THOUGHTS OF A SOLDIER'S MOM IN A TIME OF WAR
First, it's nearly impossible to know when the Guys will be home since families are getting little advance warning. Families get "a date" -- which is really a time frame of about a week or so of the target for them to leave Iraq and head over to Kuwait... where they wait for availability of transport... anywhere from one to four days.
‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS,
Written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent, and Buck Ram
but Our Guys tell me they got their dates... tentative dates -- but they have their RETURN DATES!! WHOOHOO! Soon (not soon enough) but soon!
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
From WSJ.com Opinion Journal... today...
3BDE [3rd Brigade] Commander Letter12/12/2005Happy holidays! I was pleased to announce on 1 December that the Sledgehammer Brigade has nearly completed its mission and is scheduled for redeployment in January. We are in the final weeks of what has proven to be an extraordinarily successful operation in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Your soldiers have spent the last year working tirelessly to keep America safe and to help rid the world of terror. While there is still much to be done, I can assure you that much has been accomplished. The Soldiers of the Sledgehammer Brigade have worked hard and have sacrificed to ensure democracy in Iraq, and to make our future more secure. Your Soldiers and this team have become the model for success in the Iraqi Theater of Operations.
Our redeployment begins on December 18th when a “torch” party of about 30 Soldiers will leave Iraq to help the Rear Detachment set the conditions for a smooth redeployment. About 1 January, an advanced party or “ADVON” of about 100 Soldiers will leave Iraq to make final preparations for the Brigade’s return. From January 5th through the 15th the main body will flow back to Ft. Benning in groups of 200-500 per day. [whooohooo!!!] On some days no one will arrive, and on other days over 600 Soldiers will arrive. Aircraft availability will determine the exact dates and numbers. Finally, on the 28th of January, the Brigade’s trail party will come home. [well yes, someone has to be last -- just hope it's not our Guys!] We will redeploy as a Brigade and not by individual companies or battalions, so each returning aircraft will have soldiers from different battalions and companies.
Most Soldiers do not yet know the exact day they will leave Iraq, and when they do leave, it will take about 4 - 6 days for them to get back to Georgia. We are redeploying on a program called Single Ticket Express. That means our redeployment will work the same way R&R leave worked. Individual soldiers from every Battalion will move from Iraq directly to the United States with only a few short processing stops along the way. As we get exact departure dates we will inform your Soldier and the rear detachment.
When your Soldiers arrive, they will turn in some equipment [we can only guess LOL], fill out a few forms [one will be too many!] and we’ll hold a very brief welcome ceremony.[define "very brief" to a husband or wife who have been apart so long!] From there, your Soldier will be released for at least the next 48 hours! When the 48 hour pass is complete, everyone will begin 10 days of reintegration training. We’ll have weekends off and most duty days will end by 1500 hrs. 30 Days of Block Leave will begin on February 4th.
Your greatest concern is probably how you will find out what day and time your soldier will arrive. [you betcha!!] The short answer is that the Rear Detachment will tell you. On December 12th, LTC D will begin conducting reunion briefings that should answer all of your questions. During the reunion briefing, LTC D will address a number of important topics. He will explain how and when you will be notified of your Soldier’s arrival and he will explain in detail what will happen when your Soldier’s plane lands. I encourage all of you to attend this very important briefing. The best way for you to stay informed is to call the 1-800 phone number for your battalion’s rear detachment.
Our return has been long awaited and eagerly anticipated and I know each and every one of you is immeasurably proud of your Soldier. [damn straight!] Your pride is well founded! God Bless you and our great Sledgehammer Soldiers. [HOOAH!]
Sledgehammer! Rock Of The Marne!
Hammer 6Lord, Please protect our troops and see them home safely to those who love them.
Well, they didn't say to tag 5 more people... but I think I'll put a spin on this one and tag 5 soldiers/sailors and see what kind of weird habits these guys have...
Doc Smith at J. Barne's Coffee Shop
Sgt. Hook (This We'll Defend)
[and still no direct word from the Guys... but Noah (who is now attached to the Rear Detachment -- what a contradiction in terms: attached to a detachment)... has occasion to speak with his unit in Iraq and he says he spoke with one of his comrades yesterday. In preparation for the election, the Guys -- one of the busiest units in Iraq -- are doing even more missions. They are just incredibly busy and hectic night and day. He says not to worry (there's that phrase again!)
Copyright 2005. All rights reserved.
Take nothing for granted. So you think your child knows you love them? Tell them anyway and every chance you get. They’ll get miffed and frustrated at times telling you, “I know [Ma] [Dad]!” Ignore them. Tell them anyway. No one has ever said, “Gosh I wish I hadn’t told him or her one more time how much I loved them.”
Get paperwork. Get multiple copies of their power of attorney. Make sure it covers the types of transactions you’ve agreed to be responsible for – banking, insurance, property transactions. Get separate POAs that cover different situations if you need. Make sure you either have or know where all the rest of his/her papers are (car title? lease? Will?) Oh -- and a copy of their deployment orders... some vendors require these to discontinue service without a penalty (cell phone companies, for example) or to cancel a lease. Be sure to remove ALL of the social security numbers from the copy you send to anyone (I put a piece of paper over that column when I copied the orders.)
