army. What I’m saying is I want to retire while I’m still making a difference to the soldier. I want to leave knowing that I did my best for those below me, as well as those around me. I want to know that after I’m gone from the system that someone, somewhere says to himself “I wonder what Sergeant Major Crotteau would do in this situation”. I want to walk away knowing that the guy replacing me will build on the foundation I laid. I want him to take the organization I currently belong to up to the next level. Someday I want a soldier to stop me in Walmart and say thank you for helping me when I needed it. For now I look forward to going home, to my upcoming retirement, and spending time with my grand children. Just maybe I can be the cool grand pa and make up time with my family for the time I spent away from them serving in the military.

The future scares me but my thoughts are I was looking for a job when I found this one. I have a lot to offer a business and I’m sure someone out there needs someone like me. After years of being responsible for so much, a change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered.

I want to thank my family, my soldiers and our friends for standing by me all these years. Most of all I want to thank my wife for being my rock. No matter where I was she could give me the canned speech that dealt with the situation I was in. For example if I called missing home she would give me canned speech # 1 “Your almost done don’t quit now”, or if I said I can’t take working with him anymore she would give me canned speech # 2 “Do what you think is best for you, your family stands behind your decision”. All these years later I’m still serving and doing what my country asks of me.

My family was and is my motivator, they guided me onto the right path on more than one occasion. It’s easy making a rash decision when you’re on your own. But when you have a family at home depending on you it becomes more than what’s best for you, it’s about providing for your family, it’s about being a role model for your children.

Veterans Day is tomorrow I will give thanks for my life that I have lived and for my service to my country. I will more importantly say a prayer for those that I have served with that have gone before me. The ones that took the final walk and gave their all so that we can live the life we live!

That is all,