Tuesday, May 26, 2009

26 May 09 - Memorial Day Weekend

Good Morning, from warm and sweaty Iraq. What a great week end at the beach. Just like other Memorial Day weekends in the past, I ended up dumping sand out of my shorts and sneakers. Your probably asking yourself sand in your shorts and sneakers where did that come from? Well, if you have a minute or two I will tell you.

We spent the weekend working, although Sunday was a reduced work day in the office. On Friday night we watched one of the girls we started our journey with. She was participating in the second round of Iraq Idol. What a voice, and what a performance! They started out with 9 on the first round, six on the second, and now 3 on the last. SGT Washington will be one of the three remaining contestants. Next Friday night we will be on hand again to watch one of our own.

On Sunday a friend of mine got us involved in the volley ball playoffs. It started out innocent enough when I was asked; I said I would play if Cheryl would play. Never in a million years did I think that she would step up and say let’s play. She was supposed to be my escape goat, my battle buddy. Instead I found myself playing volleyball on a team with other members of our section. Our first game was a blur and soon the game was over. It was obvious that some of us haven’t been around the game for some time. Our second game was better, but in the heat it’s hard to say. Before we knew it the game was over and the other team was congratulated on their victory. We played our third game for fun and lost that one as well. A little discussion about the heat and the game and we were ready to go back and hibernate. Did I mention it was double elimination? I didn’t mention it, and wasn’t aware of the second set we were to play until our coach informed us as we were walking back. I might have given the coach a smart butt comment or two when he said report back to the court at 1300 (1:00 PM).

The second set didn’t go too bad we won the first game, and in my eyes dominated the much younger team. The second set they won, and made us look like escapees from the old folk’s home. Wow, imagine our surprise one game apiece and we had another game to play. I’m sure I forgot to mention that by now it was all of 110 degrees. Third game went by in a blur and soon the humiliation was over. I’m sure your asking, how did the rest of the team do.? My battle buddy suffered the worst after sitting out most of the first set; at the start of the second set she tripped and fell over the sand bags that outlined the court. I give her credit it was a noble effort to save the team, and keep the ball in play. She tore up her knees, and ripped some meat off the palm of her hands. The rest of us suffered jammed fingers, some swallowed pride, and it was all over.

Going back to my room to cool down turned into another adventure. My thoughts of cooling down quickly turned too, throw some water on the rocks. We experienced our first controlled power outage in our cell block area. Lucky for me, the electricity was off for over two hours.
Monday turned out to be another day much like the days before only different. The day started out good talking to my lovely bride back home. After that it was last night’s Memorial Day service. The service was great and a fine tribute to those that lost their lives here on this foreign sand. After a very moving service, a local band from Minnesota was on stage next to perform for the troops. The band’s name was Catch Penny and they were voted MWR (Moral Welfare Recreation) entertainer of the year. Just for the record they are civilians that came over to share their talents with the soldiers. Not sure if they are paid for their efforts or not, but I can say their efforts were most appreciated.

All in all I’m doing OK! The weather here has temperatures right around 115 for most of the week. Night time lows around the 85 degree range. I have a unique way to look at the heat. It’s the same as the one I use in the winter when I say “once it gets below zero it doesn’t matter how cold it is”. I only hope the same is true when it gets above 115? Yesterday I was thinking of Richard Simmons were he did sweating to the oldies. Here it’s the oldies just a sweating.
Please continue to keep the soldiers here with me in your thoughts and prayers. For those of you that sent me a Memorial Day greeting, I thank you.

As my favorite character Radar said “That is all”


Saturday, May 23, 2009

22 May 09- Life is still on Pause

Good evening! I know you’re surprised that I’m doing two posts in one week. To be honest, I had two choices: One was to post a message to my friends and family back home. My other choice was to try and dwindle down the things to do in my in-box before it slides off to the floor. Picture an iceberg in the ocean as a great shelf of ice breaks off and splashes into the cold dark water below. Yep, you guessed it, I’m writing a blog to my friends and family. My attitude lately is “the pile will be there tomorrow when I get back here in the morning”.

