Sunday, March 8, 2009

Say It's Not So!

Hey Everyone! I'm back. It's definitely been too long. Things have been pretty crazy around here. I've been a sloth at writing. What else can I say?

We've recently had a few moments of high adventure that would make for interesting dinner conversation, but other than that not much has transpired since my return from leave. Speaking of...leave was great. A lot of folks have asked how my daughter reacted to seeing me. It went as I suspected....I was a familiar stranger. At first, she didn't know what to think. Quite quickly after that, something clicked for her. She knew she knew me from somewhere, but wasn't quite sure how and why. The bond was still there but she wanted daddy for most everything. As much as I could have internalized that and let it get to me, I didn't. After all, it was to be expected. The first week and a half, when she was upset or tired, she turned to daddy who had comforted and cuddled her for the last 6 months. And, the last week and half, my daughter stuck to me like glue. It was wonderful. So, since my return from leave, I get on the webcam as much as I can. She'll sit for about 10 minutes - that's it. But, in that 10 minutes, she sees me, recognizes me, and waves. She blows kisses, she laughs, and she smiles. This just may work out....

Another joy while I was home on leave is the direct result of my overwhelmingly generous and wonderful family and friends. Because of you all, and through the small foundation that my husband put together, we were able to pass on a wonderful donation to the Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville. Part of the donation went to Katie's Helping Hand Fund which assists families of children with cancer who are admitted in the hospital. The fund provides meals and other items to families in need, free of charge. The other portion of the donation went to the Champ Dolls Program. A Champ Doll is provided to every child who is admitted to the Children's Hospital so they will never feel alone. Champ Dolls are meant to provide a friendly distraction to a child's anxiety of being in the hospital. These programs make a real difference in people's lives, especially the kids. To my wonderful family and friends, thank you all for your support. I thank you from my heart and I am humbled by your kindness.

For more information on the Champ Doll Program:
For more information on Katie's Helping Hand:

Something else that also went as I suspected....I didn't run at all when I got home. I "meant" to every day!!!! I thought about it but I didn't and let me tell you, I am paying the price. My well meaning friends kept reminding me, "Nobody runs on leave!". Thank goodness for friends. Good friends back you even when they know you just did something completely stupid!!! My scheduled marathon is definitely out of the question at this point. I just put myself back at least 2 months. One would think I'd have this down after 18 years.

For those of you who are interested in Nazia's progress. I am sad to report that when I returned from leave, Nazia was still here on Bagram. Something with the paperwork.....always something with the paperwork. I went to visit a couple days ago, and her brother assured me they are leaving soon. Cross your fingers.

It's quite late here and sleep is a must, but unfortunately, I am wide awake. We just had another Fallen Comrade Ceremony. sad. I just can't stress how horrible those ceremonies are. To imagine that right now someone's family is finding out their loved one is gone, it's just horrible. Such a loss... Please keep these people in your thoughts and prayers as you go about your day today.

More to follow everyone.....

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Out Of The Loop

I'm posting a very short note to let you all know I will be gone for a little while. I may have a chance to post an entry, but most likely, I will not. I look forward to catching up mid-February. Until then.......

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hello January! I am here, but here I come!

It has been a while, hasn't it! So much has transpired, yet I've written so little! I must get better at keeping up! I must get better at keeping up!

The first few weeks of January have been eventful but quiet considering I am the only one in the office right now. There has been work to do, which keeps me busy, but the office has been quite pleasant and peaceful; something I have enjoyed tremendously.

I've been working with a volunteer organization here on Bagram--as most of you know--and that has been quite fulfilling. It has also kept me busy. I've had several opportunities to "meet and greet" (if you will) many local nationals. We've been able to provide donated items to them, for which they are grateful. On the header of this post, I've included a picture of an Afghan man that was at our last event.

