Monday, July 10, 2006

Ran into wife of battle-buddy

I've recently been irritated with this blog. It seems all the things I have done to try to advertise this has not worked out. I, however, mainly use this as a type of therapy. It just so happens that I'm no different from any other blogger, in that, I feel that maybe someone might find what I have to say, what I'm living through, or my points of view are interesting.

At any rate, I went out to eat lunch yesterday with my father. We went to one of those "all you can eat" places. There I saw the wife of my husbands former battle buddy. I hadn't talked to her in nearly a year. I walked over to say "hi".

She was there with her in-laws, and her two children. Her husband was not there. This didn't strike me as odd, because I never know when drill weekend will be. He's not in the same unit, anyway.

She went on to notice that I was very pregnant and congratulate me. She told me that her husband was also deployed. "What?!?!?!" I was absolutely stunned. He wasn't too keen on the whole situation when he was deployed, before. To say the least. His children are in mid to late elementary grades. It breaks my heart.

So now I know that Marks "old" boss, Mark, and Marks old battle-buddy are all deployed, with different units/companies, after barely a year. Boy! Something just doesn't seem right. Now, mind you, Mark and his former boss are AGR. For those who don't know what that's basically active duty army who is employed by the National Guard. They are full timers. Always active duty. So it's just not as shocking that Mark and his former boss is deployed once more. But Marks former battle buddy is not AGR. It just seems a bit excessive for him to be taken away from his family, once again, for a year or so.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Military issues content warning to combat-zone bloggers (By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes)

Military issues content warning to combat-zone bloggers

By Leo Shane III, Stars and StripesMideast edition, Saturday, October 1, 2005

WASHINGTON - Army officials this week issued new warnings to soldiers about posting personal stories from combat zones on the Internet and taking photos at overseas bases, saying those actions could jeopardize troops' security.

The list of prohibited activities includes taking photos of Defense Department facilities, posting any official Defense Department information and releasing information detailing job responsibilities.

"Whether it is a family Web page or a personal blog, safety and security measures must be strictly observed," the message said. "Sensitive DOD information must not be divulged to the public at large for national security reasons."

The message also notes that even some unclassified information "may not be appropriate for use on the Web" and directs all other questions related to prohibited activities to security managers.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the goal isn't to prevent soldiers from writing about their time in a combat zone, and said he knew of no discussions considering shutting down blog sites or banning the use of personal cameras.

But Boyce said soldiers need to know that simply taking photos could threaten operational security.

"We're just re-emphasizing the danger here," he said. "We have warned soldiers to please be extremely careful of any photography, especially street scenes, because they could be useful to the enemy."

Boyce said shots of the aftermath of insurgent attacks or roadside bombs are especially dangerous, because insurgents could use them to gauge the effectiveness of their attacks. Officials said the new guidelines were designed to be a reminder to troops and were not prompted by news this week of a Web site offering free access to pornography in exchange for gruesome war photos.

Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker released a memo to unit commanders telling them to take the issue more seriously.

"The enemy aggressively 'reads' our open source and continues to exploit such information for use against our forces," he wrote. "Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information to Internet Web sites and blogs... Such OPSEC violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations."

Under current Army rules, soldier bloggers are required to register their sites with commanding officers, who have the authority to them shut down if they deem them problematic.

Sgt. Todd Kobus, who runs the blog site to chronicle his Massachusetts Army National Guard unit's activities there, said he has been confused and aggravated by Army's guidelines that have limited what he can write about the troops' lives overseas.

"They have managed to keep everything extremely vague," he said in an e-mail from Iraq. "The site hardly serves its original task of keeping family and friends informed of anything, aside from the prank wars that occur on the base."

Kobus said he understands the need for security and has taken many steps to make sure his site doesn't pose security risks, doing things like blotting out Iraqi troops' faces in photos. But he still fields complaints from superiors worried about photos and stories on the site.

"All this is pretty frustrating since I have kept my site positive during the entire deployment, have never intentionally violated that giant gray area known as OPSEC," he said.

