Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hello From Germany

Just wanted to take the opportunity to say hello from Germany. I've never been able to say that before, and I'm not sure I ever will again. So without further delay......Hello From Germany. (conduct spell check) Hey, this is the first Blog so far that didn't turn up any misspelled words. Either I'm getting smarter, or I just used stupider words in this one. (conduct spell check again) I guess I ruined it because I misspelled the word misspelled. I was sure there was only one s but the computer tells me there's two. It still looks wrong so I'm going to tell myself it was right the first time.

Friday, January 28, 2005

And Now Back to Our Program

When we last heard from our hero in his on going military saga he was leaving Iraq to go on his "mid tour" leave. Did he get there? Did he have a good time? Did Squishy Santa make a guest appearance? Stay tuned for answers to these and other exciting questions as we return to "IRR Soldier part two: Back to Baghdad" (Ominous music plays while the part of IRR soldier, played by Val Kilmer, does cool spy looking things with high tech gadgets and neat looking weapons and the opening credits scroll by.)

Well, it's been 19 days since my last post. Right now I'm sitting on a King sized bed in a suite in an undisclosed hotel somewhere in Texas digesting my prime rib dinner from the hotel restaurant. I flew out of my home town at 6:30 this morning to catch a connecting flight in Dallas. For some reason not even known to the Army they gave us tickets that got us here a few hours after our connecting flight had already left. That's just good planning. So they put us up in a hotel for the night. This time they pay for it. Not me. This is probably the nicest hotel I've ever been in. When we went to check in all the other guys were going to the counter in pairs. A lot of them are from the same unit. I don't know any of them so I just went up by myself figuring they'd pair me up with some other unsuspecting sucker. Imagine my surprise when they asked me if I'd like to room alone. I didn't know that was an option but snatched up the chance before anyone was the wiser. And here I am now blogging on my free T1 connection compliments of the hotel.

When I got home for leave my wife met me at the airport and we drove to a cabin in the mountains for a few days. It was good to see just her. It made the transition back a little smoother. We had a great time. There was snow everywhere, and a herd of wild buffalo that would come to the fence line outside our porch to drink water every morning and evening. We went into the little town there a few times but mostly just hung out at the cabin watching movies and playing games. It was great. My Mother-in-law and CNH took turns watching our kids while we were gone. Our friends and family have come through with support in ways that I'll never be able to thank them for if I tried for the rest of my life.

The kids were great. I spent most of the time back playing with them and just hanging around the house. The first day back from the cabin was a Sunday. We went to church and that was the first interaction I had with anyone other than my wife. It was unexpectedly overwhelming. I don't think I realized how disconnected from people I had become. I'm around people in my job in the Army all day, but I guess you sort of put up a barrier because of all the death and violence around. That day at Church was really emotional. Everyone meant well and I really wanted to talk to all of them but I was so overwhelmed I couldn't. I was just stunned like I was watching it all unfold in a movie. That night and the next day were a little tough. All the family connections came flooding back mixed up with joy and frustration and anger all in this tight little ball of confusing emotion. I was overjoyed to be back with my family, sad for all the families who would never see their soldiers again, mad at the war for what it was doing to my family and other families. The whole time away so far had just been going from one day to another. Now I had a chance to sit back and reflect on it all. After those first few days I bounced back to normal and really enjoyed the time with my family.