In my last post I talked about deployment being a lot like hitting the pause button on the VCR. Most of us will be coming back into the living room a year after hitting the pause button. A whole year will have gone by when we hit the play button. But what about those of us that don’t make it home? What about their hopes, dreams, families and friends? What they have ahead of them is sad times, memories, and so many first times without.

This weekend, particularly means so much more to me than Memorial Day s of the past. When I was a young soldier I was tasked by higher headquarters to work in support of Memorial Day celebrations in Anoka county and surrounding areas. It seemed that I worked every Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and 4th of July celebration for five years in a row. I use to resent the additional time that I had to work to support these event. I hated the guys in the higher headquarters telling me to take precious time away from my family. Now years later I find myself thinking of the sacrifices that so many gave to give us the freedom that we have today. In the greater scheme of things I only gave four days tops to honor others. Such a small price to pay for the ultimate price so many made. I’m not proud of myself for being angry about working the Memorial Day services. The veterans and families that we were honoring back then deserved so much better than what I was prepared to offer. If I knew back then what I now know, I would have handled it differently.

Last year Susan and I went to a local cemetery for the Memorial Day Service. The years prior had been filled with military funerals, casualty notification duties, as well as a casualty assistance officer. What does casualty notification and casualty assistance mean exactly? It means I had to tell a mother her boy wasn’t coming home. Then I assisted the same mother with the miles of military paperwork and with the funeral itself. Not only did the mother’s life change forever, but that day my life changed too. I was able to get through it all with help from the big guy upstairs, my family and friends. Another reason why I was successful was that I asked myself what I would want for my wife and family if someone was doing the job I was chosen to do.

The reason why I bring this up is that when I was at the Memorial Day service last year I was very emotional. The old World War II and the Vietnam Veterans marched up and performed a remarkable job. The sad thing was that before the ceremony started some of the veterans could hardly walk, much less stand for the service. But when the flag was carried, taps were played, the rolls called, and the 21 gun salute was executed, the old guys were all standing tall. It was as if they reached deep into their personal reserve to stand tall for the soldiers that had given so much. That day the American Legion honor guard did their fallen comrades proud! I want you to experience this emotion and thank a veteran for his service. Don’t do it after they are gone, do it now while they are here. I’m asking that today you to call a veteran, veteran’s wife, or visit a cemetery to honor those who gave all, so we can have so much.

Numerous people sent me the picture above. It makes me think of life growing up. You have to grow up believing in America. When you’re young the whole “living the American dream” is just something your parents said. You went to the parades, the fireworks, and the picnics, never really understanding what all the fuss was all about. You went for the candy, scantily clad girls twirling batons, and Mom’s potato salad. The fireworks were awesome and sometimes you woke up as dad carried you back to the car.

The reason I chose this picture is that it explains the American way of life. We grow up listening to our parent’s talk of America, the Unions and making a better place for their families. Their dreams and beliefs someday, become our dreams and beliefs. Somewhere along the line we add a few things in hopes of making our world a better place for our kids, grandkids and the generations to come. So, the reason this picture represents us is that you have to color it in with some blood, sweat, and tears. You have to believe in the difference you have made, the differences you’re going to make, and the sacrifices that you have given so the next generation can carry on the dreams and beliefs of our fathers, and those who have gone before them. You have to participate at some level whether it’s a fire fighter, police officer, serve on the city council, little league coach, teacher, soldier, or a parent. But in order to color in the flag above you have to believe in America, and stand proudly when the National Anthem is played. You have to go to a service-connected funeral to witness the loss of someone who gave their own life, while protecting yours. John 15:13 says “No one shows greater love than when he lays down his life for his friends”. Most importantly you have to stand up, and remove your hat when the flag goes by! You have to understand that so many gave so much in order for you to have this day. Don’t think of Memorial Day as a burden, or another day to miss work. Instead think of it as an opportunity to thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

In remembrance of SFC Mike Walters, SGT Chris Rabe, SGT Brent Koch, Harold Crotteau, Sheldon Sibell, and my friend SGM Mike Mettille. And many more. You may be gone but you will not be forgotten.

