Sunday, June 28, 2009

28 Jun 09 – Be not afraid

Morning to all!

Another day down and I’m 38% done with my tour. I would list the days left in country but that’s kind of depressing. I can say it’s been fun; it’s just that it hasn’t been real fun. It’s been fun to find out that this old man still has a lot of the young soldier in him. I’m in a world here where the average age is somewhere around the 30 to 34 year old age group. I’m not senior by any means but I’m close. It’s been fun to know that many of my friends and acquaintances back home are there to support me, my family, and my soldiers. It’s been fun to be with a team that started out together in the minor leagues. Many of the faces changed early on, but when we were called to the major leagues we were ready. We are one team here with many backgrounds, many personalities, and so many “there I was” type stories. In case you’re wondering what “there I was” type stories, they could be anything from there I was knee deep in poop when I realized I had jumped head first; to there I was riding in a MRAP when suddenly (fill in the blank). Do not confuse this with the back home stories of “Hold my beer and watch this”. No matter what, the stories that are told are a soldier’s way of sharing information, healing wounds, or giving wisdom to a friend in need. Sometimes you have to wonder what our soldiers lives will be like after all is said and done.

Many of you may have heard of my story about my flight back from Kosovo on my first trip there. I was only in Kosovo for a week but the life lesson I learned on the way back to the states will stay with me always. You see the flight was a mixture of civilians and soldiers from Germany, Kosovo, and Iraq. I sat behind two young kids not much older than 20. They were talking of things that they had experience during their time in IRAQ. The tales told were of convoys that had been attacked and the loss of someone close to them within their own organizations. There was an older man seated close by that talked to the boys as if he had been there as well. He was, but the time and place had been well before the boys were born. The old man smiled; knowingly and maybe for an instant, he was reminded of a time so long ago. The stories were enough to make me wonder what the future would be for the two so young soldiers. They were ok together, but what would they do after they separated? What would happen when they had to dwell on what they had done, or maybe even failed to do? On the plane they had each other but after they left the airport, who would they have that would listen and not judge? I can only ask those here and those back home to help our young deal with what they have seen so early in their life. It means even more to me now that my daughter is on her way here. I pray that during her time here that she will never have to lose someone close, that she will never have to ask herself was there something more she could have done? As a father and a senior leader there is no doubt in my mind why we are here. My issues are with what our young have witnessed, the wounded, and more importantly, the not always visible wounds that many bring home. What you can do back home is listen, support them, and get clergy involved if need be. Luckily for our young veterans and their families there are many places and services available for our sons and daughters to join and become a member of. Just like there are for recovering alcoholics or people dealing with drug dependency.

Our mass today was dedicated to Father Tim who passed away last week in Minnesota. Father Tim was injured in 2004 when an IED went off near his vehicle. He was the first military chaplain wounded in Iraq. Father Tim never fully recovered from his injuries. During mass Father said the 5th commandment says though shall not kill. But like most commandments, the follow on is that though shall preserve life whenever possible. He talked about it as being the soldier clause. In order to preserve life sometimes you have to take one in order to save many. The irony is that Father Tim lost his life, but how many lives had he saved without even having had a weapon?

I know I’m not alone when I say in order to get through this experience you need a little help every now and then. Today’s mass was the help I needed to deal with everything in my life right now. Our family is scattered far from the nest. Susan is left home alone trying to pick up the pieces that keep our family together while we are apart. Our son Matt recently moved north to Alexandria, Darcie just moved back to Minnesota from Chicago, Josh is at Fort Jackson, and Jacki is on her way to Iraq.

Jacki’s trip begins with a brief stop at Ft Benning on the first leg on her all expense paid vacation to Iraq. She sent me two text messages yesterday one said “Dad it was so hard saying goodbye, I don’t know how you could have done this twice” the other one said “I’m here now in Benning I’m exhausted I’m going to sleep”. Both times she said I love you! When I replied I said the only thing that can make saying goodbye better is saying hello I’m home. You need to understand saying good bye is so very hard, but saying hello I’m home is the same as hitting the good old play button on the “this is your life” DVD/VCR player. Our journey together will be brief, but this portion of our life we share will be remembered for a life time!

My title of today’s blog posting is “Be not afraid”. Jacki this was the hymn that we sang at church today. Between me and you Jacki, you need not be afraid because I will be with you!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dear Civilians

*Dear Civilians, We know that the current state of affairs in our great nation has many civilians up in arms & excited to join the military. For those of you who can't join, you can still lend a hand. Make sure you read #13:

Here are a few of the areas where we would like your assistance:*

1. The next time you see any adults talking (or wearing a hat) during the playing of the National Anthem - kick their butt.