The Army has also issued rules about appropriate e-mail use in the past, warning about revealing secure information in personal notes as well as discouraging anything that could "reflect adversely on the DOD or the Army," referring to things like chain letters or pornography.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

When Mark was home on leave, on the last deployment, we went to Carowinds. He and I enjoy riding all the rides, especially the high thrill type rides. When we first got there, there was some one taking pictures as people walked in. We received a little wrist band, and at the end of our day, went back to check out the picture. We both loved it. It was a good day.

I understand that this time will be different. Mark is planning on leave for sometime after the holidays. There are a multitude of reasons for this. People ask "will he be able to be home for the delivery of the baby?" Well, no. There really isn't any way to be certain WHEN I'll deliver the baby. I didn't go full term with my first two. Also, he wouldn't have been there very long before he would be attempting to come home for the delivery. So that would make the remainder of his stay very very long. People then ask "what about Christmas?" Well...I suppose he could. But he believes that his guys should be able to try to come home for the holidays before he does. A younger me would have argued with him and become indignant. But how can I complain about him having these thoughts, feelings, points of view...when that's one of the things I love about him? So, after the holidays he'll come home on leave. We'll have our Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years then. The baby will still be infantile. It will still be cold. It will break up his deployment nicely. It will also have benefits for me. Just as it won't seem so long to go for him, it won't seem so long to go for me.

The baby will have more awake time, and she will probably (if she's anything like my first two) be able to hold her head up even when she's on her belly. She will still be tiny, but less a ball of goo, and more a baby. It will all be alright.

Mark called a short time ago. He had been in a first aid type class. They made him watch a Baghdad ER video. Evidently, this video is on certain cable channels. He warned me right away NOT to watch it. I've learned when people tell me not to watch something, to head their advice. I don't become defiant and try to prove anything. I still have not seen "Saving Private Ryan".

He said the video shook him up pretty bad. He said he could look around the room and pick out the Soldiers who had been deployed to Iraq before. Their reactions were different to those who had not been deployed there. It's different when you've experienced it. Mark put it this way. "It's like the people who watch the Hurricane Katrina video's on the news. They say 'Awe, that's too bad. That's horrible' but if you've actually lived through a hurricane and lost everything, you cannot comprehend it" I think that was a good way to put it into perspective, for me anyway.

All of the gravity and reality of the situation came rushing back at Mark. It shook him. He continually spoke in terms of "forgetting what it was like over there". Mark didn't forget. No Soldier who saw "action" in Iraq can forget. They just twist their reality. When you pull a year long deployment in Iraq, Iraq becomes your reality. It's serious business.

Silly civilian situations don't affect you. The first few months you're back at home, Iraq is still your reality. Home isn't reality. Silly things like your wife having a certain way for you to load the dishwasher is beyond comprehension. How can that be important when you had been trying to stay alive and keep your men alive? How can these silly house rules mean anything? Doesn't anyone realise what responsibilities you had on your shoulders? How important you were? How important your job was? So, your civilian life isn't real for a while. It's very nearly senseless. But you start to melt back into it. The way your mind handles it is in equal proportions. The more real your civilian life becomes, the less real Iraq becomes. You don't forget it. It's just not your reality any longer. There is no need for it to be your reality. Your reality isn't checking bridges for people standing on them, ready to blow you up as you go under. Your reality isn't driving down the MIDDLE of the highway, but making an conscious decision (in the beginning) to stay in your lane, because your home now. Your reality is putting the silverware in the dishwasher upside down, so that the food gets washed off it properly. Making sure your children close the door all the way when they go outside, so the dogs don't run out and get hit by a car. Allowing yourself to lay on the couch with your wife for a WHOLE Sunday, watching old movies. This is reality.

Then BOOM!!! You're deployed again. You now get to watch a video that completely changes your reality, once more.

Well, I wrote several paragraphs to catch up on my week. Hit the backspace button to erase an unneeded word, and viola! The whole thing disappeared.

I don't feel like re typing right now. I'll catch it all up later in the day, or tomorrow, maybe. I hate it when that happens!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

This is a joke I found online the day before Mark left. Mark and I really thought this was funny. Maybe just because of our families background.

Why Rednecks Make Good Soldiers

Dear Ma & Pa:

Am well. Hope you are. Tell brother Walt & Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled.

I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt & Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, they git warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc..., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie, and other regular food. But tell Walt & Elmer you can always sit between two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon, when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much.

We go on "route" marches, which the Platoon Sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it is not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys gets sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice, but awful flat.

