Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm Home!!!

Well, I'm home!  I made it!  It's so nice to sleep in my own bed. 

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The World is Off My Shoulders

I helped our replacements get the truck ready for tonight's mission and then sent them on their own way!  They won't get back for at least four days.  I am officially done with combat operations!!!!!  Now I just have to sit in the heat for a few more days before we catch our flight out of here.  I feel so light and I really miss home.  It will still be three weeks before I can actually come home, but I'm one big step closer.  As of now, August 8th is the target date to be released.  Hopefully it's sooner than that!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Too Close to the End

Our final mission is finally over.  We will probably have another one shared with our replacements but it won't be the same.  At least I hope that is all that is left.  Our last mission was a little too exciting for my taste, especially this close to the end.  A couple of days ago we were the targets of a rocket attack.  They missed, but only by a few hundred feet!  Events like that that would have made for good stories a few months ago aren't so amusing when you know you are so close to going home.  We are all safe though and no one got hurt.  We are just glad to be back off of our mission and resting for a few days until our next one.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Short Timer

When I was on a mission they called us trunky.  Here they call us short timers.  Although it will take me longer to actually get home, I have less than 30 days here in Iraq.  That's getting close enough to make it hard to concentrate or have much enthusiasm about the work I have to do.  We are in the middle of a long and boring mission carrying the mail between here and the place it is flown into.  The days are long and we don't get much rest between trips.  While the weather has been bad enough to cancel everyone else's missions, we have special dispensation to roll without medivac support because we are carrying the mail (medivac helicopters don't fly in dust storms!).  The bright side is that our replacements will be here in just a few days and they might even take over our mission before we are finished with it.  That would be great.  

My thoughts are a little scattered today and it is hard to write about them.  I haven't written about this before because of how difficult it is.  I try not to think about going home so that I can focus on my job and not feel miserably homesick, but writing about it opens up all those thoughts and feelings.  The army doesn't make it any easier when they start the preparations to move so early on.  We had to have our extra stuff packed and put in the shipping container last week.  In two days we are moving out of our comfortable barracks and into transient housing so that our replacements can move right into them when they arrive.  All this with almost a month left.  It makes it seem like we are about to leave, but then the reality hits that it is not over yet.  It makes it hard to not think about going home.  

I think that I had forgotten what a burden this all is.  I had been just doing my job and going about my business and my mind let me thing that it was normal and ok.  Then we had to pack our stuff.  Try as I might, I couldn't help but realize that the end was near.  I let down my guard as I was rolling my boxes out to the shipping container and felt the weight of all of this suddenly fall upon me.  Even when I went on leave I didn't let my guard down like this.  I knew I had to come back so I didn't let myself fully relax.  Julie might have noticed how I didn't want to talk about my deployment to a lot of people and didn't feel comfortable acting like I was home.  I realize now that it is going to be a lot different this time.  This time I get to go home and don't have to come back.  I'll be able to take the weight off my mind and face the reality of what I have just done and what now lies ahead.  I remember how it felt to come back from my mission.  I expect this to be the same in some ways but different in others.  

I guess I am rambling.  I wish I could organize my thoughts better.  It's hard to take in though and I'm still resisting letting myself really thing about it.  I just can't wait to get home.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Poor

This isn't going to be a post about the war.  It is going to be a rant about my frustration with conservatives in Arlington.  

I am tired of being lumped in with the perpetual welfare recipients.  I am tired of the attitude that people have of the "poor people" in Arlington.  Yes, there are people who do not and will not ever contribute to society.  Some of them even live in Arlington, but most people who fall bellow the poverty line are like Julie and I.  We are young students who are in school or who just finished school who are trying to start our lives.  We have to start it from scratch and that means we might need a little help.  Most of us will go on to pay back society for what we take when we are young many times over.  We won't live below the poverty line forever.  

I am so tired of conservative and libertarians of our city who only judge all of us to be the same and unworthy of a place in society.  No public transit for the "poor".  No help from the city to help "poor" kids participate in recreation programs.  Why do I need to pay for the "poor" to do anything.  If they were meant to be part of society they wouldn't be "poor".  Their attitude is racist, bigoted and prejudiced.  Those are serious accusations, but they drip of the truth.  Judging all "poor" people as being the same, in such a negative way, is the definition of bigotry. It smacks of classism and European conservatism.  It denies people the dignity of being individuals.