2. When you witness, firsthand, someone burning the American Flag in protest - kick their butt.

3. Regardless of the rank they held while they served, pay the highest amount of respect to all veterans. If you see anyone doing otherwise, quietly pull them aside and explain how these veterans fought for the very freedom they bask in every second. Enlighten them on the many sacrifices these veterans made to make this Nation great. Then hold them down while a disabled veteran kicks their butt.

4. (GUYS) If you were never in the military, DO NOT pretend that you were. Wearing Army combat uniforms (ACUs) or Jungle Fatigues, telling others that you used to be 'Special Forces, collecting GI Joe memorabilia, might have been okay when you were seven years old. Now, it will only make you look stupid & get your butt kicked.

5. Next time you come across an Air Force member, do not ask them, "Do you fly a jet?" Not everyone in the Air Force is a pilot. Such ignorance deserves a butt-kicking (children are exempt).

6. If you witness someone calling the US Coast Guard "non-military", inform them of their mistake - then kick their butt.

7. Next time Old Glory (the US flag) prances by during a parade, get on your feet & pay homage to her by placing your hand over your heart. Quietly thank the military member or veteran lucky enough to be carrying her, of course, failure to do either of those could earn you a severe butt-kicking.

8. Don't try to discuss politics with a military member or a veteran. We are Americans, and we all bleed the same, regardless of our party affiliation. Our Chain of Command is to include our Commander-In-Chief (CinC). The President (for those who didn't know) is our C in C, regardless of political party. We have no inside track on what happens inside those big important buildings where all those representatives meet. All we know is that when those civilian representatives screw up the situation, they call upon the military to go straighten it out. If you keep asking us the same stupid questions repeatedly, you will get your butt kicked.

9. "Your mama wears combat boots" never made sense to me - stop saying it! If she did, she would most likely be a vet & therefore could, and would, kick your butt!

10. Bin Laden and the Taliban are not Communists, so stop saying "Let's go kill those Commies!" And stop asking us where he is! Crystal balls are not standard issue in the military. That reminds me; if you see anyone calling those damn psychic phone numbers, let me know, so I can go kick their butt!

11. "Flyboy" (Air Force), "Jarhead" (Marines), "Grunt" (Army), "Squid" (Navy), "Puddle Jumpers" (Coast Guard), etc., are terms of endearment we use describing one another. Unless you are a service member or vet, you have not earned the right to these terms. Using them could get your butt kicked.

12. Last, but not least, whether or not you become a member of the military, support our troops and their families. Every Thanksgiving & religious holiday that you enjoy with family and friends, please remember that there are literally thousands of soldiers, sailors, marines, & airmen far from home wishing they could be with their families. Thank God for our military & the sacrifices they make every day. Without them, our country would get its butt kicked. "It's the Veteran, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press. "It's the Veteran, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech."It's the Veteran, not the community organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate. It's the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag." AND ONE MORE::

13. If you ever see anyone either standing for or singing the national anthem in anything other than English, KICK THEIR BUTT.

ONE LAST THING:If you get this message and didn't share it - guess what - you deserve to get your butt kicked!!!! I shared this with you, because I didn't want to get my butt kicked.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

21 Jun 09 – Fathers Day

My day started out a little different than the many days before. I didn’t set my alarm; I thought instead that I would see what time I would wake. Imagine my surprise when I woke to discover it was 7:00 AM. Normally I start glancing at my watch about 4:30-5:00 and then every 10-15 minutes until my alarm goes off. What a wonderful feeling to sleep without having to be in the office to work. I went to breakfast and met some of the guys prior to church. We did the “hi how are you” followed closely by “Happy Fathers day”. We ate breakfast together and hung out drinking coffee and juice talking a little about our families and our kids. While at church I reflected on my life, my wife, where I was, my family and how lucky I was to be the father of four unique kids. You know pretty much the standard Sunday morning church thoughts you share with the big guy.

After church I couldn’t wait to come in and read the cards from my family that was waiting for me. My family had sent the cards early with instructions written on the back to “not open until Father’s day”.

The more I reflected on Father’s Day the more I wanted to share some special thoughts with my family.

