Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Yesterday we lost our first soldier in our battalion since the war began. We didn’t lose him to mortar fire. We didn’t lose him to small arms fire. We didn’t lose him to a training accident or a vehicle accident. He wasn’t even out here. We lost him in his barracks room back at Huachuca. He took his own life.

There are several rumors flying around about his death, so our Battalion Commander held a battalion formation yesterday to dispel all of the rumors. This soldier was just a kid (like most) and had his entire life to look forward to. It was a waste of a young life. I can only hope that our current command learns from this. They are placing a lot of blame on the soldier’s supervisor for not getting involved and his chain of command on up. While this is partially true or it wouldn’t have happened, I firmly believe that the pressure and demand this unit puts on it’s soldiers has far more to do with it.

I know the Army is tough… believe me I know, but there are certain steps that should be taken simply for the morale of soldiers. We are in a unit that accepts any mission that comes our way (whether we have to resources or not) so are very busy year round. The new CSM is a strict disciplinarian, and while this unit desperately needs to raise the level of discipline, it also needs to be given a certain level of ease because of the demand our optempo puts on us.

There is always more than you see involved in these types of things, and I am sure there was far more than being in a tough unit involved here. I don’t however feel sorry for the soldier. Suicide does nothing but hurt those that care for you. He could not have made a more selfish move. My heart however is broken for the mother of a son she can never hold again. I’ll shed a tear for the father that will never again go fishing with his son, and I’ll pray for the country I love that lost another who chose to stand up and fight for what he believes in!

On a lighter note I have decided to add some structure to Soldier’s Paradise. I have found it increasingly difficult to write everyday, as I try to prepare for my trip home and all that is involved. It is also becoming increasingly difficult to answer all of the questions that I receive during the week via comments and e-mail. I am going to write twice a week now for sure (maybe more if something happens that is significant or something is weighing on my mind). Tuesday will be to answer all of the questions that I have received, and Friday will be my color article. Thank you all for your interest in what is happening out here and your support. We couldn’t do it with out you!!!

Friday, October 24, 2003

Disregard last entry. I am already being told that I am probably not going to be on that flight now. They are saying maybe the 17th. Par for the course. Like I said nothing but bad news today. So much for falling asleep happy huh? Good thing I didn’t get Joyce’s hopes up by telling her it was pretty much a sure thing…Oh wait I did.
I got some excellent news yesterday. Since then it has been followed with nothing but bad news. Yesterday upon returning from two other camps doing sensitive items inventories I was told that I am scheduled to fly out of Kuwait on the 3rd of November, hopefully never to return. As I am sure you can all imagine I was bursting with glee, and I went to sleep happy for the first time since my son was born.

This morning however has not been anywhere near as good. I began trying to make my plans. I found that I have to stay at Huachuca for ten days to receive suicide prevention, anti abuse, and just problem prevention briefings. So I will not be able to see Joyce and Reid for at least another ten days after my return to the good old US. We started talking about flying her and Reid out so that we could be re-united sooner and she could help me decide on our next home as we will have to rent or buy, because there is over a four month wait for housing on Huachuca right now. As we were talking I was browsing rental truck sites to start getting an idea how much that was going to cost us, so we could get the whole operation planned…U-haul quoted us $1,660.60!!! We paid a little over $500.00 to move Joyce back to Cali, so I looked to see what her trip would cost us now, and to go from Sierra Vista AZ to Yuba City CA is only $310.60! So the SAME trip the other direction is five times as expensive. What kind of BS is that? The best quote I have been able to find is Budget at $1,166.60 so it looks like that is what we are going to have to do, and of course spending over a grand on a moving truck makes us not so willing fly around for a little more than a week reunion time, as it is I am going to have to fly to Sacramento anyway.

When are things just going to go well? I didn’t spend eight months in frickin’ Kuwait just to spend a good portion of the money we saved on a damned move! I am extremely excited and happy about getting to leave here in less than two weeks now, but it seems nothing is ever even close to perfect, and this situation has put a huge damper on what should be the sweetest reunion of my life. This is another one I will suck up and drive on. Man that is getting old.

