Wednesday, July 30, 2003

What am I as a soldier in the US Army? There are many that will tell you I am just a brainwashed tool of a few greedy men who use the military for their own personal gain and policy. On the other hand there are those that will tell you I am the defender of all that is good and right, the hand of God that brings freedom and salvation to the oppressed peoples all over the world. I think there are even an extreme few who would say I am the devil incarnate, bringing death and destruction to the world. Every one of course is entitled to their own opinion, but when a question arises about what or who some one is, who better to answer that question than that person?

Here is what I am. I am a 28 year old father of a 2 month old son and loving husband from a small city in northern California. I married my high school sweetheart in the summer of 2000. I have never fired a gun in anger. I have never been fired at in anger either. I love children. I believe our society is failing our children. Taking music out of school, putting every child with a slight discipline problem on ridilin.

I joined the Army when I was 22. I didn’t join the Army to get the rush of being in combat or to feel the “rush” of killing a man. I joined the Army because struggling to work full time and carry a “full load” at college was proving to be too difficult. I didn’t even join for the chance to travel the world and see exotic places. Although I have. I wanted to be able to provide for the family that I knew I would someday have, and working full time while going to school was getting me no where.

The military is full of all types. Are there evil men that only wanted the chance to kill another human being? I’m sure there are, but there are evil men working in grocery stores, in our police stations, and even in churches all over the country. Wanting to do good and make a difference in the world does not mean that we are “brainwashed zombies”. It means we are like every other human being that wants the world to be a better place, and intentionally or not, we are out here trying to make it happen.

Many of us are now being asked if we want to take leave. From here? Is the first question out of all of our mouths. Unfortunately yes is the answer. How long are we going to be out here? I personally have already watched one unit come in and leave. I am about to watch a second leave, and yes they got here after me as well. I have family telling me they have heard about the Army’s plan to begin a six month rotation, but the reality of that situation is there is no one that can rotate into our spot and our unit has nothing but profile rangers and short timers in the rear. My guess is that my unit will be here until at least February. Do I know this for sure? Of course I don’t but this is my seventh deployment in my six years of service so I am speaking with a little experience.

My biggest concern is that I currently re-enlisted on the promise that I would get the opportunity to try my hand as a recruiter. There are many things that I have to do to be a recruiter and the longer I am out here the less likely I will be able to accomplish all of those things before I have too little time on my second enlistment to even be eligible. FRUSTRATION!!! All of my friends are getting out and now I am watching them leave thinking “why did I do that?” I have several good reasons for re-enlisting. The best one is that I just had a son who will have medical coverage and I have a guaranteed income for our family over the next four years, also there is a great sense of accomplishment being a soldier. To see the way that we effect the world and those around us. I have always been boarder line civilian. The problem is now I am beginning to feel that my sacrifices are out weighing what I gain for them.

On a lighter side I bought a digital camera so I will be posting pictures soon! As my scenery doesn’t change much I will do my best to take interesting pictures, but at least you can get a feeling for how the guys around me are living.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Friendships have always been something I have valued more than nearly anything else my whole life. Because I was out of the house and on my own so early, my friends often times became my surrogate family. I always invested all of myself into my friendships, and thought that they would last for life.

After I joined the Army I learned quickly that keeping in touch is a lot more difficult than I had ever expected. I never gave up the effort however. I mean come on, some of these friends I have had since I was six years old. Even though it has been hard to stay in touch, every time I have returned home we seem to pick up right where we left off. Over the last three years my wife and I have lived in Arizona, going home as often as possible and always thrilled when anyone came to visit. Now that I am deployed and my wife is back home with her mother we both kind of expected her to pick right back up where she left off with our friends. That has not been the case. I speak with her everyday, and each day she seems a little more upset about the fact that no one really makes any effort to involve her in their lives, though she makes every effort to involve them in hers.

Why does this happen? Life is hard enough working through the little every day problems to have to worry about your support group disintegrating around you. What happens to the childhood friendships that are supposed to last a lifetime. I’m no fool, I know there are only a handful of true friendships in every lifetime, but it would sure be nice to have some good ones that stick around when you need them the most!

Monday, July 28, 2003

Every soldier has a different amount of "creature comforts". Most of these are specific to their jobs, but some are just provided through the creativity of those around us. I have constant access to the internet for the simple reason that I am an integral part of why it is available at all. The same goes for phone services. There are many out here who seldom get to use the phone and even less that get a chance to check there e-mail.