Darcie – I have loved you from the day I met you. You see, you had me the moment you introduced me as you dad, if not before. Your long hair and Raggedy Ann cheeks had already melted my heart. I couldn’t believe that you would honor me by calling me that. I felt at that moment in time that we were meant to be a family. Knowing you, you had already come to the conclusion that we were destined to be a family. Even then, you showed remarkable judgment that followed you through your early years, and have stayed with you down the road of life. You have a remarkable gift of insight, determination, and most importantly perseverance. You made me want to be a better man, not just for you but for your mom! Darcie you will always be my little girl! Knowing the life journey you are taking has me sleeping well. I know that the choices you make in life are the right ones for you. Like everything else in your life, you give 125% in whatever you do.

Matthew – You too had me from the moment we met as well. You were laying there in your crib, just waiting to be held by me. At that moment you looked so innocent and were so dependent on others to care for you. I so wanted to be your Dad! As you grew you choose a different path that sometimes paralleled mine, but not always. It’s Ok that we are different, but today with it being Fathers Day and all maybe you understand me just a little more. I wasn’t always there for you when you needed me, and maybe sometimes I was there, but I didn’t listen. Today Matthew you are a Father and you have been entrusted with one of the biggest responsibilities known to man. You have someone now who not only depends on you to be there for her, but needs you to love her unconditionally. Not only are you going to teach her about life, your baby girl is going to teach you about being a parent. Your baby girl is going to give you a few more tools to add to your tool box of life. She is going to teach you about sacrifices, decisions and doing the right thing by her. Whatever you feel that you wish I had done differently as a father is now up to you to change as you raise your child. I’m pretty sure my father felt the same way about raising me. But when it comes down to it being a father is the hardest jobs you will ever have. Matthew, enjoy your daughter, she will grow so fast!

Jacki – Wow, words cannot quite describe the moment when you were born. I thank my lucky stars that you came into my life. The miracle of your birth will be with me always. How was I to know that your presence would change the universe? Like your brother and sister before you, early on you proved you were unique. Even though you were the youngest at the time you were the piece of the puzzle that made our family work. We may have had our differences but we were always there for each other. You too are also responsible for the man that I am today. I didn’t always make the right decisions by you, and sometimes I made the same mistakes over and over. But look at you now, you went from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly almost overnight, or so it seemed. Just remember Chinese rule #110 and you will be successful. I’m not sure if you know this or not but you changed my world again when you joined the military and are now following me to war. I didn’t want that for you, but knowing you, there was nothing I could do but support your decision. Jacki I can’t wait to see you on this side of the ocean. Then again I’m sure you’re going to change the rotation of my world here by your arrival.

Joshua – It may be sometime before you can read this because of your situation. I have to admit that with you and Jacki being in the military I’m just a little nervous about what the future holds for you. Right now, where ever you are you know that I love you, and that I’m thinking of you. When I thought my world was complete and my family was full, out of the blue you came along. You proved me wrong; you taught me that another child made the circle of life complete. When your siblings were busy playing with their friends, you always had time for me. You always seemed to know when I’m down and like Jacki, you have the uncanny ability to make whatever was troubling me go away. It might be that we share the common bond being that we were the babies of our families. Maybe yes, maybe no, regardless I know that you are with me today in spirit. The tools of life that have been given to you are already in use and your journey is already underway. “Meho” I look forward to you walking down life’s pathways, hopefully we can meet on a park bench somewhere and enjoy the moment.

To all my kids I want you to know that I may not always agree with you, and might not be happy with the choices you have made. But there is one thing that you will never lose and that’s my love. I’m proud of each of you for the love, compassion, and your ability to make the world a better place just because you are my child. I will continue to support you, and know that I will always be there for you no matter what. Darcie and Matthew just between us the day of the stapler will always be a fond memory for me.

Susan – Thank you for being by my side and blessing me with our many children. I would never have known the joy of being a parent if we had never met. Knowing that you are in the passenger seat as I travel down this road of life has me believing that I am truly worthy of the title “Father”. I am the man that I am today because of you.

Little Dougie – What can I say when our lives were complete, or so I thought? Then you came along and made our world better. You may think that we were there for you when you needed us. I happen to think differently? You touched each of us in a different way and quickly became part of our family. You may not be mine by blood but I thank god that you are now part of my family. No matter the road you choose from here you will always have a home to come back to.

To everyone else reading this Happy Fathers day! In closing I wanted to say that each of my kids has honored me differently everything from father daughter dances, father of the year nominations, parent teacher meetings, father son outings, and by their unconditional love. My daughter Jacki had this E Mail waiting for me this morning when I logged on. It makes me think that just maybe I have achieved my goal of being a Father.