The Sergeant is like a schoolteacher. He nags some. The Capt. is like the school board. Majors & Colonels just ride around & frown. They don't bother you none.

This next will kill Walt & Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk and don't move. And it ain't shooting at you, like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Be sure to tell Walt & Elmer to hurry & join before other fellers get into this setup & come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter, Gail

P.S. Speaking of shooting, enclosed is $200 towards a new barn roof & ma's teeth. The city boys shoot craps, but not very good.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Well, Mark was able to call again this morning. He's been able to call every morning, but hasn't been able to talk more than 3 or 4 minutes. He calls and wakes me up after he runs. He tells me he loves me. I make sure he slept OK, and is eating enough. We tell each other we miss them, and how important he is to me/I am to him, and then he has to hurry off the phone.

I'm still rather groggy. I went to bed late (for me) last night. I was able to talk to Mark for about 5 minutes, last night. He was exhausted. I probably could have kept him on the phone for an hour, but he's been fighting a cold for a couple of weeks now, and he's being worked like a dog. He has to wake up at 10 til 4 (am) for some reason. He's been made Platoon Sergent, over and on top of everything else. So he's just extremely busy and tired. He told me to call his mom and let her know that he's alright.

I called her at 9:30 (pm) last night. She's worried about him, which is normal. We spoke for an hour. She's worried that he doesn't have any friends to talk to. I assured her, as much as I could, that by all accounts Mark is pretty well liked. There does seem to be a few people that he will be able to call friends. Because he was promoted into this Company from another unit, he doesn't know anybody, really. I told her how hard he was being worked. She was worried about that as well. I explained to her that when you're any type of leader, and you have an employee who is a hard worker, and does not need a lot of guidance and over seeing to get the job done, done well, and done in a timely's just normal to give that worker MORE duties than you would anyone else. It SUCKS, but it's just what you do. appears that this Company has seen in Mark what a hard worker he is, and they are working him hard. It just is what it is. He'll be alright. It's a lot easier to work hard, when the people who surround you are of a professional mentality and work hard, also. What really stinks, is when you are a hard worker, and the people around you are slack, self serving, and/or have the general mentality of a third generation well fare recipient and believes they are OWED something and shouldn't have to work hard for it. There is my politically incorrect statement for the day, I guess.

I told her about the News. I told her about the morning I was taking Mark to the airport, and what we saw on the News in the Dinner. The Commanding General is proposing to start pulling out troops in September of this year and to continue through 2007. I told her that it was good news, and it gave us hope. When Mark and I woke up that morning, we had no hopes of him coming home early. But after seeing that, we now have hope. I understand that it's a slim chance. Bush doesn't seem to want to hear anything of pulling out. But if the Commanding General, who is in Iraq, is suggesting it (for lack of a better term, this very second) it is something to hope for. So now Mark and I have several scenarios. Worst case scenario is that he stays for the whole time. Best case scenario (which I know is about as likely as me buying a winning lotto ticket) is that he doesn't make it over there at all, that it's called off. But at least there is that hope. Now, rather than the days, weeks, months looming in front of us for ages...I can think "Maybe he'll be home in this month" or "Maybe he'll be home for this event". Prior to watching the news that morning, I had NONE of those thoughts or feelings. I just have to say, I would rather be hopeful for 16 months and nothing happen, than be negative and pessimistic for 16 months and nothing happen.

HOPE. It's a pretty word. It's not a guaranteed thing. But hope can keep you healthy. No hope can make you sick with worry. I can't afford that. It's important with everything that is going on in mine and Marks life, to be hopeful. To be optimistic. Positive. Glass half full, kinda gal. I think this is natural for my body. But I think I learned at a young age to be guarded and pessimistic. Negative. I think this was something I learned from both my parents and used as a type of shield, or defense. It was protection, really. If you expect the worst, you won't be hurt as bad if the worst happens. Believe it or not, it was 9-11 that changed it. It didn't change everything over night. But it got the ball rolling. A snowball actually. Snowball effect. If you always expect the worst, what have you done to yourself? If you expect the worst, and it doesn't happen...what then? You've had sleepless nights? You have been cranky to those you love? Your stress level is over the top? You're more likely to get silly little colds and flu bugs which just adds to everything negative? "Expect the best, prepare for the worst" I actually think I'm more positive than that. But it's not too far removed from my mantra. I think I expect and hope for the best, but live in reality. That sentence just isn't as pithy, though.

