Monday, December 27, 2004

Merry Christmas and Welcome To My Trailer

This is the first blog from my very own trailer in Baghdad Iraq. I got my internet connection up and running on Christmas eve for a few hours and it has been down ever since. As it turns out the Cat 5 cable I told you about in the last blog was an old one I didn't know was there. "How in that monumentally large trailer could you have missed such an object" you say. Well, I mentioned in an earlier blog that my room mate was leaving because of some back problems he was having. Well, he had just tucked it away behind a box he had. When he left it was just sitting there so I assumed it was new. It wasn't. So I stopped by the dudes room that's putting all this fancy stuff together. I said, "Hey dude", really I just asked him when I could expect the internet to be up and running. He told me it already was. I asked when I could expect a cable. You know the old adage be careful what you ask for. Well, he hands me a bulk roll of Cat 5 cable. I had really meant when could I expect the other end of this cable to be sticking through the wall in my trailer. Oh well. I stuck one end through the hole in his floor and started unwinding cable until I got to my trailer. Then, as if by an act of God, a guy comes out of nowhere and asks if I need the ends of the cable crimped. On the surface this may not sound odd but you have to consider the situation. The entire network of cable, and when I say network I mean completely unorganized strands of cable running across the desert floor from room to room, had been set up a few weeks before. Also, It's about 1:00 in the morning. But here is this guy with the special crimping tool and a pocket full of the little ends that go on the cable. Have I wowed you with my command of all these technical terms? So, I get the cable hooked up and a few hours later I'm up and running on the internet. We tried all night and into the next morning to get the web cam to work between me and my wife (who is at my parents right now) to no avail. I'm not really sure what's wrong, but that's a problem for a different blog. Anyway, that was the last time the internet worked in my room until now. For some reason it's been down since early Christmas morning. Contrary to early touting the connection is slow as molasses in January. But, it's still an internet connection in my room in the middle of the desert, in the middle of a war. I don't have much I can complain about. As far as wars go I'm pretty comfortable. I almost feel ashamed when I think of the guys from the World Wars or Vietnam or Korea. You guys had it much worse.

So, after that meaningless paragraph how would you like to hear about my Christmas. Christmas fell on a Saturday which is, on the schedule anyway, my day off. As it turned out it was my first day off since I've been here that was actually a day off. I got off at midnight Christmas eve and fiddled with the internet like I explained in the first paragraph. I ended up going to bed about 7:00 a.m. Christmas morning. I slept until about 3:30 p.m. and then woke up to go to the Haji shop to buy some phone cards for my cell phone. When I opened the door it was pouring rain. It doesn't rain that often in Iraq but when it does it's miserable. Picture that fine dusty black dirt that's really fine and gets into every crack and orifice of your body. Now put a couple of inches of water on top of that for as far as you can see and mix it up really good. Now drive really big trucks and tanks all over it. Then live in it. Oh well, I thought, it's Christmas and I wanted to buy some phone cards so I could talk to my family. I tried to buy them on Christmas eve but it was Friday, the Holy Day here. All the Haji shops were closed. Well, I walked to the entire other side of camp in the ankle deep mud to find the shop closed. No phone cards today. There are two ways I talk to my family. Usually at the phone center with a calling card because it's cheaper, or on the cell phone with a pre paid card. The phone centers are 16-19 cents per minute depending on what card you have, and the cell phones which are supposed to be 35 cents a minute are really 50 cents a minute. Truth and time are two thing in Iraq that don't really hold to the same standard we have in America. However, you don't have to walk far to use the cell phone, and you don't have to wait in line. I did have a couple of regular phone cards because a friend of our sent me $100.00 to buy phone cards for Christmas. I can't believe how much people are helping us out through this. Thanks for the phone cards.