Dad, where do I begin to even scratch the surface of the impact you've had on my life, from when I was your little Jacki wacky pudding pie, to when I was your soldier. Even in the midst of my successes, my problems (and there have been many) and my shortcomings, you have always accepted me as I am. I am in awe of your strength, your integrity, and your painful endurance you deal with daily. I pray that with all I'm going through in my life and will go through, I hope that I can somehow, someway come close to having your strength, your faith, your boldness and your wisdom to endure all! I am extremely blessed to have the presence of a beautiful, wonderful, loving father!!! Not many people I know can say so many wonderful things about their father. I have been so blessed to have you in my life, and I could write an endless list of good things about you. Thank-you for allowing me that. I am so fortunate to have you in my life!

Sorry I didn't get a card sent out. I really thought I would be with you today. Or, at the very least, arriving there pretty quickly. So, here's my substitute card.

Thank you to all my friends and family that read our blog. Your support is what we all need to get through the upcoming months.

That is all,


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

16 June 09- It's hard to say good-bye I can't imagine saying hello

I never dreamed that my family would ever join the military. All of my kids have joined at some point in their lives. Only two remain, and as a father I’m proud of all of them and the commitment that they have made. I never wanted this for my kids, but I suspect that my Dad never wanted me to have to serve. My dad was in WWII and I’m sure he thought that by serving that someday there would be peace. It doesn’t work out that way though does it? Last week was a tough week for me with my baby boy heading off for basic training. I pray that he will never have to come to this god forsaken place to serve his country. The last message that I got from Josh was “Dad, they're taking our phones away from us tonight, so just one last message saying bye, and I love you, talk to you in 10 weeks:)”

Wow 10 weeks until I hear from my boy. I know it’s hard for me but I suspect it’s harder for my wife. After 25 years of having kids in the house she is about to have the house empty until Josh returns. My daughter Jacki is leaving soon to join her dad in Iraq. She is making the longest journey of her young life. How quiet the hallways of our home will be. There will be no lights to shut off, no mess left in the kitchen, no one standing in the door way of our bedroom wanting to talk after they get home at night. Like anything there will be the memories of laughter, an occasional fight, and the cosmetic an emotional scar left in our house. There is the indentation downstairs in the drywall from the WWF smack down that Jacki and Josh had one night. The marks in the drywall from something that bumped in the night from “not me” or his cousin “wasn’t me”. The sprayer nozzle in the kitchen that on more than one occasion had been rubber banded (when the kitchen faucet is turned on the person gets sprayed). Then there are the dark areas within our house that our kids have patiently waited for a victim (sibling or parent) to scare.

Did I mention empty house syndrome? Empty house syndrome you’re asking yourself what in the world is that? It’s the one moment in time where you’re all alone in the house and the bathroom is empty. You gather up your book, maybe a cordless phone and off you go to the bathroom. Sure enough you settle in and lose yourself to the moment (not movement). Next thing you know there’s someone knocking on the door. Obviously there someone in there, but they still ask. Two bathrooms in our house, but our bathroom seems to be the hub of their world. The other thing you’re probably wondering about is the cell phone. Why the cell phone you ask? Experts (Jacki) will tell you that if you ever run out of toilet paper you have a lifeline to the outside world. You can leave 911 messages to your parents explaining your dilemma in hopes that someone will hear your cry for assistance.

I know Susan is going to have some tough times ahead but I know she will be ok. She knows it could be worse and she is an old pro at separation because of the military. I’m thinking it’s going to be different this time with the military rocking her world. Again it could be worse. I sat by a guy in the mess hall this morning that has it worse than we do.

His wife just had a baby and he was watching it on SKYPE when the internet feed went dead. There were some tense moments in an attempt to call the hospital that followed. With the delay on the phone during conversations, and the effort made by us to call home through the switch board. The baby was born by the time the call got through. Luckily everything came out fine, but to miss the birth of your baby? That’s why I said in my title “It’s hard to say good-bye, I can’t imagine saying hello”. What do you tell your partner, your newborn child? I can at least tell my kids I love you and will talk to you later.

Hopefully if there is one thing my kids have learned from me it’s “your glass is never half empty”. You have to look at life with your glass half full of potential to make your world a better place. When everyone gets home next January – February we will all say hello and maybe appreciate what we have as a family a little more. There are a lot worse things out there waiting in the darkness. Don’t give up the faith and bring a little sunshine into your world now to illuminate the darkness.

