Saturday, November 22, 2008

Update on Nazia

First off, let me offer my apologies as this is going to be another short post.

The Cincinnati Children's Hospital has updated their website with a link to donate towards the surgery that is needed for Nazia. In the spirit of giving, paying things forward, and simply helping those who need it most, if at all possible, please consider clicking on the link listed below and donating to Nazia's surgery. If you do, please click in the "designation" box and select "Nazia".

I know that not everyone can afford to donate, especially during this time of the year. I certainly don't want my appeal to make anyone uncomfortable. No pressure here - really! However inelegant this post may be, my desire is to help this little girl in any way I can. Since I feel so strongly about it, I've unabashedly decided to abuse the purpose of my blog and spread the word. You see, the first time I met Nazia, she touched my heart. Although she is older, she was the size of "E" and was barely hobbling down the hall. There were about 10 guys surrounding me and it was all I could do to not break down and cry my eyes out, although I suspect there were many eyes at that moment avoiding contact with each other. For me, some tears got through. I didn't know if I was crying for her pain, her hardships, or the fact that she was born in a country that can't help her. I didn't know if I was crying because she reminded me of my child or because I knew her mother was crying for her. Perhaps and likely, all those factors and many more played in to the emotion of the moment. Whatever it was, this I know: There is little I can do here, but I have the power to help her nonetheless.

And with that, good night everyone!

Feel free to share this blog with any of your friends so that they too may view her video and perhaps, donate.

Friday, November 21, 2008


This morning, (my morning - your night) I woke up and called my husband. He was traveling to my sister's house for a night or two, then followed by a visit to my dad's, and then back to my sisters where my mom will join them for Thanksgiving. My sister lives about 8 hours away and with a one year old, I was a bit curious about how the trip went. It was 12 hours since he had left our home in TN, so I figured surely he had arrived. Little did I know, but he had just walked in the door. Eight hours turned into twelve with a one year old and dog. Anyway, things went okay, but it was a very long trip for him.

What did surprise me was that my brother-in-law happened to see a CNN report on Nazia, the little girl I spoke of in a previous post. The Children's Hospital of Cincinnati is willing to do the surgery, but they are currently trying to raise funds for it. I am going to post a link where you can see Nazia on a video.....PLEASE help if you can. This little girl desperately needs to get to the states.

In the meantime, I am going to call it a night.......

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Thankful!

So, now that November 17th's article introduced this blog, I must catch you up on all things Afghanistan! I'm going to insert part of an email I wrote a while ago. I've edited it a bit so that I can post it online. I'm posting it simply to illustrate what it's like over here in Afghanistan. Here goes:

This really is the forgotten war. "War" being the key word. We have Soldiers everywhere in this country. It would be correct to say you might come across a unit of 100 Soldiers sitting in the middle of a valley, or 5 Soldiers in a cave on the side of a mountain. Our people are everywhere! They are living in really harsh conditions, not to mention many of these outposts are getting shot at every night, day in, day out. Another example of the conditions: A unit ran out of food the other day and didn't have any for quite a while. There was a chopper that was inbound to the unit's location. When the chopper landed, the Soldiers on the ground assumed they were being brought food. But, the helicopter wasn't transporting any food, just my friend and a few other people who were landing for purposes that will remain unmentioned. Imagine getting visitors and having no food. The Soldiers were disappointed (OBVIOUSLY) but my visiting friend shared his Oreos. That made them very happy! Can you imagine? No food? What is going on? Where is the malfunction on that one? So, among others, these are some of our Soldier's hardships. I tease about walking a mile to work while fellow Soldiers "outside the wire" are living in holes. I don't take myself too seriously and neither should you. Instead, take serious these Soldiers outside the wire. Their sacrifice and hardship is great. I cringe to think of the cold weather that is coming. It will be so much worse for them once the winter hits. Remember, all this while they are getting shot up all night long. This is going on everywhere.