A couple of days after the war had started two chief warrant officers approached me in the chow hall. They had recognized the patch on my shoulder as the "commo guys" on camp. They looked really tired and one asked "excuse me sergeant, are you in a position to provide me and my buddy with a phone call?" We had been on strict orders not to give out morale calls on our phones, but after talking to them I learned that the one that approached me first had not spoken to his wife in over a month and the other ones wife was expecting a child three weeks ago and he had not spoken with her in about a month and a half. I also learned that they were in the same company as the helicopter that had been shot down by "farmers" and had flown many missions with that crew so their spouses were probably really freaking out. I of course let them come in and use my phone.

There now is a phone center and a cyber cafe on camp, but I'm sure the resources are very limited creating long lines and poor service. This is the reality for most soldiers. We have a maintenance company out here that lives very comfortably. Their tents are always cold and they have made their own barbeque. All the things that you would expect from fixer guys.

Our sleep tent is 45 guys deep. We have managed to separate it into something like four man rooms. Each little section has an AC that will give you frostbite if you leave it maxed out all the time, and four sets of shelves that house your cot and all of your belongings. I bought four little rugs to hang on my shelf to minimize the dust and one for a carpet by my cot. Many others have done similar things. The rugs also do a good job of keeping light out when I am trying to sleep. Soldiers have a tendency to be pretty loud. About the top third of my body is actually in the shelf when I am asleep as the cot slides into the little area made especially for it. The shower trailer is 12 showers deep with 8 sinks. The water is always hot. There is no such thing as cold shower or sink water out here because the plastic bins that it is in sits in the sun all day and bakes. Who needs a water heater? Chow is average at best. Slightly better than an MRE. Every once in a while we are surprised to get a good steak of fried chicken, but that is rare.

All in all I would say the living conditions where I am are pretty good. I have been deployed in better and worse, so I really can't complain. The only things missing are friends and family.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Sand…in my nose…all over, and in my clothes. It’s everywhere and you can not escape it. It is a distant memory now, but I seem to remember a few times the wind blew through the night as well as the day. That was months ago. Now the evenings are pleasant as the temperature dips slightly as the son recedes below the horizon. The winds die down. It’s peaceful. The days are nearly unbearable. The temperature climbs to unbelievable levels, and the winds return with the sun. Each day it seems as if the wind is angry for all of the sand that was neglected through the night. It begins to take it’s anger out on the unmoved sand. Slowly at first, but by the time the temperature is truly obscene you can no longer see through the swirling dirt as it stings your eyes and skin.

For a week straight now the winds have returned with the sun, each day seemingly worse than the last. The wind gives me a headache, and it is hard to think. Often times the wind blows so hard that it is difficult to walk from point A to point B. All day long I drink water to wash the dirt out of my throat, replace the gallons of sweat I have lost walking to chow and back and wash the layers of sand from my hands and face. Then dusk returns. I enjoy beautiful sunsets every day. The little bit of persisting sand in the air makes gorgeous orange and yellow skies as the sun descends through the sand behind the horizon in the distance. I have survived another day in this soldier’s paradise.

A few days ago in my comments box I was asked how the Iraqi masses were getting food and such as Iraq has always been a major importing country. Honestly I don’t know. You would think that American soldiers would have a good idea of how the “other side” is living, but I for one am as much in the dark as those back home in the states. I have had nearly zero interaction with locals on this deployment. As a matter of fact. I have left the camp that I am working on only twice since February 27th. Once to fly home for the birth of my son and once for a week long training session at another camp only an hour away, and as yet I have not been into Iraq. God willing I will not have to go to Iraq at all.

I do know a little of the Kuwaiti populace as the last time I was here I was able to go on several trips to Kuwait city. Kuwait City is much like any other metropolitan area. Of course there are minute differences everywhere you look. Like the stand over toilet in the floor (dang those were my best shoes), or all of the women my age or close to my age in burkahs. The malls are more like a big flee market than a mall back home but the purpose is the same and you can find anything you are looking for. They still have strip malls and of course McDonalds.

I realize with my nearly 10 months in Kuwait I know very little about daily life for these people and what there culture is truly about. I only know what I have been told and what I have read for myself. I really have no more experience with them than the rest of the Americans back home.