As my favorite character Radar said “That is all”

19 May 09 - Here I am

Morning from Iraq! Well the unit we replaced is probably home by now, sitting on the front porch with their loved ones. The actual Transfer Of Authority (TOA) ceremony takes place in a few days. There are only a few soldiers left here from the unit that we replaced, that need to stay until the TOA takes place. I have 108 days away from home now under my belt, 260 +/- to go.

One of my buddies back home sent me a message that they were going four wheeling this past weekend. Man, I wish I was there to ride with them. You can’t imagine the first mud hole of the season and the displacement of the mud when you blow through the hole on your 4 wheeler. After talking to my family they said the temperatures were cool where they were at. I can only hope my buddies riding had decent weather for their ride. The weather here has been hot, one of the guys’ lives by a digital thermometer that had temperatures at 110 the other day. I thought that was warm that day, but maybe when it gets warmer I will look forward to a cool 110?

My family got together for a belated mother’s day back home. All the kids made it home last weekend for the get together. I was happy for my wife Susan but sad at the same time. Susan, Jacki, Aubrey, and Darcie helped Mom/grandma fix the rain garden so it would pass inspection. Last fall the inspector said we had a good start but that we needed to add plants and mulch. Susan told me our neighbor up north was kind and gave her Hostas and some lilies. Thinking of working outside at our cabin makes my mind wanders, and I leave the desert for a brief day dream. I usually end my day dreams talking to myself something along the line of “Self, what are you doing here”? More times than not I respond by saying “Living the good life”. Life here is good three square meals a day, (four at midnight if you’re interested), a roof over your head and some guy name Hussain washing your dirty underwear. There is free internet at work with government restrictions, and blocked access to face book, web pages, and blogs. But who am I to complain? At least the local paper here in country is fairly current, by the time we get it; it’s only 4-5 days old. I know I’m complaining, but thoughts of spring back home have me homesick. I love all the seasons in Minnesota, each of the seasons I love for different reasons. But spring always has me waiting for tulips to bloom, the smell of the grass being cut, and watching the crab trees blossom. You don’t know how much I wanted to be home last weekend with my family.

Putting it into a more positive spin at least I have my life/wife to come home to. Imagine that you had to leave home for one year and put your life on hold. It’s like pausing a movie on the DVD player so you can go and do something. So much happens when you hit the pause button, you do what you have to do and then come back and hit the play button. The movie starts again where you left it and the counter starts right where you left off. But what really happened while you were away, and do you remember the parts of the movie before you hit pause. Some of us might have to hit the rewind button to get a little refresher on what the movie was about. Others might have to explain what happened during the intermission; the rest of us hopefully will have the movies end with us all walking together into the sunset together.
Dreams of home sometimes haunt my dreams. Waking up the next morning, the pictures of family and friends hanging by my bed make me smile. I know I’m not alone here with all the support I get from you guys back home. To my kids I thank you for taking time out of your lives to make your mom’s world a better place. To my friends four wheeling I hope that you didn’t get to see the locals from deliverance again. To the rest of my family and friends I thank you for your support.

As my favorite actor Radar said “That is all”

Sunday, May 10, 2009

10 May 09 - Mothers Day

Hello everyone it's me, I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. We have been really busy with learning the ropes from those we are replacing. It's been long days, and short nights trying to stay on top of everything. Hopefully it will get better soon when we are in charge. I have to admit the guys from the 10 Mtn Division have welcomed us with open arms. I know I would welcome our replacements with open arms as well but they took it to the next level. They welcomed us into the fold and have gone above and beyond to make us successful.