On a sad note, we have a ceremony here at my location. When a Soldier is killed, their body flies out of country immediately and my location is one of the main hubs for that process. Their bodies are transported here from whatever location (be it a hospital or where ever), and their coffin is at some point draped with a flag. Eight Soldiers move the coffin into a HUMVEE and sit in the back of the vehicle alongside the coffin. Then, the coffin is driven from one point of the airfield, onto the main thoroughfare of this base, then back onto the airfield where it is greeted and placed into a different plane heading to the US. During this process, all of us Soldiers line up on the main drag and salute the coffin as it slowly drives by. A video crew drives behind the vehicle with the coffin in it and that video is, I've been told, later given to the family. The coffin is driven on a route that is maybe about a mile and a half. There will be thousands of Soldiers lining the streets, all saluting as the coffin passes. It is somber...sad. And, we are not the only location that flies the bodies home. What can I say? It's horrible. Most of the time, we are sending the bodies home before the families even know. I sit and think about that and I even feel guilty that I know before they do. No matter how a person feels about where our military is in the world or their political leanings, I urge them to support the military without the typical "but" that I so often have heard from people when I am back at home. "I support the troops, but......." Supporting the troops doesn't have anything to do with politics. Just support the troops and let that support be the only association with that phrase.

Anyway, on to happier subjects. It's interesting here. The Afghan people are hard working. They have so little. Let me rephrase: they have nothing. We have a hospital here that also treats the local kids. We have one little girl who has been here since March. She swallowed a watch battery. Nobody knew, of course, until the batt. acid started eating her esophagus. Eventually, she was sick enough that her parents traveled to bring her here. She has a trach tube now (if that is correct terminology) has had a zillion surgeries and is recovering. She just started walking again. She is 2 and a half. She is so CUTE. While this story certainly has it's sad elements to it, the little girl is alive, well, and being taken care of medically. She surely would have died had it not been for the US hospital. For right now, she is recovering and healthy. Her brother (he's maybe 17 or 18) lives on a cot next to her bed in the hospital. Her parents can not be here as her father must work to feed his family and the mom must stay home with the other children.

There are lots of other little kids here. We have burn victims, bullet wounds, kids that step on mines, etc. This country has, I think (unless it's changed) one of the highest number of active mines laying around. All said, the kids here are getting help from us and that is the good thing to remember. While this all sounds horrible, it is a fact of life here, but we are helping. Without us, a lot of these kids would surely die. This is the reality.

Here's the lesson to take with you: Be thankful for where you were born! Be thankful. I watch people on TV complaining about how much someones investments lost yesterday and while I can appreciate that, being here certainly sheds a different light on the definition of what a crappy life really is. It's hard to boo-hoo along with people when others in the world have so very little. These people could feed their children for their entire childhood with what a person on welfare gets a year. Just be thankful for where you were born......

There you have it, folks. I'm working to get all up to date...

Until next time....

Monday, November 17, 2008

Deploy to Afghanistan

Hi Everyone,

So, I'm simply jumping in head first! Welcome to my blog and I hope you enjoy reading my adventures in the land of Afghanistan!

Forgive me for the anonymity and no-name policy, but I think it's important to remain as private as possible. That thought almost seems silly as I prepare to blog my life across the internet. Still, do as I must! Also, those that know me would tell you I am an intensely private person. I've never really been able to understand why as I am not a shy person, but it is who I am. I'd rather have things pulled out of me than lay them out there for the world to see. Most that know me on a casual friendship level might say I am usually the life of the party, but most who know me well would say I'd rather be the people watcher, sitting on the couch, conversing with just one or two people. I have my many masks. So, as ironic as this is for my closest friends, welcome to my blog, my life!

"E" is my little girl, just over a year old, and she is the reason I find myself blogging. She is home with daddy right now, back in Tennessee. I am deployed to Afghanistan and currently, as I write this, hanging in there. Some days are fine, some simply stink. You see, prior to my deployment (or pre-E separation - whichever you like), I was in panic mode. I searched and searched online for some military active duty deployed-mom support. Surely, I could find some other woman who was going to miss out on and lose a year of her child's life. Surely, I could find a soul to commiserate with. Surely, I could learn something from someone else's experience. Now, please understand, I've been deployed before, but never with a child at home and this was the source of my angst and panic. This would be my first "family deployment" and like any other mother in the universe, the thought of leaving my child tore my heart to pieces. You see, we soldiers are not really the superheroes the commercials describe. It constantly surprises me to hear others say "I couldn't do what you do." Well, let me assure you, you could. And not only could you, you certainly would had you found yourself joining the army. Frankly, deploying is just not something most soldiers do by choice. Many people have entered the army for a myriad of reasons and let me set it straight, right or wrong, not all were for the ideology of the military. Sure and of course, some soldiers adore the fundamentals of the military and choose to deploy, but after my many years in the service, I would tell you that most people dread a deployment, no matter their patriotism. Most soldiers dread it because of the required sacrifice and time away from their families. Soldiers may love soldiering, but they generally don't like deploying! And, that said, the willingness to deploy does not a soldier make. A soldier's grit is developed through the dedication and sacrifice they choose to endure. For whatever reason, be it college money, family medical coverage, retirement, predictability, pride, or patriotism, a soldier is still a soldier - no matter the path they took to get there. It is not that all soldiers believe the same things (isn't that the beauty of humanity) but our job is not to rebut or question the orders we are given - we leave that to the politicians. Our purpose is to do the job the politicians agree we need to do. Now, I am not a brainwashed person parroting what I've been told. I simply mean to say, if I wanted to decide when, where, and why I deploy, I wouldn't be a soldier, I'd be in public service. If a cop doesn't agree with or want to enforce certain laws, he should go to law school and learn how to change the laws. If a doctor doesn't want to treat sick patients and prescribe antibiotics, he should sit in a laboratory and conduct research. In the end, soldiers are just like you, just like me, just like every normal everybody ( I know that rhymes - sorry). We endure, we thrive, we succeed, we fail. We wish, we dream, we laugh, we cry. We are Republicans, we are Democrats, we agree, we disagree. Mostly, we love and we miss our families. And, above all, we can't wait to come home.