I do understand that I will have my pity party days. It was just over 12 months ago that Mark got back from over a year in Iraq. He was away from home for longer than a year, but spent over a year in Iraq. I learned VERY early on in that deployment that I had to stay as upbeat and positive as I could. This was for a multitude of reasons. For my health, for Marks health, and I wanted to make Mark proud. I'm so proud of him. I wanted and still want to be as close to the perfect Military Wife as possible. I am not talking about putting on an act. I just don't have the energy to "act" like anything. I just want to be a good wife, which translates into a good Military wife, for my husband. He's a role model, I want to be one, too. But, I do know that I will have my "blue" days. I just can't let them rule me. How can I help Mark, if I can't help myself?

When the end of my life comes, and I hope I'm 95 or older when that is, I want to be able to lay on my death bed and reflect. I don't want to feel guilty for short changing anyone, for taking shortcuts to get ahead. The "right way" is normally not the easy way. But I want to be able to sleep each night, with a clear conscious. When I'm on my death bed, I want to be able to face that without fear. I want to always know I have done the best I can. People know when they don't do the best they can. People know. They try not to think about it...but it will sneak up on them someday and they will have to think about it. I want to feel good about who I am, what I have done, and how I have handled things. Even if I don't always do the right thing, as long as I TRY to do the right thing with an honest heart...then I'll be OK.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Today starts the first day my husband (Mark) is gone. I'm still relatively new as a military wife, so I am not sure if this is the first day of deployment. I think it is, but not altogether sure. This is, however, my second time having him deployed to "the sandbox".

We were married October 2003. His third deployment, in his military career, was my first. It started in January 2004. with him leaving US soil in late February 2004. He returned home in March 2005.

It was a very hairy experience, that deployment. The unit he was in, then, was an HET unit (Heavy equipment transport). The BIG trucks, as I call it. Marks truck was the biggest of them all. It was also the slowest. It seemed like it was the size of a mobile home trailer. It was really high off the ground, too. Like climbing into a fort on wheels. He has been through attacks/ambushes, and even had shrapnel embedded in his truck. It was really very crazy, and hard to imagine, now.

Mark was promoted up and over into a different company. He is no longer a truck driver. He's in an engineering company, now. I'm sensitive to the fact that I have to be careful about how much I speak of, on here, about him and what he does, where he's at. Quite frankly, however, I don't know if I could explain it, anyhow. I had only just gotten a handle on his last job/unit. Now it's a whole different situation. I do know that this will not be as dangerous a deployment as the last one, purely because he's not going to be in a truck, exposed daily to roadside bombs, and insurgents set on breaking up the convoy. This deployment should (I hope) fall way short of the excitement of the last deployment.

In the end, though, it doesn't matter what you are doing in Iraq. If you are in Iraq, you are in danger. I don't mean to imply that Soldiers over there who are doing guard duty, aren't in danger, or that Soldiers who never leave the base are not in danger. They are. There are just some jobs that are more dangerous than others, aren't there? The different news channels show us in reports, daily, that it's still a dangerous place to be.

Mark has two children from a previous marriage, as do I. He has a 12 year old boy, and a 10 year old girl. I have an 11 year old girl, and a 9 year old girl. Mark and I are expecting our first and last child together. She is due in October of this year. I will not see my step children while Mark is away. I did not see them, but for "leave", the whole deployment last time, either. It is a shame, but some things cannot be helped. My girls will be involved with speaking to Mark, and sending him packages while he is gone. He was kept in their minds and hearts, while he was deployed. They saw him on web cam, and wrote him short letters or colored pictures for him. The same will be done this time.

We have two dogs and a cat. During the last deployment, Marks dog of 16 years passed away. Sheba was a cockapoo-schnauzer. She was a salt n pepper bundle of dynamite. I felt sick when I realized that she was not going to make it until his return home. I brought my dog (Timber)from my mothers, after that. (Sheba and Timber-my dog- would not have...could not have gotten along. They were both Alpha females, and Sheba was fearless and less than half Timbers size. Besides, who wants to see two geriatric female dogs fight?) Timber was actually as old as Sheba, funny enough. She was half Chow Chow, half Coyote. Not really, we just do not know for sure what her father was.

