Thursday, January 31, 2008

Goodbye Iraq

Goodbye Iraq... two words I sometimes thought I would never say soon enough. A couple nights ago, as we lay around the tent watching movies and playing games a large boom echoed across the base. We all whooped and hollered. Shortly after, the alarms went off we heard the Giant Voice proclaim, "Exercise, Exercise... this is only a drill."

Relieved that we were completely safe, we went back to our movies and games as a few more booms shook the ground beneath us... I don't think they told Hadji is was just a drill.

Last night I was awoken at 2am and told we were leaving a full day earlier than expected. I got up a few hours later, crammed all my clothes, sleeping bag and computer into my bags and tossed them into the back of the 5-ton and walked to the air terminal for out processing.

Many of us were leaving on an earlier plane and several others would follow several hours later. Though there was a chill in the air, I decided to tough it out and pack my jacket. Kuwait is not a long flight and we would be there long before the chill of the night... or so I thought.

Everything was going as planned, which is when we should have expected something was amiss. We got the order to pick up our gear and head onto the flight line. Our plane had just landed and was ready to board. The back of the Japanese C-130 lowered and we smiled. We were chomping at the bit, waiting for the signal to proceed. The heavy bags were not so heavy and as the airman approached, we started a slow shuffle to the plane... right up until the time he stopped us and said our flight was canceled.

We could see the plane, 100 yards away on the flight line under a chilly, slightly overcast day. Many words of disappointment and anger were expressed as we turned and carried our packs back to the holding tent. This time, the bags seemed to weigh a ton. We are vagrants, transients; like Tom Hanks in 'Terminal', we have no where to go. For as long as it takes, we stay at the flight terminal, waiting for a ride to join the rest of our brothers who are already in Kuwait.

As the hours drudged by, the weather got worse. The wind picked up and the flaps of the tent slap loudly in the wind. Dust and sand spray in through holes, tears and openings and create a smokey feel to the place. The weather is turning bad, just as the pilots said it would. The air is turning cold and my jacket and sweater are packed, strapped and locked down somewhere out by the flight line.

So, for a few more hours I hold on. For a few more hours I continue to make memories here in Iraq.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


As you can probably tell by the lack of entries lately, I have been pretty busy lately.  Even when it is not busy, I have lost the ability to write as often or as easy.  My journal has been blocked by military networks.  It isn't because of anything I did or said, but because they have filtered out blogging sites to conserve bandwidth.

Today marks my one year anniversary; today I have now spent 12 months in Iraq. My room is empty.  All except for a few odds and ends that I will drop off at the dumpster or the gazebo as we leave.  The gazebo is a collection point of items outgoing soldiers set out for anyone who wants them.  Some of the items are things that did not sell on the Sand Flea Market, a sort of garage sale listing for the base.

My roommate moved out.  He has was a late arrival and volunteered to stay in Iraq with another unit.  He said he didn't feel he has earned the right to go home yet.  I adamantly disagree.  I believe that coming here and facing our enemy in battle has earned him the right to go home with us, even though he came later.  He believes that if he left now, some soldiers would look down on him and think less of him because he wasn't here as long as they were.  I can definitely relate to that feeling.  It is much the same feeling I had when I learned I would be a fobbit and not be heading out on missions with my brothers. 

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Conflicting Emotions

As I am going through the plethora of pictures for our end of tour award ceremony I am putting together, I feel a conflicting range of emotions.  I look at the faces of my brothers and I see their smiles, their frowns and their fatigue.  I can see the same varied emotions on my face as well. 


I am anxious to be getting home and being with my family and friends; I am also sad in a way.  This place, this miserable, dangerous world has been my home for the past year and though I do not want to stay, I think I will miss the adventure. I know I will miss the rush of combat.  I will miss the experience of armored trucks and machine guns.  I have hated having to lug my M4 around everywhere I have gone for the past 15 months, but it has unconsciously become my security blanket.  I recently traded in my M4 for a pistol and I still find myself feeling a quick adrenaline surge when I think I have left my weapon somewhere.


I sometimes say that when we get home, I would be fine not seeing any of these guys for a long time as I have been with them day and night for well over a year.  I think that maybe I will miss them.  They have been my only family since we started this adventure long ago.  We have shared an extreme variable of emotions in such a short time and we have come to rely on each other for everything.


I think it is the loss of brotherhood I will miss the most. 



