Remembering deployment


For Veterans’ Day weekend, I look back to some of my deployments. Each has been different: Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. There was good and bad in each one. But the one thing that was consistent with them all has been the bonds that were built with my fellow Soldiers, many who are still my friends today.

Here is a glimpse at my Iraq deployment and my fellow public affairs Soldiers. I took some of the pictures in the video and am in a few too. And, the broadcaster who put the video together, is still my friend today. I am so glad she produced this video so I can look back on the experiences we all had during the first Iraqi election in 2005-2006.

So enjoy this behind the scenes look at our lives then, our mission and some of the wacky things we did to remain sane.

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For all those veterans out there.

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Freedom of wine


wine-montage

“My objection to war was not that I had to kill somebody

or be killed senselessly, that hardly mattered.

What I objected to was to be denied the right to sit in a small room and starve

and drink cheap wine and go crazy in my own way and at my own leisure.”

― Charles BukowskiSouth of No North

Soldiers train to go to war. We mentally prepare ourselves to die. We don’t want to die of course, but we prepare for it. We learn to shoot weapons to defend ourselves. We create wills just in case. We tell our families we love them. And then, we go off to a foreign country and hope things will be alright.

We adjust to the lack of freedom and the demanding work schedules. We cope with the dangers of intermittent rockets or the unknown dangers on a patrol. We learn to deal with the nonstop worry of the sky falling, because sometimes it literally is.

Don’t get me wrong, I never had it that bad. I was what they call a FOBBIT, a Soldier who pretty much stayed on the Forward Operating Base. I was a unique FOBBIT though. I had opportunities to venture off bases from time to time. I went on some patrols with special forces troops, I met village elders, and I experienced a convoy here and there. But, I was never on the front line, in a fire-fight, or face to face with a known enemy. (So I had it relatively easy compared to our hardcore troops. So I am not here to pretend I was more than I was. I am merely sharing my perspective on my experiences to those who may not understand deployments.)

However, as a Soldier who was deployed to three different countries, I saw and experienced some interesting things. And through those years, I realized just how grateful I should be.

I’ve had to sleep in overcrowded tents, a bug infested plywood hut and an cold HUMVEE. I’ve heard the whistle of a rocket overhead and hit the ground not knowing where it would land. I heard gunfire fill the air and not know which way it was going. I’ve walked on a patrol and got a bit uncertain with some locals around us. I’ve seen the dismal conditions people have had to endure. So, there were times of heightened concern, general discomfort, humble gratitude.

Then…there were times where there was nothing. Sometimes days, weeks and months of nothing. Nothing but work and more work. The same old work and the same old clothes and the same old food in the same old places. Being stuck in a small compound is enough to stress you out.

You get stir crazy in a way. You want to drive your own car, wear your own cloths, make your own schedule. But you can’t. You are stuck there. You feel like a prisoner who has to defend freedom, yet ironically, you have very little of your own.

Your life back home continues. Yet, it continues without you. And that is what nags at you. You miss your freedom. You miss your life. The freedom you had taken for granted is now gone. Your freedom is on hold while you try to regain it for someone else.

It is like that saying, you don’t know what you have until its gone. That is true. Because once you are deployed, you realize, you miss the little things. You miss cooking. You long to wear colors. You want to enjoy a glass of wine. But you can’t. You are a Soldier every day, every second and every moment.

This lack of control over the small luxuries hangs over you. Fore example, back home, you may only drink a handful of times a year. Yet, when you are deployed and not “allowed” to drink, you miss it more. You want it more because that freedom was taken from you.

I longed for a drink when I was deployed. It wasn’t that I really drank that much at home, but I enjoyed the option of having one when I desired. I wished I could kick up my heels and enjoy a glass of wine after a hard day. But I couldn’t. So when I read the Charles Bukowski quote above, I laughed. Yes, I definitely missed my right to sit around and drink cheap wine. I missed the option of making myself view the world with a bit of a colorful blur, if even for one night.

So the above photomontage is a blend of some of the items currently on my wine rack. Sometimes, I don’t touch it for months. Other times, I may have a glass or two in one day. The great thing though is, I can now do it at my leisure. And that freedom is something I will always appreciate.