Monday, October 20, 2003

First off I would like to apologize for the severe highs and lows that my entries have been enduring as of late. I realize that I don’t have to apologize, as it is my blog, and they are my emotions. However I feel as if I have made a connection with some of you on some level and I want you all to know that I am a very strong person, and have never entertained thoughts of hurting myself or anyone else in any way as a result of my mood. I love life and my family far too much to ever leave this world as a result of something I did intentionally.

With that said I spent the entire day yesterday at Camp Doha for my redeployment briefing. What a wasted day. The briefings only took two hours, but those of us that went for the briefings caught a ride with some other soldiers going who had made plans to spend the whole day there for R&R. The briefings ended about 10am and we weren’t supposed to meet the others to leave until 7pm. So we had MUCH time to burn doing nothing.

As I have mentioned before I have been deployed seven times, so there wasn’t much this briefing was going to tell me that was going to be much use, and boy was that statement on the money. They were telling us things like, “don’t try to catch up on your drinking all in one night.” I don’t really drink anymore so that shouldn’t be a problem. I have never liked beer, although a nice tall Heffeweisen sure sounds good sometimes, and I have fallen in love with some of the finer wines, but once again few and far between. “Don’t go home and immediately try to start running things. Your spouse will resent it.” Joyce and I have always worked extremely well together. We have both made sure that we have both been involved in major and minor decisions that would affect each other while I have been out here and we are nearly always on common ground when it comes to decisions anyway. It is almost scary how much we are alike when it comes to the raising of our son and budget and paying bills etc. “Don’t be upset if your children respond as if they do not know you.” That one is another huge DUH for me. Reid was four days old when I left to come back out here. There is no way he is going to know who I am. I have never met a baby that didn’t like me however so I am sure at most in a couple of days we will be getting along famously.

After the briefings we wandered around, ate some pizza and watched Pirates of the Carribean in the theatre on Doha, basically trying to waste time. I am now however one step closer to going home. What does that mean? I don’t know. I think they just sent me down for this briefing to shut me up a while…Whatever if they haven’t learned yet they never will. I’m not stopping until I get on a plane.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

I awoke this morning with it sitting on my chest. I was pinned under it’s weight. It held me there for nearly an hour, and I couldn’t escape it no matter how hard I struggled. I rolled right and it simply shifted to still be holding me down. I rolled left…same results. I looked up at the pictures of my son and my wife and it’s weight nearly brought me to tears. I am not one that is easily defeated so in the realization that I would have to carry this thing until it decided to leave me I put everything I had into picking it up.

I pushed as hard as I could and finally got to a point where I could sit up. It’s weight shifted to a position not so comfortably on my shoulders. Uncomfortable, but functional. I slowly got dressed and made my way to work. Every step was difficult as this things weight on my shoulders tried to drive me into the sand.

As I walked into my work tent I could see it. Every one was carrying a similar Item with them. No one wants to make eye contact, and no one is in very good spirits under their very own personal weight.

One guy’s is the fact that he found out a couple of days ago that his wife wants a divorce (the ninth I have seen in seven deployments). Another’s is his sister’s wedding he missed last weekend, and on and on and on. I sat down in front of my computer to check my email. I shifted my regret from one shoulder to the other, and tried to continue my day.

This regret is the heaviest I have ever carried. I have carried some pretty heavy ones before…at least I thought I had, but not like this. I miss my wife, I don’t know my son, My brother will be getting married soon, My father has had congestive heart failure but insists he is fine, and I have three and a half more years of this to look forward to, because I re-enlisted.

Joyce always tries to carry some of the weight, by justifying my decision, but she cannot. Nothing will lighten this burden.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I woke up this morning in the best mood I have been in, in a long time. I can’t explain why really, but it might have had something to do with the fact that I had mistakenly set my alarm for 4:35pm rather than 4:35am. So when I woke up at 9:30am totally missing PT I was rather surprised, and very well rested for the first time in some time. As I walked to work I had a little bit of a smile and actually whistled a little bit.