Circumstances became such, while Mark was in the Iraq, that I no longer felt safe. Poor Timber was half blind, half deaf, and just didn't give a hoot, anymore. Mark and I decided to get another dog. After a few months of researching and talking about it, we decided that a boxer mix would be the best for our family and situation. The bottom line was, I needed a dog who commanded respect. I did not want a dog that struck pure terror in people, though. I am not a Pitt Bull, Doberman, Rottweiler type of person. The stigma is too much for me (personally) to bare. Boxers are big enough, strong enough, and fierce enough to be great watch dogs. Boxers are also social enough and sweet enough to be great family dogs with all size children. We rescued a BMC/Boxer mix from a High Kill animal shelter. He was barely 5 weeks old. He was/is completely sure of himself. I named him Little Soldier. His name has since been shortened to Soldier, as he grew to twice the size I thought. To put it into perspective, Boxers are meant to be no taller than 25 inches to the shoulder. Labrador retrievers are meant to be no taller than 24 1/2. German Shepherds no taller than 26. Soldier is 26 1/2. I thought he would be around 22 inches. I was wrong.

I named him "Soldier" for a few reasons. I wanted a name that commanded respect without fear. Fang or Killer was NOT going to go over well with neighbors or children. But at the same time, I wanted a strong name. A name that, when someone knocked on the door unexpectedly, and they heard me yell out "Calm down Soldier" they knew there was a dog with a job inside. Soldier is everything I want him to be. He adores children MOST. He lets his presence be known in and around our home. Out in public, he's sociable. There has only been a few times that he's been suspicious of strangers out in public. One time was when He and I were waiting outside a Grocery Store, at the beach. A man, who by all actions and appearances, was on Crack or some other hard drug, came over to us. Soldier was immediately on guard, but not over reacting. Just letting it be known he would take care of me, if needed. He, also, doesn't like dogs to get too rowdy around me at the doggy park. But again, he doesn't really over react. He's a Soldier, through and through. He's our rear detachment. He takes care of home base while daddy is gone.

When Soldier was around a year old, we decided he needed a wife. We adopted Amber (Airedale terrier mix) from a local low-kill animal shelter. I thought Amber would be a lap dog. Again, she didn't seem to stop growing. She's now 23 inches to the shoulder. The height of an average Labrador. Her body is very slender and slight. She has the body style of a poodle. Skinny legs, tiny tiny waist. But tall. She looks like a deranged cross between Wile E. Coyote and Tramp from "Lady and the Tramp". Amber has no real job. She is a companion to us all. She fills the position very well. Her and Soldier have a perfect marriage. She has a BIG bark, and she's proven that she's not scared or intimidated by any other dogs at the doggy park. But she's not aggressive, either. She prefers to get along with everyone, great and small.

Timber passed away. She was 16. She wasn't actually diagnosed with anything. I just kept watching her. I always said I would not let her suffer. When her quality of life did not outweigh her old age aches and pains any longer, I would put her to sleep. That day came early this year.

We have an apple face Siamese cat named Sprout. He's 5 years old. People say he's a "BIG" cat. I don't see it. He is beautiful to look at, but has the personality of Garfield. He is such a Butt, that I often tell him, that were he not so beautiful to look at, I would have skinned him ages ago.

I love my husband. I know it's cliche' to say, but he is my best friend. I'm not going to say it's Harder on ME than other military wives. But I keep to myself. I don't have a large circle of friends. I am not interested in that. My husband, children, mother and father, mother and father in law, and other extended family fill my needs. With Mark being deployed, it means that my husband, step-father to my girls and father to be to our first child together, best friend, sports partner and confidant have all left. He wears many many hats. I will be missing all roles he fills.

It will be an interesting thing, this blog. Maybe not for others...but for me. Someday for our baby. I don't know what it will contain. Facts, thoughts, diary entries, dreams, nightmares...I just don't know. I do know that I will not conform to any style. My goal will just be to make it all easy to read and understand.

If I should have to edit anything, it will be for the sole purpose of safety. I know there are rules and guidelines to posting information on the web. I just don't know them inside and out.

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