This blog is my view of what's going on in my life right now and is subject to change as situations change. I'm mad at this war for separating Daddys from their little boys and girls. I'm mad that American Soldiers are dying and they aren't really sure why they're there. I'm mad because when I'm gone my 4 year old boy gets so angry and he doesn't even know why. I'm mad because I don't know if the Iraqis know what's going on and if they do if they even care. What if they don't want to be liberated. "Hello fairy princess I'm here to rescue you." "Rescue me from what, self proclaimed knight in shining armor?" "Why from your evil oppressor of course." "What evil oppressor?" "Oh silly princess, Just be quiet and let me rescue you." What if we're wasting lives there. I have no control over anything that's happening to me or my family. Have you ever been in a situation like that? I never had until now. I have absolutely no say in even the most minute details of our lives. Anything could happen and all I could do is sit there and watch, and deal with the outcome. But you know what, that's OK. I'm mad at the war right now but there is still a God that's much bigger than me calling the shots. This has been a very trying few weeks, probably the worst so far, probably the worst in my life, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is in control. I'm mad now but I'm not defeated. I have no control now, but He does. My thoughts are jumbled and disorganized and I don't know what to make of them, but his perfect plan is still in motion. Sometimes I just want to throw in the towel and quit believing there's a plan, but I know in the deepest fibers of my body that God is real. And at the end of processing that I find comfort in knowing this simple truth. God loves me and aches for me to love him back. He doesn't care how feeble my faith is. In fact I don't think his love for me even requires me to love him in return. My salvation depends on it, but he'd still love me even if I spit in his face. He'll always be there helping me take each step. When I'm strong He'll let me walk, and when I'm weak He'll carry me. When I fall He'll pick me up, dust me off, and point me in the right direction. I've spent a lot of my life walking. I've spent most of the last few months being carried.

Well, that's probably enough emotional regurgitation for one entry. I believe all the stuff about God in there, all the rest will probably change as we see how the war unfolds.

Feel free to comment. I talked to quite a few people back home that read the blog and I had no idea they ever even looked at it. Come on guys show me some love. Leave a comment every now and then.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

On the Road Again

My guitar day off went pretty well. In giddy anticipation for what was ahead of me I woke up at the crack of 2:00 p.m., wiped the sleep from my eyes and picked up the guitar. I planned ahead the day before and brought home a sandwich from the chow hall so I didn't have to wake up and walk there for lunch. I got a couple of chords into "Rock the not so free world day" (hereafter referred to as RTNSFWD, see previous blog)when there was a knock on my door. I was playing through headphones so it couldn't be the noise. I hesitated to answer because my boss is notorious for having me come in on my day off. I've vowed never to answer my door on my day off again, but I usually get tricked. For instance, last week I was enjoying a good early morning snooze when I heard what I could have sworn was a car alarm. I was at that point of sleep where you aren't sure if you're awake or not so I figured I was dreaming. Besides, there aren't any cars around here to have alarms anyway. In reality it was a new siren they're trying out on the Humvee's to get traffic out of the way during patrols and convoys. Believe it or not some of the people around here don't get out of the way when they see Humvees and Tanks driving right down the middle of the road with guns trained right on their car. However in my dream I thought it was my car alarm. As I'm dreaming this there's someone knocking on my door. Still in dream land it makes perfect sense to me that someone is knocking on my door in Anytown USA so I can turn off my car alarm. No problem, I get up, thinking I'm back home, and answer the door. Imagine my surprise when I see my boss at the door and a Humvee in the background setting off this siren to see if it works. Tricked I tell ya!! I swore not to answer the door but she somehow invaded my dreams and tricked me into answering the door. Trixy Hobbitses. So, not only did I work the regular 12 hour noon to midnight shift on my day off, but it started at 8:00 a.m. making it a 16 hour shift. Nice day off huh? Anyway, Back to RTNSFWD, there's a knock on my door. You can understand my hesitancy to answer it. But something in the back of my mind told me it was OK. I spent the next few seconds mentally battling the curiosity of what was on the other side of the door versus the chilling possibility it could be her trying to suck every last bit of enjoyment out of this war. What to do, what to do. ARGHHHH I answered the door. It was my First SGT. Odd, he's never been to my door that I can remember. We'll get back to him in a minute. Note to self, quit answering door on day off.