Yesterday evening had also been a good one. Tuesday nights is the night my church group gets together to study scripture, laugh, talk and just generally support each other. We laughed a lot and just generally had a good time. I have been inactive in the church since I was about fourteen so having the Lord back in my life has already filled a huge hole that was there. Last night my group leader pulled me aside and told me that he was going to be leaving for the next three weeks to take over for another soldier at another camp here in Kuwait. He asked me if I would take over for him in his absence. I was floored and thrilled at the same time. I would never have thought of myself as someone who could be a church group leader, but was amazed that he would think of me to take his place even if temporarily. We also decided last night that we want to have all of our names, since there are only seven of us in our group, embroidered on a boony cap in Arabic and take a picture of all of us, sign it and send it to the president of our church.

Things were just kind of going really well….and then I called my wife. I had so much to talk about, which is rare because things don’t change out here, so I was excited to talk to her. Beale AFB was very busy and I spent twenty minutes on hold just to be told that the line was busy. Well if the line is busy she is online, so I got on and sure enough she was. We began to talk via yahoo messenger and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Joyce was in a bad mood. I tried to keep the conversation as light as possible to cheer her up and keep my own spirits at their currently high level at the same time. I failed. I could not get out of talking about how upset she was with the army, and all of the very pesemistic views she had on the subject of me coming home. My mood steadily deteriorated, and we began to fight about it. I hate arguing with Joyce, as it never accomplishes anything, and we have promised each other to never go to bed mad so to speak and that has been very difficult out here as we are not together to smooth things out. We did though, because we are very in love. We both apologized and began looking at car seats on babiesrus.com. It was my lunch time and well past her bed time when our conversation ended, but it ended well….”I love you. Night.”

Monday, October 13, 2003

The walls that surround my rack are made up of various things. Immediately to the foot of my rack is the back of another soldier’s shelf. To my left is the tent wall. There is about an eighteen inch gap between the side of my bed and the tent wall so that the air conditioner will fit there. To the head of my rack is the back of my shelf with most of my things splayed out amongst it. To the right is my little walk way and just beyond that is the next guy over. I hang my poncho from the top bunk to create a curtain for privacy. Under my cot is everything that wouldn’t fit on my shelf and my shoes and boots. One pair of flip flops for the shower, one pair of tennis shoes for physical training, and two pair of Army issued desert boots. Hanging in a sort of make shift closet in the right side of my shelf are one set of PTs (physical training uniform), and a brown towel with a wash cloth draped over it, for washin’ my stinky hide in preparation for another wonderful Army day.

There is no painting, as I don’t really want to paint my poncho, I’m sure the Kuwaiti contractor that supplied the tent would be pretty perturbed if he had one big blue splotch in the area that I used to live, and painting my shelf just seems like another task that the Sergeant Major would dream up just to be a jerk. I have three pictures hanging on the bunk side of my shelf so that I can look at them as I fall asleep and hope to dream about being home. The one in the upper left is Reid on the day of his birth. The one on the far right is Reid at one month. The big smile he has on his face in that picture always makes me want to smile even when I don’t think there is a single muscle in my face that remembers how. The picture in the middle is there because it contains that which is centered in my world. Joyce. It is actually the two of us together on the day I proposed (shortly after). I am half dazed and Joyce is holding me from behind her left hand on my chest and her right arm draped over my left shoulder. Her chin and cheek are resting gently against my left shoulder. I will never forget what it felt like for her to hold me like that that night. I only wish that her touch in general was not becoming such a distant memory. I would hang more pictures on my little wall if had them, but you would be amazed what super fine dirt does to a printer in a matter of days. Joyce sends me pictures all the time via email and I probably have close to 200 by now. I have practically watched Reid grow the last four and a half months by correspondence. I would print them out, but like I said, super dirt. Besides the crappy little black and white printers that we did bring to print out forms would do very little justice to my little guys smiling face if they did still work.

The running shoes under my bed are nearly brand new, and they probably already have more miles on them than any pair of running shoes I have owned in ten years. We are running out here constantly. I would love to walk, or do somersaults or jazzercize or something other than run, but that is one of the wonderful things about the Army, you don’t get to do what you want, you “get” to do what you are told, and like it. I am no great runner. I am 6’0” and 180lbs, by no means fat. In fact I want to gain another 25lbs to reach my goal weight. I eat a hamburger and a hot dog probably 5 times a week. Not because that is what I want, but because it is either that or try to find an ingenious way to cook a running shoe. There is no local market to go to and buy the local quisine. We are 50 miles from anything, and besides you have to have a movement ticket to get of the camp, and they sure as hell aren’t gonna give you a ticket to go grocery shopping, so I will continue to eat a butt load of hamburgers and hot dogs with the occasional Jared diet from Subway thrown in when I absolutely can’t hack it any more. Besides that is how I am tracking time out here. The days have all just blended together. If I am standing in the Subway line it has probably been about a week.