As soldiers we lead a very sheltered life. I’m sure those soldiers who are at the front could tell you a little bit more about how they are living, but I would be surprised if they could really tell you about the people any more than I could. They will give their regurgitated information, that they don’t actually “know”, but someone told them. Until we all try to learn a little more about each other obviously there will be a rift in our cultures. This is not only a problem we have with other nations but in our home towns as well. We all need to stop being afraid of it because it is different and try to learn more about it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Today as I rose from my cot and began my daily routine once again I was thinking about how little my actions vary from day to day. I have also noticed that as I grow more and more familiar with my surroundings the more complacent I become. I simply don’t notice minor changes anymore. They are paving the “streets” of the camp I am on. They have been paving the streets all month I guess, and I had no idea. Granted they started down by the gate and are working their way in, but the darn camp isn’t that big. One would think I should have noticed such a change. How many others out there have become subject to this disease of complacency? How many of these soldiers that have contracted this horrible disease are guarding my camp? Or worse yet how many of them are guarding our positions in places where they are in direct danger?

I know it is happening out there, but what do you do to counter act it? How do you impress upon your soldiers the importance of continued vigilance when you yourself are slowly becoming complacent. Complacency seems to have claimed more American lives in this war than anything else. I know the majority of our guys are out there everyday doing the best they can to keep their comrades and selves safe, but how many more each day contract this disease?

I would assume the farther north you go the percentage of exposed military members would be smaller. It seems for the soldiers back where I am at the war is over. There was really only about a ten day span where we really experienced the “pucker factor” and once the poorly aimed missile attacks either grounded way outside of anything close to a damage area or were shot down by our missile defense guys, we went back to what has been our “daily routines”. I am glad that I am in a position where I have to worry about becoming complacent, but when will we get too complacent if we aren’t already?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I have known since I was very young that the thing I wanted most out of life was a family. I have wanted to have a successful, happy family for as long as I can remember. The family that I have though it made me who I am today, and I think that is a good person of strong morals and unwavering beliefs, was a very difficult family to grow up in to say the least. I think that is why I have always wanted a family of my own. So that I could do everything differently than I remember when I was young. Not that everything done in my family was wrong. My mother is a very loving person who sacrificed everything for her son and two daughters, and I will for the rest of my life be in her debt. My grandparents as well were the rock that I chose to build my life’s platform on. I have fallen short in a lot of ways of reaching that goal, but even in my failures I became stronger. The person who made me the strongest by far, was my father. He doesn’t however get any credit for doing things the right way. He was a monster of a man in my childhood and though I have long since forgiven him of the things he put my family through I don’t think I can ever forget.

I now have a family of my very own. It consists of my wife, my son, a golden retriever and two cats. This family makes me one of the happiest people on earth. Being away from this family makes me one of the saddest. My wife and son are living with her mother back home while I am deployed. This presents plenty of problems in itself. I never thought of how difficult it would be for her to be back home after having a home of her own for several years now. I have worked very hard to provide everything that my family needs since it started a little over three years ago now, but have I done everything I need to do to make my loved ones happy? They never want for food or clothing. We have two nice cars, a big screen TV with home theatre system, a great computer and mind boggling music collection. All of these things I have been able to provide and now we are even looking at buying our first home. Why then is it that every night when I speak to my wife she sounds empty. She has lost the bubble in her voice, the giggle in her speech. I can only assume she has lost the heart warming smile that comes with every greeting I have ever witnessed her give. Every time we close our conversations I hear the waver in her voice as she is on the verge of tears. For all of the things I have provided I have given her this sorrow as well.

My son laughs in the back ground and I hear her perk up a bit, but then she says I wish you could be here to see the way he smiles every time someone talks to him, or giggles and chatters every time I give him a bath. He loves being on the changing table, and chatters away the whole time he is being changed. Though he hates being dirty. I only know this because my wife tells me this with heart wrenching regret in her voice. Not because I have gotten to see him do these things.

I don’t know whether I am succeeding as a provider for my family. They have all the material things that they need, but all in all they don’t have me. I think I would trade all of the things that have been provided to hold my wife and son and not hear the sorrow in her voice over the phone nine thousand miles away.

Monday, July 21, 2003

I have been thinking a lot about God and his role in this war since I read Moja Vera's journal entry from the middle of last month. In a nut shell he talked about how both sides of every conflict claim that their God, be it Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, what have you, is on their side. To a point I believe that God can be and is on both sides at the same time in most instances.