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For Sally D’s Phoneography Challenge ~ Photomontage.

To read more about Charles Bukowski, click here.

Traveling Boots


In uniform, and
frozen in time
but the world
does
not
wait

Cautiously
we patrol
littered
unknown
dirt
streets

Shoeless children pour
out of shacks
and
into
our
mission path

Dusty boots
take careful
steps
making
footprints
in some
hearts

We smile with guns
trying to
protect
and
make
friends

The enemy hides
among
innocent
faces
of
despair

Grand mountains
stand tall
guarding
secrets of
pain,
terror

Hope sprinkles
into hearts
settling
the dust
of history
and loss

Together
we stand
against
the
evil
in the world

Peace slowly
blooms
with the
fragility
of a
flower

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For dVerse’s Adventures in Traveling.

This is a mix of memories from my times on deployment patrols. I remember the faces of people in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. A mix of hope and fear of our presence. The odd feeling of giving friendly smiles while holding rifles. We wanted to provide comfort to the good while fight the bad. However, you never really knew who was on what side for sure.

Fortunately, I was always on mild patrols where the heightened awareness and small incidents were the main forms of stress. I can only imagine the memories of my comrades who experienced much more intense scenarios.

To them, I hope they find the peace they wanted to help give.

Falling on my Face in Iraq


It was the first Iraqi election and I was in charge of all the journalists who were embedded with the Army. It was a grueling job that involved endless coordination and big name journalists. At one point there were over 150 different journalist to track. My team of one was spread thin, but I tried to play it cool. Unfortunately though, I fell on my face…literally.

It was 2005 and I was a lieutenant. I was the media embed coordinator. Basically, that meant that if media wanted to or were embedded with any Army troops, I had to coordinate their arrival, synchronize their linkup with a unit, track their stories, and orchestrate their exit of the battle field.

It sounded simple enough at first as an eager lieutenant. However, as the first Iraqi election drew near, so did the mass of demands. Not long after arriving in country, I was swamped. Daily, I was inundated with emails and phone calls that demanded attention. Not only did I have to process media requests to be embedded (which required several layers of tasks), I had to pick them up at the airfield, take them to meals, ensure they got credentialed and release them over to their embed unit. Then, while they were embedded, I had to track what stories they were putting out and create charts and spreadsheets. This was all while new media were entering and others were leaving. It was a constant circle of media coming and going. Though I would get help from time to time from other Soldiers, I had no staff. The embed mission was mine and mine alone. So the help I did get was limited as everyone else had their own mission. I can’t lie, I was spread thin and feeling it.

On one particular day, I was just getting off overnight duty of watching the press center. (We all took turns at nights so that there was a 24-hour presence in our building.) I was dead tired, but had a high-profile journalist arriving. I was to meet them and escort them to the media center.

The journalist was Lara Logan. I had seen her pass through our center before and was in awe her. She was gorgeous for one thing, but more importantly, she was a classy, but ruthless journalist. She covered real stories, got hard facts and did it well. As a fellow woman (one with a journalism degree), I was star struck. So, admittedly, I was geek-like excited that I got to be her Army escort and officially meet her, one on one. For me, it was the same as meeting a movie star. No, it was actually better because I respected her accomplishments that I know did not come easily.

So, I’m waiting in my up-armored suburban in downtown Baghdad (inside of a gated military area called the International Zone where some media lived). I’m trying to pretend I am not tired. I am trying to represent the United States Army with pride. I’m trying to be professional. I’m trying to not look like a kid about to see their idol. However, as soon as I see Lara Logan approaching my vehicle, all of my goals fall short. When I open the heavy armored door with my exhausted arms and I take a step out, my weary legs fail me and I fall. And with absolutely no grace whatsoever, I tumble out of the suburban and onto the dusty gravel right at Lara Logan’s feet. Graciously, she kneels down and in a lovely accent, asks me if I am ok.

Utterly embarrassed for so many reasons, my weary mind can only manage to say, Oh Lara, I just thought I would throw myself at your feet like all the boys must do.

How’s that for personal and professional embarrassment?

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the Daily Post ~ Boy, is my Face Red?