When the Brigade that I'm attached to got here, they all signed up for when they'd like to go on leave. During your rotation here in Iraq the Army tries to send you home on leave roughly half way through. Obviously not everyone will be exactly half way or there would be nobody left here. Since I didn't come with the Brigade I didn't get to pick my leave date. I just got put into whatever slot was left. Mine happened to fall at the end of March. That was pretty cool. It was close to half way. It would break up the rotation into smaller somewhat equal more manageable pieces. So I thought. Back to my First SGT.

Knock Knock Knock. "Hey, First SGT, what can I do for you?" said the eager to please, always diligent SGT.

"SGT ______, Pack your stuff you're going on leave on the 10th." huffed the, I don't care what happens in your life personification of the Army, First SGT.

"First SGT there must be some mistake, my leave is in March." replied the never complaining model soldier.

"Nope, you're a filler, you don't get to chose when your leave is."

"But you were the one that told me it was in March."

"Well, It's now do you want to go or not?" Said the, at this point, impatient First SGT

"Do I have a choice of now or later?" implored the desperate but good looking soldier hoping he could go a little later to break up the rotation more evenly.

"Sure you have a choice. Now or never."

So, I'll be on a plane home for 15 days tomorrow morning. Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited to go home, it's just that now it could be a whole year before I'm home again. I just got here. I mentally prepared to go at this thing a little differently. Oh well, What are you gunna to do. My wife is going to tell the kids that she's picking me up and it's far away so it'll take a few days. Then she's going to pick me up at the airport and we're going to stay in a cabin in the mountains for a few days. That way we can see each other and then I can give the kids my full undivided attention. I don't think the kids know yet so lets keep that on the QT.

the way they work the leave seems more than fair. They pay for all the travel and don't count it in your leave time. Once you get to the main airport near where you live you sign in. Then your 15 days starts the day after that. So if you hustle you really get 16 days for the price of 15. A shrewd bargain in any market. And in true Army fashion you don't know exactly when you'll be home until you get there. You don't have an itinerary, you just get the next set of travel documents as you get to each leg of the trip along the way. It's like the amazing race. You know there's an end, you just don't know when or where. I can't imagine why the military is having trouble getting people to re-enlist. Speaking of which, there's a re-enlistment bonus in my unit of $15,000 tax free if you re-enlist while you're here. They announced that and then looked at me and said "SGT, that doesn't apply to you because your IRR. Would you like to re-enlist anyway?" "Um Yeah, I'm going to have to get back to you on that one." How does not now and not ever sound. Not to mention I've already said no, that's why I'm in the IRR and not still in the ARMY. But, that zero dollar re-enlistment bonus sure does sound nice. Especially when everyone else is getting $15,000. By the way, would I have to pay taxes on that zero dollars? The Army, you gotta love em.

So, if you planned on stopping by the trailer to visit or jam or something, we'll have to reschedule. Just leave a note on the door and I'll have my people call your people.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Raise Your Goblet of Rock!

Today is going to be "Rock the not so free world" day. Back in the States a common cheesy phrase among musicians is "Rock the Free World" It just doesn't have the same ring here in Iraq. I got my guitar the other day and today is my day off. I say today because it's 3:20 a.m. Saturday so technically it's my day off but I haven't gone to bed yet so when I wake up it will be my day off. This will be a day full of melodious licks and fat slabs of juicy distortion that can only be served up by a savory dual humbucker equipped guitar. If that last part meant nothing to you fear not, I will tread onward in my journey of musical nirvana completely unscathed and chalk up your guitar lingo ignorance to complete misfortune. So in tribute to my guitar day you should join me in a toast. First you must get up from your desk or table and assume a hardy, wide footed, legs spread and knees slightly bent, classic rock and roll guitar stance. If you have a guitar even better. If you don't just pretend. It's not like anyone can see you. Or can they? Doesn't matter, your this far into it might as well finish. Besides, I'm here defending your freedom to do things like stand in a Rock and Roll guitar stance any time you want. There's starving kids in China that would love to stand in a Classic Rock and Roll guitar stance. So if it's not too much to ask... Once in your stance extend your left hand as if to hold the neck of the guitar, maintaining your solid guitar stance raise your right hand high above your head as if holding a guitar pick/whatever drink you use to toast. Now in your deepest most guttural gravely slow loud commanding British rock and roll accent exclaim for all to hear "RAISE YOUR GOBLET OF ROCK" and strum a big fat chord on your imaginary guitar. If the mood strikes go ahead and play a few licks complete with your own dance moves. If you happen to work at my church stick your head into Pastor F's office and get a quick picture of him doing this for me. As a true brother in Christ surely he wouldn't deny me this one request. Then when he's not looking put it onto the projector during announcements at church.