Enough about me. I will have to tell you about my first 106 degree day next time. It's mothers day and here I am again far from home doing the Army thing. I hear from a lot of people about what a tough job I have. I have to tell you being an Army spouse is probably the worse job. No matter what, an Army spouse gets left picking up the pieces more times than not. An Army spouse knows that while we are gone they have to deal with multiple situations head on. There should be a day honoring the Army spouse and the personal sacrifices that they do to make our lives better. No matter what time I call, Susan is there for me. No matter my mood, Susan is the one who picks me up when I'm down.

With the circumstances being what they are I told my wife Happy Mothers day a day early. It's not that she doesn't deserve a call on her day, it's that I'm not sure if I will be able to call her on her day. Right now there is a line about 10 deep on 10 phones with soldiers waiting to call home. Each soldier is being allowed 20 minutes.

So I did the mail thing and sent a card three weeks ago to make it to her in time. I also took some time last night to send her the Mothers Day greeting below. I edited this some for public viewing.

Happy Mothers Day!
I know I'm not there to pamper you like you deserve, instead I want to tell you Happy Mothers Day!, and that I love you I know that you deserve better than a lousy E Mail but I did send a card three weeks ago in hopes that it would be there on time. Looking back at the last 21 years I thank my lucky stars that you are the mother, and sometimes father to our kids. With out you being my guide to parenting I wouldn't be the man I am today. What I mean is not only were you the Mother to our kids, but you helped me to become a better parent along the way. Your kind and sensitive words of encouragement to our kids, and me, throughout our life together will never be forgotten.

I guess what I'm telling you is thank you for being the Mother of the year in my eyes. Right or wrong you always put your family first. In the early days of our marriage when there wasn't enough money to buy food, you found a way. When money was tight and the kids needed something you found a way. No matter what obstacles life threw at you, you found a way as a mother to make it work.

With me being gone and the loneliness that you feel right now, you will continue to find a way to make it work. No matter what Susan, you find a way to bring light to the darkness for those around you. Take time today to enjoy your own light, and know that your family loves you. That they appreciate the way you always found a way to make it work. Hopefully they will never have to make the same sacrifices that you made for them.

I love you, always and forever!


I have to go back to work now. I hope that all the moms out there, that your mothers day was enjoyable and that all Mothers deserve a little pampering every now and then.

That is all,

Sunday, May 3, 2009

2 may 09 3 Month Deployment Anniversary

Good Morning from Basrah Iraq! It’s been a while since I last posted and I wanted to tell you a little about my life lately. I finally got back to Basrah on Tuesday morning about 3:00AM. I was just about a week late in getting back. Reasons for delays in order were: Flight was canceled due to priority cargo; Mechanical failure; Sandstorm in Basrah; Sandstorm in Bagdad; No Space “A” seats; and finally no scheduled flights. It may not seem like much to you right? I mean it was only six days longer. But extra 6 days equates to packing your equipment up six times, leaving your room six times, waiting at the airport for 3-4 hours six times, Finding a ride six times (both ways); Wearing your body Armor, Helmet, carrying your back pack, duffel bag in and out of the airport. I could continue but I’m thinking you’re getting a clearer picture of the airport hassle. The biggest issue I faced though was 24-48 hours turn around for laundry. I brought enough clothes for 7 days even though it was suppose to be six days. I figured one extra day just in case, who would have thought I would be there for almost two weeks. So there I was in the bathroom washing clothes hoping they would dry in time.

Yesterday marked our three month anniversary for being away from home. Three months to the day that a few of us left our families for Ft Lewis. Some of us haven’t been home since while others were lucky to be home with their families. I was telling Susan earlier today that even though I wasn’t able to go home the energy level of those that did was noticeable. It seemed as though some were recharged while others were again torn with leaving there loved ones behind again. I was glad to hear the stories of their time spent with families and friends. One of the soldiers from the first group to Ft Lewis on 2 Feb 09 stopped by to see me, and is excited to bring me pictures of his three and a half month old son. I’m excited to see the pictures as much as he wants to show them to me. We are for the most part all becoming a family of sorts. There are a few mom and dad personalities, some unique kids, step children, aunts, uncles, and one or two black sheep. Like any family there are issues, some are withdrawn, while others are outgoing, shy, timid, and some want their solitude. Just like any other American family with 28 kids.