It was about 4:30 now and I was near the tents where the PX is so I walked around in there for a while to get out of the rain and kill a little bit of time before chow. Chow was supposed to be at 5:00 so I showed up at 5:00 to find a huge line and a sign saying it would start at 5:30 Well, it actually said it would start at 1730 but we'll just say 5:30. So I stood in the freezing rain for 30 minutes. It would have taken that long to walk back to my room so I figured what the heck, I'd stick it out. The Army really went all out to make it feel like Christmas that day. There were white silk cloths on all the chairs with red sashes wrapped around them. They had a gingerbread village set up in the middle of the chow hall. There were probably 10 little buildings and they were each two or three feet tall and decorated with all kinds of cookies and candy. They had a jazz band made up of a group of soldiers playing Christmas Songs. And the lights were all off and they had candles everywhere. It was really nice. They had an old man with a white beard and a Santa suit set up with a nice chair and a backdrop so you could get your picture with Santa. The officers were serving the food and it was great. I had honey backed ham, stuffing, green beans, and something else I can't remember but I remember it was really good. It wasn't until this point that I started to feel sad. Up until then it was just another day in the desert. This whole thing has just been a matter of waking up and doing what I had to do and then going back to bed. But seeing all of this made me really miss my family tremendously. When I walked into the chow hall it was like I was really missing home. Everything was so nice and Christmasy but I couldn't stay there. I ate as fast as I could and got out of there. I had to fight back the tears the whole time I was eating. It came as a complete surprise. I wasn't sad going into the chow hall, but seeing all the Christmas stuff really did it for me. I think you go to a place mentally here where you can deal with all the stuff going on and that place has nothing to do with home or the things you're used to in your real life. I never really thought about it until those two realities collided. I just knew I needed to get out of there as quickly as possible. There's nothing more pitiful than a man wearing body armor carrying a loaded M-16 crying. I wanted to stay and listen to the band but I couldn't. So I made my way back through the mud to the phone center.

I ended up in the longest phone line I've ever been in. Usually they don't have anyone monitoring the phone center but it seems to run fairly quickly. On Christmas they had someone there that would let you talk for 30 minutes. (which I found out during my conversation). I never talk that long anyway. We usually talk for 15 to 20 minutes. So 30 minutes sounded like a long time. I also figured it would take forever because the line was so long. It ended up running faster than normal. I guess most people talk longer than 30 minutes on the regular non Christmas days. Anyway, I talked for 30 minutes and when they tapped me on the shoulder I got up and went out to the end of the line and waited to talk another 30 minutes. It was good to talk to everyone. My wife and kids are at my parents house for Christmas. My brother and sisters live in the same area so they could all get together. It sounded like they were having a good time. In real life I live where it doesn't snow, so my kids don't really get to see snow. Their Grandparents live where it does snow. It sounds like they're having a blast. They built snowmen and went and looked at Christmas lights. I'm sure the opened about a billion presents. You know how Grandparents are with Grandchildren. Some of my wife's friends surprised her a mailed a bunch of presents to my parents house for her. I know she was surprised on Christmas and I know it really meant a lot to her that they took the time and thought to do that.

So that brings me up until now. Not much going on with regular life here. We've all been a little more on edge since the attack in Mosul. Death is an ever present thing here in Iraq. I feel so terribly bad for all the families that get calls or a visit saying their son or daughter, or husband or wife has been killed. I hope you can find God's peace in all of this.

Anyway, that's what's going on here. Sorry for the negative tone of the last blog, I shouldn't have said some of the things I said. This place really gets to you sometimes and I should have waited a day before I posted that. I apologize. Everything always seems a lot better the next day.

Next blog I'll share the list of the twelve days of Christmas my wife and friends put together for me. Now that I can get on the internet I'll try to post more frequently. I've missed dong it, it gives me an outlet to release some stuff. Thanks for reading and feel free to pass the address on to anyone you'd like. I love to get comments (hint hint).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As usual, it was great to hear from you. I'm glad you'll be able to post more often now, nine days in between is a long time. Thanks for making me cry while reading the third paragraph in your blog, you know, you really shouldn't apologize for sounding negative in your last blog, you're just being real and sharing your thoughts and feelings and I know I speak for alot of people when I say, that is what we want to read, what you're really going through. Your wife's friends and I really enjoyed puting that package together for her, I was more excited about Christmas morning this year, I just couldn't wait or stop thinking about it because I knew she would be surprised. It was so much fun shopping for her and lavishing her with gifts, I really believe, it is better to give than to receive. The Christmas musical was a hit, your daughter was truly adorable and did an awesome job on her solo. A Prayer for you: God, please continue to bless GWM, give him peace, keep him safe, and be the lifter of his head, in the precious name of Jesus I ask, Amen. SCM