Monday, January 7, 2008

Farewell to Fellow MilBlogger

It is with deep regret I respectfully say my goodbye and thank you to fellow MilBlogger, Major Andrew Olmsted. Though I did not know him, his loss is felt throughout the family of frontline bloggers. It is always surreal to hear of our fellow bloggers paying the ultimate sacrifice.

I recently visited his blog and read his last blog titled, ‘Final Post’. It was a post he had written with instructions to his friend to post in the event of his death. It is as symbolic and meaningful as the letters that have been exchanged by soldiers since war began. Many of us in combat feel compelled to say our goodbyes and express our loves, hopes and dreams in “letters from the grave”.

In his final post, Major Olmsted wrote, “Believe it or not, one of the things I will miss most is not being able to blog any longer.” I think that is a common feeling among all bloggers. We have become so accustomed to sharing our lives with the masses that it may be hard to actually have a moment in our lives, good or bad, that we do not want to share.

In my blog, I often share my thoughts and feelings. There are a few opinions that I should probably not have been so vocal about, but blogging is so addictive. For some reason, I often do not think about whether or not my readers will enjoy or even understand what I am writing about. In some aspects, it doesn’t matter much to me, I blog for myself.

I too had a final post for a friend to post in the event of my death. I guess I wanted to ensure I would have the last word and wanted to bring closure to my blog, to my life. I do not believe I could ever say anything enlightening or insightful that I do not say in life.

My family and friends all know how much I love them. My children know how I love them more than the world. My mom and dad know that I love them and will put them in the best old folk’s home I can find (by best I mean cheapest). My siblings all know that I love them, each in their own way. Yes, I have always made sure my family and friends know how much I love them.

No, there would be nothing in my final post that would shock or surprise anyone. My sense of duty and my feelings regarding my service to my country and the people of Iraq would not surprise anyone who has known me, met me or read my blog.

I could easily drift away with no words being said...


Major Andrew Olmsted, who posted a blog since May 2007, was killed in Iraq on Thursday, Jan. 3. Major Olmsted, who had been based at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, began blogging after his unit was sent to Iraq with the mission of helping to train the Iraqi Army. No official details have been released on his death, but reports say that he and a second member of his unit were killed during an enemy ambush in Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. Olmsted was determined to make a difference in Iraq. "The sooner the Iraqi government doesn't need U.S. support to provide security for its people, the sooner we will probably be asked to leave."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Death by Power Point

A couple months ago I did a paper on the Ziggurat of Ur for my Art class. I wasn’t able to go out there, but had taken a couple pictures from afar. Yesterday though, Mike and I took the tour.

I have to admit, I was really impressed with the tour and the preservation of the site. The biggest culture shock I guess was that we were allowed, and encouraged to walk around the temples, tombs and structures. Many of the structures are over 4000 years old.

We have been finishing up a lot of the various paperwork and exams that we have to do before we leave here. It is the beginning of a long tedious process that will continue even as we get to the states. Each step along the way includes taking time to turn in equipment and do a plethora of exams and ‘death by Power Point’ presentations.

As far as I am concerned, I am glad to be harassed by so much of this crap because it means I am that much closer to getting out of here. I have been talking with my family and friends and we talk about how close I am to getting home.

The scary thing is that there are many stories of soldiers who are this close to going home when bad things happen. For me, I am a fobbit, and my job is not as deadly as those of my brothers. I dodge an occasional rocket now and then, but for the most part I am safe.

I talked to my son the other night and we talked about playing video games when I come to visit. He mentioned that they have tennis and bowling and I told him I hated the tennis game because I am not that good at it.

He said, “Well, I can probably go easy on you.”

I said, “You can? That would be great.”

He said, “You know, so you could win some too.”

Ha, That’s my boy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that in another three weeks I will have been in Iraq for a year. One year ago today I started my blog on MySpace with a short poem about heading to the frontlines in defense of America and how I willingly stand on the wall of freedom for my country.

It is much more than that I now know. I have also learned to fight for the people of Iraq that have been bullied, tortured and murdered by the thousands. I fight so they may live, learn and prosper without fear of retribution of death. I fight to rid this country of extremist that torture and mutilate the children of men that refuse to be terrorists; I fight for Doodah and her father.

This year I have learned that there is more to being a United States soldier than defending America and our way of life. It is also about helping others that are too weak or unable to stand up against tyranny and defend themselves. We are the mightiest nation on earth and though some will stand in the rear and protest that America should fight our own fights and not be in Iraq or Afghanistan; I feel we have a responsibility to be here. We have the ability to fight and defeat terrorism at its very heart. We have the ability to fight terrorists where they live, where they train and as such we have a responsibility to do what is necessary to prevent 9/11 from happening again.