I am heading home quite soon for a bit of leave. I can't wait to see my family. My daughter is growing so fast and changing every day. She is such a marvel, such a wonder. From every picture to the next, I can always see slight changes and differences in her face, hair, teeth, smile, height, weight, etc. Her agility, dexterity, balance, and coordination improves drastically with every video I watch. One wouldn't normally think that 1-2 weeks make a difference, but it does--really. When they are this little, the difference is palpable. My husband has been outstanding, keeping me updated with frequent pictures and videos; thus, I am very thankful. I can't imagine what this would be like if I couldn't see pictures of her. Can you image how difficult it must have been prior to the age of technology? Although I truly feel as though I am missing so much, many have missed so much more than I ever will and so I am happy for what I do have. I guess that is how I look at the situation. So many Soldiers here are parents and it's very hard for everyone. I think I've touched on this before, but I constantly hear from well-intentioned friends that "I couldn't do that - I couldn't leave my kids!" I always chuckle at that comment because in most situations, it's rarely a choice. Soldiers don't love their kids any less and our jobs certainly don't mean more to us than our kids do. Now, some Soldiers don't want to place themselves in the position of having kids and then deploying; consequently, they honorably leave the military. Others put off having kids as long as possible until their clock starts ticking... Others need the financial support and stay in, while still others consider their service a gratifying and necessary sacrifice. While there is usually a myriad of overlapping reasons, one thing remains constant: We miss and love our kids just as you would. To answer the "How do you do it?" question I've been asked so many times, I think the key to getting through a deployment is coping strategies. Plain and simple: it stinks, it is cruddy, and it is difficult missing your children/family. A person has to realize it is going to stink every time he or she thinks about it and so one must discover and build the tools necessary to cope. It is a fact, it is hard, and it doesn’t get easier. A means of processing the sadness and coping must be found and nurtured. If a person can do that, they can get through anything. It is so simple, yet so hard, but not impossible for anyone.

Right now my focus is on going home. I keep trying to envisage how my daughter will react. She thinks I live in a box (the TV). Or worse, maybe she thinks I AM a box. I anxiously anticipate her reaction! I wonder what will cross her mind when she sees my head outside of a frame with attached arms and legs. My husband tells me she knows me--she kisses my picture every morning--but I still wonder. She does smile and try to kiss the computer when I am on the webcam, and she does indeed intently watch the TV when my husband plays the story book DVD I recorded before I left, but yet I wonder. I will be a familiar stranger to her, I suppose. But, from what I’m told, she doesn't know a stranger. So, there is hope for me!

Lately, I've been throwing myself into running; faster, harder, and longer. It's been great for my baby weight loss, if I can still call it that this many.......months later ("year" is just so negative). My marsupial is shrinking and I get in about 5 miles every day now. I'm toying with the thought of running a marathon when I get home. By the word "toying", I mean playing; by playing, I mean having fun with it; having fun with it means not really serious; and not really serious means I'm not obligated to anything! If that isn’t noncommittal, what is? Okay, in all seriousness, it is sort of a goal and for right now, just having my long term goal is satisfying enough. At this point, short term, I just hope I have the fortitude to work out when I am on leave. I can only imagine how painful my return to running will be if I stop for a couple weeks. Cross your fingers that I make it.

Good news alert, but with a caveat; that being, unfortunately, I cannot elaborate on any details. I heard today wonderful news for Nazia. Once I can, I will fill you all in completely. I am very excited for her.

Until then, and until next time, take care my friends! I’ll be in touch soon.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ho Ho Ho

Well, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

I hope everyone had a great holiday surrounded by family, friends, and loved ones. The after-days are here and how I wish I was there! Imagine all the shopping I could be doing. Every year I look forward to the after Christmas sales, but I can never seem to drag myself out into the crowds. After all, it's still "tis the season" and thoughts of running people over with my shopping cart are not appropriate, at least not until mid-January. But, by virtue of the fact that I can't go shop right now makes me wish I was in that mall even more! So, in response to my current limitations, I decided my plan would be to flood the online stores galore. But, "someone" seems to have cut our fiber optics here and we are henceforth restricted to all sites that are not .coms (to free up bandwidth, as I understand it). I must say, the shopping options are pretty dismal on the .mils, .govs, and .nets. Goodness! Foiled again!