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was good to hear your post and the update on what is happening. It is good to vent your feelings, it helps us pray for specific things. We will continue to pray for your protection and encouragement.
ps. Milo wanted me to tell you xoxoxo, whatever that means. JJM

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, hey! What are friends for if you can't say the things that are really on your mind and heart. I mean, really? Why would we want to hear a stripped down version of trivial facts? That's what we get in the media. You are our friend, brother, and eye into reality. Our lives are so tame compared to what you are going through. We do have our moments of testing and pressure but you seem to have it 25/8 with no other person there that truely knows you. We are here for you even if we have to hear from you via technology. You are a tremendous gift. Yes, you are God's gift to us. Yes, you can laugh at that one. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to use our giftings, our talents, and God blessed finances to ease the discomfort for you and your family. Don't ever take that away from us. We are blessed, maybe not at much as you because of it but we are still blessed. I echo the prayer from SCM. I know that wars tend to be hardest in the emotional relm than any other. That's why they had China Rose and Hanoi Hannah, to bring your spirits down and make you feel insignificant. You are not insignificant. You know that. Just don't forget that. You come from people who love you and love Christ. That is the best thing ever. Christ endured all that He did to give you peace. He didn't do it all to give you a vanilla life, no action, no bumps. He gives you peace in the midst of storms, strife, financial disasters, family disagreements, wars and rumors of wars. Hey, seems that line is familiar. (it was mine in the Christmas eve service) They couldn't have found a better line. Peace. What a simple word but such a brain stumper. I must step aside and tell you how excited I was to do the media for the evening. I did use a picture of you, one of the pictures of you after convoy training with your scarf and gun as the wars and rumors of wars picture. Anyway, what I am saying is . . . Thank you . . . We love you . . . Keep doing what you are doing so we can do what we do. Love, prayers, and support. You can't believe all of what I would like to do for you and yours but resources are slim. Should be playing those one-armed bandits or the lottery to get the resources. Nah! Love & stuff CnH

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear IRR Soldier,

I've read your entire blog from the Welcome point and I'm impressed with the dedication you have to your God, your duty, you family, and most of all, your own optimism. It's that optimism that will help you maintain the strong dedication you have for every other thing in your life that is important to you.

Even the few parts of your blog you consider negative and have labeled as such are truly not negative in any sense. What I see and feel when I read those words are the true and honest feelings of a good man, husband, father -- human being. You've never allowed the slightest hint of a "woe-is-me" feel to your message. I couldn't fault you if you did, but I have so much respect and admiration that you don't.

I think of you and your family every day. Those of us who have "done time" as military dependents and have sent our own family members off to war are well aware of how much your family misses you, how much they want you home, how cheated they feel that you are not with them - and, at the same time, how proud they are of you for being there.

Keep writing - you really can't know how much it helps those at home. Neeny

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it is hard to be there and not here with family at Christmas. The comments posted last on this blog pretty much sums up how much we miss you and wish you were here. We would much rather have you home with us and not there but we know how much you are sacrificing for our country and us. We feel the separation everyday. We are glad that this will only be temporary. We don't understand all of God's plan but we know that this is one of those character building moments that each of us go through in our christian walk. No way around them so we just go through them with God's love and help and the support and prayers of friends and family. We love you and are so very proud of you and miss you terribly.TM

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neeny. Wow your comments brought a tear to my eye. How well stated. You see, this irr soldier is my son. While our culture expects the wives and women to express their emotions we guys are supposed to be tough and macho. My battle for my son was not just that the war might take his life (I surely would grieve) but that is would "take his mind". Had a close college friend who's father experienced a break down and was never able to return to work because of war related stresses. (WW II) I was able to express this openly to those that love and support me....then the assurance came, as God gives us the full armor of his protection part of that protection is the "helmet of salvation". That "helmet" protects the mind. Oh, we have to appropriate it by faith and walk it out in relationship with our Lord. God is giving this irrsoldier great grace and we are blessed to see it happen. Bless you Neeny. Your comment was special.

8:59 AM  

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