So, back to my pre-deployment and the reason for this blog. You see, I could not find ANY support online for women in my scenario. I couldn't find but one or two articles that specifically addressed being a mom and leaving a young child at home, not to mention, my poor husband. To put it mildly, he is a man's man! A West Point graduate who served his army well, and is now out of the service. He played rugby at West Point, knows more about football than the Mannings together, and is a stereotypical Italian to boot (minus the hairy chest and gold chain). And there I was...heading out the door to Afghanistan. My husband freaked out (and hid it as best as he could - although the different shades of pale gave him away) and I wondered how was I going to manage? Who would understand what I was going through? My fellow soldier men? Well, not to diminish a father's role in a child's life, but it is my opinion that moms and dads serve different roles I certainly couldn't relate to the appeared ease in which most of my male counterparts deployed. This is not to say that the dads don't deal with the same feelings, it's just that I think moms and dads deal with the feelings very differently. Women generally process those emotions and approach those feelings unlike men and vice versa. I feel our society raises our little boys (later dads) to be strong, tough, manly, and masculine. Society raises our little girls (later moms) to be the ones who nurture, comfort, and support. It's a smaller step for men to learn to soldier, meaning their role in society is closer to the actual traits of a soldier. I feel it's a giant leap for women to table their feminine traits, and all they have been taught by society, to assume the role of a soldier. Now, before all the haters email me, allow me to say that I certainly believe all women are just as capable as the men when it comes to soldiering (I was a military pilot), but I believe we accomplish the same task in very different ways. Sometimes, and statistically, men are simply more able to perform certain tasks. You can argue, but I don't see too many woman hauling a 75lb ruck through the mountains. Sometimes, the innate skills of a woman prove to be much more handy in accomplishing a task. Women are known to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s in thorough detail. A smart army, organization, or corporation utilizes those skills to their fullest potential. And, coming full circle, it is with these experiences that are filed away in my head that I believe men and women deal with deployments differently. After all, daddies fight the monsters in the closets, mommies kiss the baby foreheads and hold them until they fall back asleep. ...we are different, all capable, but different. Also, the above listed thoughts certainly don't apply to everyone and I realize that. I'm speaking in general and that does not include everyone. I love the melting pot, folks! I do!

Back to my deployment: In the end and as the deployment date approached, I just couldn't see how I was going to make it. Today, I still don't see how I am going to make it. But, what I do know is that if I put one foot in front of another, I'll still be walking somewhere and the scenery will indeed change. The tree branches will become bare, the snow will descend the mountain, and the sidewalks will ice over. And, as my walk continues, a few Christmas lights will shine brightly through an office window, the winter white will begin to disappear, and the chill will begin to leave the air. Somehow, if I am steady and constant in my walk, I will someday make it to the plane that will carry me home to my husband and daughter. Along the way, I'll try to remain faithful to this blog. My hope in helping a sister-in-arms, through a very difficult time, will comfort me too, as I am not alone in this journey. I know I am not the only one dealing with the hardships of deployment and motherhood. And, I know there are others like me that feel the pull of a child, no matter the physical distance that separates. I know there are others like me who wish they could dry the tears their child cries. I know there are others like me who wish their child's first word would be mommy (even though it won't) and I know there are others like me who wish they could smell the sweet smell of their baby's skin as they rock their child to sleep.

For now, I'll live vicariously through daddy's emails, pics, and videos - how important those are!

Until next time....