Anyway, there is one more order of business to attend to. Some people have asked about the 12 days of Christmas list. For those of you just tuning in, my wife and some friends put together a list of 12 items and mailed me 12 gifts for Christmas. I got to open one each day until Christmas. The list was clues as to what the gifts were. The theme was Lord of the Rings. So here it is drrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr (drum roll)

Day 1 Treebeard = Small Christmas Tree
Day 2 Treebeard's Jewels = Ornaments and lights
Day 3 Gandalf's Light = Mini Mag Lite
Day 4 Helms Deep's beginning = Little Star Wars Lego ships
Day 5 Scroll = Book one in the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker titled Black, I subsequently ordered books two and three (RED and WHITE) from These books are great, right up there with DaVinci code.
Day 6 Elfish Songs = The new Jeremy Camp CD
Day 7 Lamnas Bread = Reese's peanut butter cup Christmas Trees
Day 8 A Hobbit's Yule = National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation DVD
Day 9 Hairy Feet = A little stocking for Jesus with a poem
Day 10 A Hobbit's written Yule = A Christmas Story DVD (You'll shoot your eye out)
Day 11 The Precious = Christmas tree lights shaped like the Leg Lamp from #10
Day 12 Trixy Fobbiteses = Gameboy w/ Lord of the Rings game.

I know the movie buffs will say #12 is supposed to be trixy Hobbitses but there's a story behind that. Here in Iraq our bases are called FOBs (Forward Operating Base). Back in the day if you had a job that kept you "inside the wire" you were called a REMF. I won't tell you what REMF stands for but it is definitely derogatory. Anyway, some people now call the ones who have jobs that keep them in the FOB, fobbits. Hence the term Trixy Fobbitses. I had a great time going through each day waiting to see what the gift turned out to be. It wasn't even the gifts that were the best part, it was the thought and care for me that went into the preparation. It really gave me something to look forward to each night. It was great.

Now, in the immortal words of Forest Gump "That's all I got to say about that".

Thursday, January 06, 2005

My room Posted by Hello

Guitars, Webcams and Little Green Army Men

I know it's been a while but it's been pretty busy. Before I get started I would like to point out the picture of Squishy Santa at the bottom of the Squishy Santa post. I finally got the software to post pictures on the blog. I'll try to post some you may find interesting.

Quick update on Squishy Santa. The next day when I went into work there were little green army men lined up on the top of one of the computers. The guy who works there said it was a perimiter defense against Squishy Santa. People talked about Operation Squishy Santa for a couple of days. It seems it was a success after all.

My guitar finally arrived. It actually arrived a while ago but they "forgot" to tell me. Anyway, it's really good to have a guitar back in my hands. I haven't really had a chance to play it yet but Saturday is my day off.

My wife and I finally got our Webcams to work. We were having problems with the server that I connect to the internet through. It works now but my connection is too slow for voice and video so we just chat in the little chat window and see each other in the video window.

This isn't as indepth as most of my blogs but I can't keep my eyes open or think straight right now. Just wanted to give you a quick post since it had been a while. I'll put some more pictures up Saturday and try to give you something a little bit more interesting to read. I'll add a picture to the end of this blog of the view of my front yard on Christmas morning. It pretty much sums up how Christmas was here.

Christmas Morning Posted by Hello