Friday, October 10, 2003

My heart is pounding, my knees are aching more than they have ached in years, and my eyes are stinging horribly. This is the fifth day in a row that I have been forced to run in some way or another. I am not the best runner in the world, so I can definitely use the work, but as much as we have been running lately cannot be good for you. Like I said, my knees are killing me. I’ve had knee problems for several years due to my love for football, but they haven’t hurt like this for a long time. I am going to end up getting a profile out here and I hate being on profile, but I would hate paying for the abuse of my knees by being less mobile when I get older even more.

I have been dropping weight as if I have been sick for weeks as well. When I returned from being on leave for Reid’s birth I was pushing 200lbs weighing in at about 195. We had a PT test Monday and I was a surprising 180 even!!! I worked really hard to put on that weight and it took almost nothing to take it right back off. I guess I will just burn off all the crap I don’t need and hit the Gym extremely hard to build up the stuff I do want.

I did pretty well on my PT test, but I have definitely done better. I think I am really going to push for that elusive 300! The Army scores your physical fitness with a possible score of 100 in three events, Push-ups, Sit-ups and the Two mile run. I always score in the 80’s to low 90’s on push ups and in the high 70’s in sit-ups (due to another Army inflicted injury), and in the mid 80’s on my run, this time was not much different, except swap the sit-ups and run score.

I have been on a real fitness kick lately and have been big time into getting my body shaped the way I have always wanted, and I don’t plan on quitting until I accomplish that goal. I know I have been driving Joyce crazy with this one because I am still trying to talk her into running with me, and she totally refuses. Not that we could run together for a while yet any way. I will hit my goal weight of 205lbs and be built like a brick shit house by this time next year. Period. Then I’ll finally get my braces and be done with it. A little vain for a 28 year old? Maybe, but I deserve it. All this work has to be worth something.

I finally got my computer all fixed up and working the way I wanted it so here after long last are the pictures I promised.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The last couple of days have been very up and down. I have left each day of work totally exhausted, but feeling as if something was accomplished. I haven’t had a computer to call my own for some time, which is partially why I have been posting so sporadically. I still don’t have my own computer so this may not change for some time yet.

Last night was possibly the best night I have had out here. I went to church for what is normally our bible study night. I don’t usually go but I was going to practice for the trio I am supposed to be singing in on Sunday. One of our three couldn’t be there so my self and C stayed for the study group. There were five of us all together and we had a blast. We laughed and talked and laughed some more.

One of the guys who was there has been leading a let’s say less than righteous life for the last several years and has been looking for that missing piece to his life. He has been coming to church with our group leader for the last several weeks, and this is the first time we have all really sat down and talked with him to tell him what we believe and how we feel.

The whole experience was extremely uplifting, and I went to bed last night feeling great about myself as a person and a disciple of God. I have become pretty close to the small group that I see for a couple hours every Sunday, and I think I am really going to miss them when I leave.

P.S. I promise I will post some pictures soon. I have to get a computer squared away so that I can load my camera’s software on it.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

We got bunk beds in our tent today. Do the people in charge think about what they are doing before they do things or just do them? No one in the tent wanted the bunk beds. We were all pretty settled in with our cots. Most of us had air mattresses or what have you. I mean dang we have been here nearly eight months, isn’t it a little late?

So at around 11am our acting First Sergeant comes through and tells us al that we have to break down our cots and move our stuff outside because at 1pm we are getting bunk beds. Well I have guard duty from noon to 4pm so I know what that means. Some one is going to have to do it all for me and they aren’t going to care what happens to my stuff.