Susan and I talked a long time about missing each other and what we have done since we last we talked. I find myself writing things down now so I don’t forget to tell her the next time we talk. It doesn’t take effort to talk to her, but with everything that’s going on right now I know I will forget. But one of the things we talked about is some of the things we do to stay connected. My friend MAJ Jeff Howe came back and talked about the books him and his wife received during their marriage encounter weekend. He said how they were each reading the marriage books given them and were discussing them. Susan and I have not done that yet but we need to.

Other things that we have done to make sure we communicate is to set up a time to talk to each other, and times that I can talk to the family. There are sacrifices on both our parts whether it’s me getting up at 0430 (4:30 AM) to talk to the kids, or Susan taking her break at work to wait for my call. It’s about communication and keeping the lines of communication open. I stock piled a collection of cards to send home because I may not have an opportunity to write more that a quick note such as “I’m thinking of you” or even as simple as “I love you Dave” at the bottom of the card. It’s just something I’ve always done since we have been married. I hid her Valentines gift at the house before I left to make that day special knowing I wouldn’t be there. I wish I had taken the time to stash more surprises for her to find later in the deployment. Susan on the other hand has surprised me with care packages packed with things I need, things I want, and things that bring a smile to my face. (Get your mind out of the gutter) Yesterday’s care package had pictures of my grand baby at Easter, pictures of the blinds she hung at the cabin, other pictures of things she has told me in the past. The visual things are just as important to me as the words written or exchanged.

We have done numerous E mails adding or replying to the last message sent. I couldn’t imagine what my dad must have done to communicate with his family during World War II. With all of our technology the mail is still slow. On a good day mail seems to make it here 12-15 days from the states. Packages seem to take a little longer, so when you send out cards home you just need to back plan accordingly.

One thing I’m excited to do is a fill in the blank assignment with my wife. Susan found some fun things in a magazine to do a fill in the blank type exchange. Granted they are a little racy but the exchange with her will be fun. Susan is going to send me some of these that are numbered and when we want to exchange an E Mail on it one of us will say let’s do # 6. We will fill in the blank add the subject #6 in our E mail and we can’t open it until we both have completed the assignment.

The fill in the blank ones that Susan has right now are along the line of I came home from work after a long day only to find her/his clothing lying on the floor as they took it off leaving a trail from the front door all the way to bedroom/bathroom/kitchen. When I opened the door I discovered her/him drunk, naked, or that his bowling ball was gone. One thing led to the other and the next thing I knew he/she was in the bathroom getting sick, we were in bed, or cheering him/her on at the bowling alley. I filled the blank in as I typed this showing a few of the possible outcomes.

Here are a few examples of a simple one I changed it three times to give you an idea on possible outcomes.

Example # 1
I was shopping at the mall yesterday and Fleet Farm had John Deer T Shirts for 50% off. I knew you would be excited since your old one was wrecked in the wash.
Example # 2
I was shopping at the mall yesterday and Kohl’s had dress shirts for 50% off. I knew you would be excited since your old one was way too big after the deployment.
Example # 3 (My favorite)
I was shopping at the mall yesterday and Victoria’s Secret had Sexy Lingerie for 50% off. I knew you would be excited since your old one was destroyed in the bedroom.

Hopefully this will work out as a game to play through E mails with Susan while I’m gone.

Other updates include its hot here. Between today and 6 May 09 all temperatures in the long range forecast are right around 100 degrees. It’s plenty hot trust me. The food is good and the rest of my section is finally here. All of our troops are now in Iraq, with the exception of the two we left down in Kuwait to work the transportation issues. It’s nice having the rest of the team here finally.

That’s all I have for right now. I really do appreciate everyone that keeps us soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Most importantly I thank Susan for putting up with me all these years.