Let's see, what's been going on here? On Christmas Day, I served lunch at the chow hall to the troops. My office had planned on attending a pizza and chicken party after serving. While the effort was much appreciated, I just can't seem to wrap my arms around a Merry Christmas with Pizza Hut and Popeyes - yes, we have them here. Call me crazy, but I turned down the pizza and chicken and gladly dug into the turkey. I was pleasantly amazed. The folks at the chow hall (often a thankless job) cooked an outstanding and tasteful display. Now, if you're the one that claims it's "all in the gravy", well, that was great, too. Also available for one's eating pleasure was what, I think, is prime rib. Before I go any further, you should know I have my food hangups and I just can't seem to bring myself to eat meat from a 2 foot animal leg bone. If my food looks like Wilbur or Nemo without a smile, forget it; think Pig-on-a-Spit! Now, I can eat well-done steak and chicken breasts all day long, but the minute my dinner resembles an animal (fish with heads, shrimp, lobster, crabs, etc.), I'm outta there! No can do. For those that can - more power to ya! All said, the Christmas meal was a great meal, great effort, and the best that one could hope for, all considering!

After the meal, I went back to my living quarters. It was there that I realized time is passing and my young chipperness (I know, not a word) is dwindling. I can honestly say I don't ever remember a time when the turkey zzz's got me. I've never understood the "I'm tired" mantra. Well, that afternoon I decided to lay down on my bed and pull out my computer to check email. The next thing I knew, I was waking up and 2 hours had passed. The turkey zzz's got me! I'm now part of the stereotypical holiday image - old people dozing in recliners and sofas while football plays in the background. Uff-da, what has happened to me? Am I not 21 yrs old anymore? When did that happen?

Back to Bagram. The feeling that is ever present now is that Christmas is done, over, and gone. The heaviness has lifted and everyone is coming alive again. As much as we want to embrace and hold on to the feeling of the holidays, we never quite had it and what we did have is slipping away. For most people during this time of the year I think this is a somber feeling, but here in Afghanistan it means we are over the hump and on the down slope. As sad as it is or should be, we are happy and coming back to life. We are one day closer...

By the way, I want to extend a thank you to everyone who has sent items for the local Afghan kids and families. The winter is upon us and it's getting so cold. You kind people have send coats which will be put to great use. The soccer balls were a HUGE hit. The warm wool socks were given to a man who only had sandals to wear - fabulous! The stuffed animals have gone to the kids in the hospital, the race cars shared by so many, the dolls admired. You all have been so wonderful to think of the folks here. I appreciate it so much and they appreciate it more than you could ever imagine without seeing it first hand. This coming week, I will start at an all-volunteer organization (all military folks) here on Bagram that gather donations from people like you. The items are then sorted and delivered to the women and children who need them most. I look forward to the opportunity to do more for these people. Gently worn shoes, blankets, clothes, socks etc. are still greatly needed. If you are clearing out your closets, please consider sending any unused items. If you are interested, leave a comment for me at the end of this post and I will respond back to you. There are some cultural and force protection guidelines that you should be aware of (no pigs on anything, no battery operated stuff, etc.).

Yesterday, I visited the hospital. Nazia is still there but I hope she heads to Cincinnati, soon. She is so cute! She can't utter a word, but she gets her point across! She is also a little mow-cow when she eats. She wanted to stuff a 2 inch piece of chicken in her mouth yesterday and it was all I could do to get it from her (okay - it wasn't that hard). Having never seen her eat though, it freaked me out a bit as it sounded like she was choking at times due to her medical condition. I also never realized how much English she understands. She totally gets what you are saying - or so it seems. So cute. After her operation, it pains me to think of the life she will return to and grow up in. How I wish women here had the freedoms we Americans enjoy. Have you ever really, really thought about that? Can you imagine, as a woman, not being allowed out of your four walls? A prisoner in your home with a life sentence. You child is deathly ill and you can't even leave your home to get her medical aid or bring her to a clinic. How I hope the Taliban is defeated.

Another little girl in the hospital is Zohara (sp). Not sure on her condition, but I've heard she either had a brain tumor or shrapnel wound. Not sure which is the correct story, but all the same, she is adorable. I gave her a coat and dolly. She just loved them. Furthermore, she had just returned to her bed from surgery not more than 30 minutes before I got there. I am amazed at her resilience.

If anyone would like pics of the kids, please let me know. I happen to be in most of the pics and that sorta ruins my anonymity motif that I have going on!