There is a lot of anti war sentiment going around saying that we are only here for oil, or just to make president Bush rich. Do I believe any of this hype? Honestly I am not in a position where I am aloud to voice my opinion on the president's decisions. All I can say is that he has chosen to send us here and I will do the best job I can until I am told I can go home. Even if the previous statements are true however, I believe God is still on our side. Have you ever heard the expression "the lord works in mysterious ways"? Suppose that we were here to serve the greed of a handful of rich men. Note I said suppose. This is purely hypothetical. We are still having a positive impact on this country. Every time a young soldier gives an MRE to a hungry child that may not have eaten a decent meal for a few days, God is there. Every time a young Kurdish mother is NOT made a widow by the Bath Regime and forced to struggle out a living to feed her now fatherless children, God is there, and every time a woman is NOT raped by the brutish Hussein brothers, God is there!

The other day after receiving my dinner from a TCN (third country national), (these are people from outside either Kuwait or the U.S. that have been given jobs doing the things that the Army can't afford to have soldiers spend time doing), I was inclined to ask him what country he was from. He told me he was from Egypt and his name was Mohammad and some other name I couldn't even understand. I stood and spoke with him for several minutes. I learned that he had three wives and eleven children between them. "Wow" was all I could bring myself to say. He went on to tell me how grateful he was to be able to get this job as he had been let go from the construction job he had just a few months ago. and he was not sure how he was going to be able to support his family. Do you think God had nothing to do with this?

God will always be there for those who can not provide for themselves what they need by some honest means. Obviously not always through a war or catastrophe, but he will always be here. This is what I believe.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Sadness and exhilaration at the same time. One of my closest friends left today to return home. He has been in Iraq and Kuwait since around March of last year. He did get a one month break in the middle give or take a couple of weeks. He came through my sleep tent about a week ago shaking my leg to rouse me from my slumber. At first I was upset that someone would wake me. “I’m on NIGHT SHIFT!!!” I started to say but then saw the big grin on his face. I haven’t seen him since before he left for his second tour out here. We sat and talked for hours of all of the good times we have had together. Neither of us really thinking about the fact that it could be one of the last times we ever see each other. You don’t want to admit it but the reality is this: Long distance friendships are a lot of work and more often than not… fail. I have known this guy since I arrived at Fort Gordon nearly six years ago now. We were in the same class at school and grew a strong friendship very quickly. Nine months later I was off to Germany and he was off to Italy. Two brand new 31Ss fresh out of the “womb”. We swore we would all keep in touch, but I think we might have written each other maybe three times the whole 14 months we were apart. Then he wrote saying his unit was being disbanded and he was coming to my unit in Germany. When he got there we picked up right where we left off. Like we never missed a beat.

Today he left to prepare to go home to get out of the Army. My closest friends are all going to be doing the same thing over the next couple of months. When the “Texican” comes through it will be no different. We have been together through our whole Army experience. AIT, Germany, Our current assignment and now this war. We have seen each other through a lot of hard times. His divorce, my two years in Germany away from my then fiance’. How can you just let a friendship like that end. You don’t you hold on with all your might, but what happens when he goes home to Texas and I go off to my next assignment? We write each other every six months and never see each other again is my experience and that SUCKS! “Batman” will be through not much after these two and though I haven’t known him as long we have always had a “deeper” connection than I have had with most people. Women and the Army always seemed to be our topic of discussion, and let me tell you there is never any shortage of conversation with those topics. We used to sit and talk for hours on end trying to rationalize some crap that was going on in one or both of our lives. Sometimes we figured stuff out. Most of the time we got to a point where all we could do was get up, get ready to go to a club and dance our worries away. We probably would have gone dancing anyway.

I am happy all of these guys are going home to get out of the Army and continue their lives. I just wish I could know that I will see them again down the road. I love all of these guys like they were my brothers. Thank you all for the support you have given me, my wife and my new son! I wish you all long successful, happy lives! RENEGADES FOREVER!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2003

They look like fruit flies but they definately ae not. When you think of fruit flies, you think of little clouds of bugs swarming around a rotting peach or strawberries that have sat in the sun to long. These little suckers are solitary. Maybe some kind of Beta fish typr of fly that rips the other little winged nuicance to shreds at first sight. They are the silent attacker. Kind of like the delta force of the insect world. Ten of them would not be as effective. You would detect them, but one can get in under your radar and due masive amounts of damage before he is detected and ultimately killed. They are more like the locals here though or kamakaze pilot of the japanese. There is no way they are gonna make it out alive, but they are going to inflict their damage.