It's funny how when I tell people that I am a soldier and that my family takes advantage of the grants and programs offered by the government for "poor" people how they show compassion and say, "of course we are willing to pay to help a soldier's family, it's just all the other's who don't deserve it that we won't pay for."  Once I am no longer a faceless member of the ranks of the "poor" it is ok.  Once I am a person with an understandable circumstance they are willing to pay.  Why then do we assume that everyone who needs these services is any less deserving than I?  Why are the 30,000 students at UTA ignored when talking about the "poor" who would benefit from mass transit, or public spaces or public programs?  Why are the young people of the city overlooked and ignored?  

The results are obvious if you look at them.  Young people are leaving Arlington.  Academics call it "white flight", but all it really is is the discouragement that young people, just starting out in life, feel about a city that doesn't care for them.  They leave, and their parents leave.  Once enough start to leave, the city has a reputation. 

There are other factors of course, but as a person who wants to see the city succeed and as a young person trying to start out his life, this is the one that affects me the most.  I wish these people would leave their houses and go talk to the people that live in their city with them.  Find out what their situations are and realize that most of these people, if encouraged to stay, will eventually become solid contributors to our community.   The huge majority of "poor" people don't stay poor.

Well, there it is. More war stories later...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I was surprised tonight to realize how well I have gotten used to the stress of our missions.  I've been driving down the same stretch of road for so long now that it has almost become commonplace.  As I sat there thinking about what I was doing, that I was actually looking for bombs that people might have placed on the side of the road, I realized how normal that had become and how little thought I had given it up until then.  Then I realized how alert I was and how tense I was and that I was always like that but that I hadn't really thought about it before or noticed.  It is amazing how well we cope with situations that we are put into.  Situations that if we were to step back and really thing about we would be very uncomfortable.  Suiting up and looking for bombs is just my job and it is what I do everyday.  It's become so common that I don't even think about it.  But that doesn't mean the stress isn't there.  It doesn't mean that as I am driving down the road my adrenaline isn't pumping or that I am not running through all of the scenarios of "what if" in my mind just in case.  It's just that now it's normal.  

I am back safe once again.  One more trip down and one less to do before I get to go home.  I'll be glad when I don't have to look out for bombs on the side of the road anymore.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Worst Dust Storm Yet!

We are back in our tents at VBC after one interesting adventure. Outside the worst dust storm I have yet seen is raging. The wind is blowing hard and visibility is down to just a few feet! I have seen a lot of dust storms, but nothing like this. We were lined up earlier to leave on our return trip to Camp Taji when the storm blew up. It was already pretty bad out there, but we had gotten special permission to roll without air support. We were just starting our roll when the word came down that the mission had been canceled. We just had one problem. Our convoy was lined up at the gate with no room to turn around. We had to leave the gate, go down the road a couple of miles to a point were it was wide enough for us to turn around and then come back in the gate. The whole trip couldn’t have been more than four miles, but it took us 30 minutes. Even with his tail lights on, I couldn’t see the truck in front of me if he got more than 30 or 40 yards away. We crawled along with only our headlights on because any more than that made things worse.

Right before we rolled out we picked up an extra passenger. He was a First Sergeant from a company here at VBC that needed to get to Taji for some reason. When we got back inside the gate he asked if we could give him a ride back to his company. We said that we would, but it proved to be more difficult than we thought it would be. Once on post the storm got even worse. I couldn’t see more than 10 feet to either side of my truck. Our passenger tried to give us directions, but we couldn’t see any landmarks. I finally got as close as I thought I could to where he was directing us and told him he was going to have to walk. Being in the back of the truck where there are really no windows, I don’t think he understood how difficult it was for me to see anything. He seemed a little upset at my inability to find his stop until he opened the back door of the truck and was greeted by a wall of dust that blew into the truck as if it was water rushing in the open door. Our truck was almost instantly full of dust. He decided I had done a good enough job given the circumstances and quickly disappeared as he walked away. We drove back to our staging area and got our of the truck as quickly as possible. In the 40 or 50 yards from our truck to the tent we got covered in white dust like talcum powder. Most of us are still covered because we know that if we walk to the shower to get clean we will just be dirty again by the time we get back. Thank goodness for baby wipes!