So, here's to New Years everyone! I hope that you all enjoy the holiday, make silly resolutions, and keep the Christmas spirit year-round!

In the meantime, enjoy the cute pic of my little one in the header of this post! Cute, eh! (photo credit to Caroline - see the link in the left column named KreateSomething)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Marley & Me

I just finished reading Marley and Me last night. I was surprised to learn a week ago that Hollywood made this book into a movie. I hope the movie has done the book justice. If you're looking for an easy and heartfelt read, this should be on your bookstore shopping list. It is the kind of story where you crawl up to a fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and just read away. It's a true story about a married couple who, over time, grow in their lives together, have kids, change jobs, move homes, etc., all while caring for their hyper (destructive) yellow lab. That is quite a simplistic description of the book, but the story is rich in heart.

In the last few pages of the book, John Grogan (the author) writes a touching tribute (he is a newspaper columnist) to Marley. This particular paragraph in the book made an impression on me and took my mind back to a conversation I had had earlier in the morning. The conversation was with an Afghan man that is a worker here on Bagram - name withheld. I see him several times a week. He has always been pleasant, quiet, and shy. Being that it was only he and I in my office this morning, I felt weird amidst the silence. So, I broached a conversation and my mouth fell agape the more we talked.

The man - I'll call him Farrukh - lives 50 miles from here. Big deal, right? Well, hold your horses. Afghanistan's roads aren't exactly the middle east version of the German autobahn, nor is it the next Dubai in terms of roadways and building construction. It is primitive in most aspects, and to travel 50 miles here is a bit of a journey. Next, consider the Afghans are not carpooling in the far left "2-4 person minimum" lane in a 3 year old SUV. If not by bus, they arrive in cattle trucks or open bed trailers, packed in, much like sardines. Not pleasant at any time of the year, but through rain, snow, and sleet they come for work. Once they arrive here, and I can't go into any details, but they wait several hours to gain entry to this base. I can't describe entry procedures at all, but I'm sure you've heard the term "hurry up and wait!".

Farrukh wakes at 5 am and doesn't start his work until 9 or, sometimes, 10am. He's not waking and driving to the gym for a morning run, standing in line at Starbucks for his coffee, or eating his bagel while the latest news plays in the background. He is just simply trying to physically get to work. That takes 4-5 hours. Next, he works all day - nothing unusual there - but consider that many of the local Afghans working here are performing arduous and laborious work: carving trenches with pick axes, digging and shoveling, road construction, etc. I haven't always seen the most modern technology being provided to these people to do the work either. When I've wondered aloud, "Why are they doing it that way?" or "Isn't there a better way to do that?", other people have suggested that the more simplistic the work methods, the more people we employ. I'm all for employing as much of the local population as possible, but I find it disturbing to see 5 Afghans struggling to move a wheel barrel of stones when a back hoe could do the same thing and in 2 minutes.

At the end of the day, Farrukh must turn around and repeat everything as he prepares to return home. He gets to sleep around 10pm, he says. That places him with 7 hours of sleep - good enough - but what an event his every day is. The average pay of an Afghan is $2.00 a day. I'd love to think we pay them more than the average and I believe we do, but I also know, for sure, that nobody is getting rich. All said, Farrukh seems happy that he has a job, a means to support his family. He is pleasant and kind. He is thankful for what he has.

So, here is the John Grogan paragraph. After you read it, you will understand why my thoughts trailed back to Farrukh:

It was an amazing concept that I was only now, in the wake of his death, fully absorbing: Marley as a mentor. As teacher and role model. Was it possible for a dog - any dog, but especially a nutty, wildly uncontrollable one like ours - to point humans to the things that really mattered in life? I believed it was. Loyalty. Courage. Devotion. Simplicity. Joy. And the things that did not matter, too. A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. Status symbols mean nothing to him. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog judges others not by their color or creed or class but by who they are inside. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, clever or dull. Give him your heart and he will give you his. It was really quite simple, and yet we humans, so much wiser and more sophisticated, have always had trouble figuring out what really counts and what does not. As I wrote that farewell column to Marley, I realized it was all right there in front of us, if only we opened our eyes. Sometimes it took a dog with bad breath, worse manners, and pure intentions to help us see.