It is hard to believe that my blog was spawned from a comment some disgruntled American left on my mother’s blog as she wrote about how heartbroken she was that two of her sons were heading overseas to join the fight on terror. He wrote something to the effect that he hoped all of us soldiers were killed for fighting in a war that was illegal, blah, blah, blah. There were several comments from her friends that were upset with him, but I thanked him and stated that freedom of speech is our right as Americans and how can I choose to fight for one right over another. I fight for all of our freedoms.

That was when I decided to start my own blog on MySpace and write about what I was going through in my head as I began my journey, mentally and physically. In February, I commented on the very controversial troop surge. I spoke of how I supported the move to bring more soldiers in the fight. After being here for the surge, I can say that I was more right than I could have imagined. The surge was exactly what we needed and it did save lives and directly led to the exponential reduction in violence in the region.

I had decided early on to be truthful and honest about what I was going through. I decided to wear my emotions on my sleeve as much as I could. I did this more for myself than anyone else. I wanted a way to let it out and get the horrors of battle out of my head; writing helps me do that.

At the time, I only had a handful of friends and family that read my journal. I learned shortly after my arrival in this country that my mission was not going to be on the road with my friends, with my brothers, my mission was to become a fobbit and work on computers in the Operations Center most of the time. That was a crushing blow to my ego, my sense of duty and my mood became angry and short fused as my early entries reveal.

In March, there were two guys in the unit that was leaving that were killed by an IED a week before they were to go home. It should have been an eye-opener, but we nievely explained it away as they had become complacent and took their eyes off the ball. I was part of the 21-gun salute and remember how sad I was at the ceremony and remember how I felt a hollow pit in my stomach as their First Sergeant called their names in the Last Roll Call, knowing they would never answer.

This year I participated in a Civil Military Operation and delivered school supplies to a village school. The laughter and smiles on the faces of the children were heartwarming and I had a great sense of purpose after that. To watch the sparkles in their eyes as they opened boxes of crayons, pencils and coloring books was priceless. It made me miss my own children very much.

Charlie Battery will be returning home with three empty seats this year. Three soldiers have "gone home early". Sgt Massey was on his second tour and was Charlie Battery’s first loss. He was our only loss due to direct enemy engagement and his death dealt a huge blow to the morale of a battery that was surefooted, confident and quickly changing our own tactics to defeat those of our enemy.

Sgt Chenoweth was home on leave when he was killed and was also on his second tour. He had volunteered to come over here with us and when asked why, he quietly said that he had left something here and came back to see if he could find it. Of all the ways to die here, I’d like to think that maybe he did find what he was looking for. He died at home, surrounded by his family and friends.

Sgt Vidhyarkorn was our third loss and he too had been here before. He was killed on mission, on my birthday. His family has requested for me not to talk about him, so I will just say that he too is missed and honored as one of our own. Their service and sacrifices are forever written in Charlie Battery's history.

There was a time this year when we lost focus of what really matters. There was a time when it seemed the safety and well-being of our soldiers was not near as important as receiving awards and recognition. We got caught up in the race to be the best and pushed our guys on the road faster and faster in our quest for the gold.

We desperately wanted the leadership to stand in front of the other units in our battalion and exclaim that Charlie Battery was still the best. For a time, we lost touch of the fact that we were the best because of who we are and because we take care of each other. We have found that again and once again, we are Charlie Battery.

Late this past year I joined the Blogosphere. I was urged to remove my journal from MySpace at one point. I chose to make a stand as I did not believe my journal violated any policies or regulations and as such, I chose to move my simple MySpace blog and create a real blog. I migrated all my entries from MySpace and in a couple of days, I was up and running, sharing my life on the frontlines with anyone that wanted to hear about it.

I have been interviewed by and I have been referenced many times, most recently in Bruce Kluger's essay in the USA Today titled "A Christmas over there, and the pain back here." A marketing professional referenced my journal regarding how I monitor and promote my site. An English student likes my writing style and The Free Press wanted to emphasize my frustration about having only had two days off this year (Now I have had three days off).

Yes, it has been a long, crazy, busy year and not only has 2007 come to a close, so has my time in Iraq. In a few short weeks I will be back in the US, back in Arkansas, back home in Ozark. I will drive my new Mustang convertible to South Carolina and spend time with my children that have been my biggest inspiration this year. They are what drive me to keep my head focused and wake up each morning, one day closer to going home.