A little up date from my word last night we celebrated MAJ Howes 50th birthday party. There were 30 people there and a stand in for his wife. A nice time was had by all and the stage was set for future 50th birthday parties.

If you interested in reading more about my world you can subscribe to the local fish wrapper by going to The PAO (Public Affairs Office) provides up to date current events here in our corner of Iraq.

I wish you all the best and will try to send posting more regularly.

That is all,

Saturday, June 13, 2009

6 June 09 - Iraq

Hi this is Susan, I am sorry that I am just posting this now. Due to computer problems I had to wait untill I got up north to my moms.

Morning to all! It’s been a while since I sent a blog posting so I thought I would update you on a day in my life. On a typical morning I get up around 5:00 – 5:30 to shower, shave and get ready for the day. Depending on if I call home or not it’s either off to breakfast or to the office to call home at 6:00 AM. If I call home I then go to breakfast at 7:00 and then back to work. There are a few water cooler conversations, reading e mails, and reviewing tasks from the night before. It gets quiet for a little while as we try to work our way through projects we are working on, and tasks to be completed. On or about 1130 heads start popping up out of their cubicles and its lunch time. When the heads start popping up it kind of looks like prairie dogs during mating season. After a 1/8 to ¼ mile walk to the mess hall we are tantalized by the aroma coming from the mess hall. If only the food could be half as good as the smell?

Lunch has a sandwich bar, a specialty bar, a healthy bar (not sure what it has, probably granola, and lettuce), short order and the main line. Sometimes you want to believe the civilians behind the counter understand the layout, and some days you got to ask yourself what in the world? For example they mix up a large tub of tuna for sandwiches that they place on the salad bar instead of the sandwich bar. Or there are days when the civilians say lets shake things up just a little and make a different salad. Trust me their different salads are everything from pinto beans, lima beans, pork and beans mixed together to cold spaghetti noodles with mayo.

I'm sure most of you that are reading this thought I was going to go down the road of chicken for every meal? It’s true, but I covered that already in previous blog postings. After lunch it’s the long hot walk back to the barn. We call it the barn because of the stalls and the loud noises that are heard once in a while. We have to go through the main building with sheet rocked walls that are textured, down a winding hall, across the heated covered walk way in to our barn. After winding our way to our cubicles (stalls) it’s back to work. Some of my office mates have a problem with motivation after filling their stomachs, the hot walk back, and the presence of the “Z” monster. I myself was attacked by the “Z” monster just the other day. After battling him at my computer I pushed back trying to regroup. Once I pushed back the “Z” monster hit me from behind and I was out cold. Another of my office mates was attacked and was not so lucky. She came to with definite impressions of the key board indented on her forehead. What a battle that must have been, I’m sure there is a medal in this for her.

Numerous meetings later heads start popping up and its supper time. The whole lunch routine is repeated and it’s off to the mess hall. Back to work and thoughts of going to bed soon dance in my head. Before I know it 9:00 or later and I walk home. I’m not sure if my roommate is alive or not, he is there in bed sleeping when I leave in the morning and he is in his bed sleeping when I get home. At this point in the deployment I can’t imagine sleeping in, or getting to bed early! (Note to self I really should check his pulse tonight when I get home)

Now all you have to do to understand a day in the life of a soldier is to multiply this times the length that you’re here and you come up with same stuff different day. The high light is Sunday where your work day is reduced, time is allowed for church, PX, and a little “me” time. Then it’s back to work later in the day and the next week begins.

Some of us here are trying to shake things up a little and break the monotony. Pranks are being pulled like just the other day the guy in the cubicle next to mine had his water bottle punctured by a knife in four different locations. He drank out of his bottle twice before the contents squeezed out onto his lap. When I witnessed this I hurried and punctured my water bottle so he wouldn’t blame me for his saturation. Sure enough he glared at me and swore revenge. I told him it wasn’t me and told him my bottle was punctured too. It seemed to defuse the situation now he is planning retaliation against another. I love it when a plan comes together!

I now have 4 months done eight more to go! Everyone reading this needs to know that your E mails, letters, cards from home, and packages make a difference. Mail time here is a highlight for all. Those that get packages are like kids at Christmas. Contents are shared, pictures are shown, and thoughts of home surround us for a brief moment.

I gotta go to a meeting now. Hope that all is well back home! Liza and Heather if you’re reading this you both deserve a sympathy card for what you put up with daily.

That is all,