My own nearly 12 year old dog would be jealous if I said I hoped to be like Marley, to treat and appreciate others like Marley did, to love others like Marley did. My dog has been loyal and devoted through the years, traveling with me across the US, Europe, anywhere else I dragged him and always by my side. In his old age he has slowed a bit, lost some hearing and eyesight, developed a heart problem, and has made it through three back surgeries all with a tenacity and drive to be admired. His sole purpose? To love. And, to steal the words of John Grogan again, "Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things - a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty."

I guess the point I am making is that we don't need a million things or the "perfect" life to be happy. All things are relative, "perfect" is relative. Farrukh finds his happiness and purpose in doing things that most of us would never choose to do. He does them because he has to, but he seems to maintain a joy about himself. We so often forget the simplest of things, and that's where Marley came in. Life really is about the simple joys. They are there for our taking.

In closing, what a fine example Marley was (and my own dog) of what being human is all about. I know - a bit of anthropomorphism on my part, but isn't that the whole point? How is it that it turns out something so not human ends up being the shining example of humanity itself?

We should all be so lucky to have known or had our own version of Marley. Imagine, the things we can become....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Great Day

First of all, sorry to everyone! As my husband reminded me, I have been remiss in my blog duties as of late. I truly hope that every one had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family and friends. My husband traveled across 4 states to visit my family and for that, I am thankful. What a brave soul to do so with a one year old all by himself, not to mention he brought our old decrepit 12 year old dog. What should have been an 8 hour trip ended up being 12 hours; and what should have been a 6 hour trip ended up being 9 hours. After he arrived at his two destinations and visited, it was time to turn around and drive both legs back home. I am truly amazed with my husband..I am so lucky.

Our Thanksgiving here was filled with food. The chow hall did a great job. It certainly wasn't your mother's turkey, but they did pretty good! After all, there are many in this country that ate an MRE, so how could I ever complain?

Throughout Thanksgiving, and up until about 2 days ago, I had a pretty bad cold. This is partially why I hadn't been writing on the blog all that much. I was pretty sick and just couldn't think straight with a congested head. Everyone here is passing this cold from one to another. This was my second time with the same exact thing. Finally, I am better and this brings me to my next subject!

A wonderful lady my mom knows sent 2 boxes full of items for the local Afghan people. There were adorable stuffed animals, stickers, a darling baby blanket, socks, pajamas, toy cars, just a plethora of stuff. So, as soon as my cold was completely gone (today), I headed off to the hospital. At the hospital, I left the cars with a little boy who was in surgery. I gave the cars to his father who was so thankful. I gave a stuffed animal and blanket to Nazia, little sweet Nazia. Her dad was there and was feeding her cereal. She loved the stuffed animal and gave a cute little smile. I am including a pic of Nazia and her father with the gifts. By the time we got to picture taking, she was more interested in getting back to eating her cereal, but isn't she cute! Also, inside the gift box were warm, wonderful men's socks. I gave a pair to Nazia's father. He smiled bigger than I had seen before. Can you imagine...socks! Something Americans have a million of and don't think twice of. Socks made him smile. Socks brightened his day.

Now, here is the good news. I really can't go into any sort of detail, but it appears that all is falling into place with Nazia's trip to Cincinnati. The steps in that process are being completed! Keep praying that all continues to go smoothly and that there are no stumbling blocks! I will keep you updated as much as I can but it looks as though she is getting ready to head to the United States for surgery. What a joy!

Until next time, everyone. I promise it won't be so long again. More to follow!

Oh - one last thing. I noticed I have a Patriot Guard Rider following the blog. If you all have never heard of the Patriot Guard Riders before, this is a group of bike riders that escort the bodies of fallen soldiers during their funerals and whenever else they are needed. This is purely a volunteer organization, self-funded, and they have many times helped to acknowledge and celebrate the lives of fallen soldiers, to include protecting the funeral attendees from radical anti-war groups (I refuse to even type the name of the group that is infamous for the protests). These people are selfless and much coordination and time goes into their efforts. Thank you very much for all you do! Here is their website for anyone that is interested.

Also, if you want automatic updates to this blog, click on "follow this blog". I will soon stop sending out individual emails when I update.

Until next time

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....