Even as I sit here writing I am sure they are coming for me. Slowly and quickly at the same time. Even though I know they are coming they will usurp my detection. They under neath part of my upper arm begins to itch and I look down to see five precisely placed hits from the renegade sand fly. He got me! I of course will not die, and he already has but I will feel the effects of this attack for days if not a week or more. The five little bumps will turn into hard little blisters that will itch unlike any mosquito bite I've ever had and I will scratch them wether I want to or not. eventualy they will scab over and fall off. Will they scar possibly. An ever present reminder of the attack that I knew was coming but could do nothing to effectively prevent.

Are these little sand flies any different from the militants that are futiley resisting our forces north of my position? I don't know. What really drives them to do the things they do. Is it some insane call for vengance? A religious vendetta against the infidel? Or is it just something that they have been raised to do, surrounded by it day in and day out for their entire life? I don't know and I probably never will.

Friday, July 18, 2003

After hitting snooze for the fifth time I decided I now had to get moving. I have my next thrilling SOG shift in 35 minutes. While I don't want to go it would be really screwed up to just let the other guy sit there while I take my time getting ready. I find it very disturbing that I have developed this lax attitude toward my daily duties. I have always had a kind of complainer’s attitude, but been very diligent in accomplishing my duties. I think any of my soldier buddies would back me up on this.

As I walk to the shower box like I have done about 140 times or so now it amazes me that I am thinking about.... nothing. I have become so ingrained in my daily life here in the desert that I don't even need to think anymore. That is a depressing thought to me. I, like Moja Vera am an analytical thinker. To a fault some times I admit. I tend to stand on the edge of over analization. I reach the steps to the showers and quickly climb into the climate controlled shower box. I stand there looking at myself in the mirror amazed again at how sculpted my body is becoming. I still have a little gut, but I am starting to develop a chest and I have these things growing on my upper arms I think they are called bi-cepts. One of the only things I have to look forward to is my daily work out in our pathetic little gym. I say pathetic but actually because we brought our battalion commander we have a pretty nice gym compared to some others. I guess I am lucky, relatively speaking of course. As I finish rinsing my mouth out with bottled water so I don't get some crap from the local water supply literally, and shaving I turn to get in the shower.


The water is so hot I can't even stand under it for more than a second. I jump in to get my hair wet then lather up. I jump back in to rinse but can't finish. It took about twenty jumping in and outs to complete my shower, plus due to the lack of water I turn it off while I am soaping up. After I dry off and put my PTs back on I head back to the tent to continue my preparation for work. As I am much more awake I realize that now my mind is racing through all of the things I wasn't thinking about before. My initial thoughts are of my son. He is six weeks old now and getting huge! Is the bump on his head the doctors said would go away going away? God I miss him! I only knew him for four days before I left to come back to the desert, but leaving him broke my heart unlike any breaking it has had to endure to this point. Is he letting my wife sleep through the night? She says the last few days he has slept like six hours straight. That is a vast improvement over the two hours he was giving her before. Now my thoughts shift to her. I know she is holding up alright as I have some form of communication with her every night, but she is deteriorating. I think back to the morning that I left her standing in the parking lot of Battalion at three in the morning. She was crying and seven months pregnant. I tried to console her by telling her I would be back in time for the baby, but would I? They told me I would and ultimately I was. I am lucky (relatively speaking again). As I left her I couldn't help but think about the ordeal she had coming her way. We had decided at the last moment that she was going to move back home with her mom. All of our friends were deployed and both of our families live in California (over a thousand miles away). She would have her mom to help her out especially if I didn't make it back. My thoughts shift to being back home myself. When would I be able to walk the streets of my home town again? I re-enlisted in March for the opportunity to be a recruiter, but with all that has happened and is happening that plan may never come to fruition. My stomach turns at the possible things I may have gotten myself into by re-enlisting. I realize it is never good to regret, and it is VERY bad to regret a decision that affects your life in such a huge way.

By now I am ready to head off to work. With I sigh I pick my Kevlar up off of my cot and head out of the tent. As I walk across the sand through the heat I am on my way to another day in this soldier's paradise.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I'm sitting in front of my computer tonight pulling SOG (sargeant of the guard). I just got off the phone with my wife who is something like 9,000 miles away with our six week old son, and I can't stop thinking about my other soldier friends who are on the front. A lot of these guys I love like they were my brothers. One of them has started a blog that really hits home and though I don't always agree with him (which is why we have become such good friends) he always makes me think. That site is turningtables.blogspot.com

I don't have much else to say as I am really tired. This SOG crap has me really run down and trying to sleep during the day has been tough lately!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?