Sure enough I got back from guard duty and my stuff was all over the place. My new bed had been pushed all the way up against my shelves where I couldn’t possibly get to them. Of course I wouldn’t have put them there but hey. And my things are scattered all over the place. My pillow was laying in the dirt on the floor, my fold-up chair was in some one else’s cubicle “I’ll take that back thank you!” and my tennis shoes are kicked under someone else’s bed. Thanks guys, good lookin’ out. Instead of getting to relax for a little while before I go back out to guard duty, I had to square away my new area, that hopefully I will be leaving in no more than two weeks any way. Such is trix.

I am sitting here getting ready to go back out to guard duty and it is very humid outside. The weather seems to be changing. Hopefully that means cooler weather soon. I’ll go our and spend one of my last three shifts, trying to stay awake counting shooting stars and then I’ll come back and hopefully get some sleep.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Where to begin? I guess it was about eight or nine days ago now that chief and I left for Camp Virginia. We had to go help them solve a problem that they were having with one of the assemblages there providing communications. I can’t really give you any more information than that as it would be a breach of security. We both planned on maybe being gone a maximum of about five hours. Boy were we sorely mistaken.

We spent the first nine hours there with SGT T going through loop after loop (loops are loopbacks used during troubleshooting of communications equipment) with a different result every time. It made no sense. The first loop would come back good and we would move on to the next loop and fail. So we would go back and this time fail the loop we passed the first time. After around nine hours was up and we had been at work back at base camp all day as well we decided it was time to throw in the towel for the night, and went to bed.

Like I said earlier Chief and I had only planned on being gone a total of about five hours so we had brought nothing. No toothpaste, no soap, no shaving utensils…..Not even a sleeping bag. SGT T however was a lifesaver. Her and I ran by the MWR tent before we all crashed out. They had free toothbrushes and toothpaste so chief and I wouldn’t have to walk around with fur on our teeth all day long. They did not however have any free shaving stuff, which is hard to explain for a soldier why you have a full day’s growth. One of the most common things you will hear as a soldier is “did you shave today soldier?”. I am not used to hearing that question. Asking it yes, hearing directed at me? No.

We got back to the sleep tent to show chief the spoils of our search and he had already curled up on the floor of the tent with his jacket over his head. Did I mention SGT T’s sleep tent has the best AC in theatre? It was fricken COLD in there. She took one look at chief and said “uh uh, this won’t do hold on”. She went back to her little cubicle and quickly came back with a spare sleeping bag, and two pairs of shorts. We put together two cots that had been just laying off to the side in the common area of their tent and began to get ready for sleepy sleepy time. It was a little strange putting on another woman’s shorts, but I didn’t hesitate. They are only shorts and I wanted to be comfortable dang it. SGT T came back to check on us after she heard us settling in. She was quite a host. As she walked back to go to sleep she said “if you guys need anything just wake me up.” It was like 3:30am when I finally drifted off. I don’t like being away from my own bed. Even if it is currently a cot with and air mattress and my sleeping bag in the middle of the Kuwaiti desert.

For some reason I woke up at 8am on the dot, and chipper as a chip monk. I didn’t sleep well but for some reason I felt perfectly rested. Chief was already up and putting his hat on to head out the door. He decided to wait and we would go eat breakfast. While I was putting on my boots, SGT T strolled out wiping sleep from her eyes and said she would meet us up at the work area in a couple of hours. Her shift didn’t start until noon and she HAD soap, so she was gonna use it.

After breakfast Chief and I got right back to it. With a cleared head and not wanting to spend another night “abroad” we were determined to solve this thing right now! Well about twelve hours later and after making several changes we were done. Another success. Our OIC calling and telling us we had done a great job and asked when we were headed back. Well we had to go to Camp Victory to pick a SPC T, and then it was back to “base camp”.

When the three of us walked in to our work tent back “home” SFC R, was right there waiting for me. “I hope you weren’t planning on taking tomorrow off. SGT L is on leave and SGT M has guard duty this week so I need you to cover down in operations for me.” I have spent my time in operations and hated it. I was so stressed out over that stretch, Joyce didn’t even like being on the phone with me, so I quickly asked if I could pull SGT M’s guard duty instead which he emphatically agreed to, so I have been back in the tower since then and worn out. I only have two more days though and it will be back to some semblance of “normality”.

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