Deployment is one big roller coaster ride. Hang on – it’s going to be one hell of a ride! They’re leaving. They’re delayed. They’re leaving. They call. They don’t call. They’re in Kuwait. They’re leaving for the AO (area of operations). They arrived. They email. They get internet. You have a pc camera. The internet is down. The phones are down. Everything’s down. They’re going on a week’s mission. They’re back. They’re getting R&R. It’s not for 6 more months. UpDownUpDownUpDown. It's a long year.
If you don’t already have one, get a passport. We will all pray you will never need it except for vacations, but it can save you a day or two in travel time while someone tries to arrange this for you if you need it later. Be aware, that very few families have to travel outside the U.S. even when their child is injured. It is only the rarest of circumstances in which you might need to travel.
Communication is key to their mental survival. Send mail. Get their friends to send mail. Aunts, Uncles, cousins. Send postcards. Send cards. Send pictures. Send newspapers. Send their high school or college newspaper. Email. They might not respond as frequently as you write (or as often as you’d like) – but don’t let that stop you (after all, they are fighting a war). Your letters and cards take a measley 37 cent stamp. Include pre-addressed post cards and envelopes to make it easier for them to write you (they do not need stamps -- they mail letters and cards for free). And remember, if there are breaks in communications (no email or IM suddenly) repeat after me: No.News.Is.Good.News.'Cause.Bad.News.Travels.Fast.
And since you’re reading this, you have a computer, but if you don’t have it yet – get one or more instant messenger programs (download them free from AOL AIM, MSN, Yahoo...) and learn to use it! Your soldier will have access to computers and most have a number of instant messenger programs (a real-time conversation via typing.) It’s the way you and the soldier will most often communicate more than any other. You can program sounds to signal whenever he (or his buddies) are online. Even if you don’t want to jump up and have a conversation in the middle of the night (you say that now…), you will be able to determine that they were online while you were asleep or out and it will give you some peace of mind (really). And you can forward it to your cell phone or other wireless device (like a Blackberry). You never have to be out of touch with your soldier.
From Melinda and Stacy: absolutely invest in a WEBCAM for you and your soldier (they really aren't that expensive). Stacy says it's absolutely priceless to see your soldier's smiling face -- LIVE! and Melinda also says that's a must (and these are two women I would absolutely believe!) Melinda further says "a mini-tape recorder with the microcassettes are small & easy to pack as well as durable" because there is nothing like a soldier hearing voices from home and for those at home to hear their daddy's (or son's or hubby's) voice... and she says making movies of the family and sending are fun for all the soldiers and not just your soldier.
Send STUFF. Send packages. Send their favorite food. Send books, comic books, magazines, DVDs, music, games, and their favorite things. Ask what they need, but even when they say they don’t need anything, send something. Send happy stuff -- you know whatever makes them laugh or feel good. [We recorded our son's favorite television shows (with commercials -- they love the commercials!) and those DVDs got passed around to everyone -- it was a part of home.] Be sure to learn the mailing rules – no porn, no pork, no alcohol. Don’t worry about sending too much – unfortunately, they have brother soldiers who rarely get any mail and your soldier will share. Go to your Post Office and ask for FLAT RATE BOXES and CUSTOMS FORMS. Get to know your postal clerks -- they are on their third or fourth deployments and they are a wealth of information!
NOTE: If you order things to be sent to your soldier, DO NOT HAVE THEM SENT DIRECTLY TO THE SOLDIER. You will have no way of knowing whether they were ever sent or received (happened a few times). After the first few months, we learned to have things (gloves, goggles, clothing) shipped to us and then we re-packaged it in flat rate boxes to him. And it's my understanding that you CAN get tracking receipts to most of the postal facilities in the "093" zip codes.
Support their efforts. No matter what you read elsewhere or what your feelings about the war are, support their efforts. It isn’t about you. They need to hear that you appreciate their sacrifice and efforts. If you can’t say something nice, say nothing. BE PROUD of your son/daughter. Be VERY proud ‘cause damn they’re good!
If they're not telling, Don’t ask. There are some things your soldier can’t talk about. There are things your soldier doesn’t want to talk about. Don’t push it. When they want to talk, they will. If he’s in the listening mood, you talk. If he’s in the talking mood, listen. Try not to add to their stress. Don’t argue with them. Let them blow off steam – they aren’t angry at you most of the time. If a conversation seems to upset them – get off the subject, change it or agree with them. They have plenty else on their minds and they shouldn’t have to worry about you. You can smack them up side the head for being disrespectful when they get home.
Educate yourself. Don’t believe everything the mainstream media tells you. In addition to reading the news sites and these milblogs, look for specific information from the Army (or Marines or Navy). Most units have an official website while soldiers are deployed with mailing addresses, contact information for the Rear Detachment, the FRG, etc. The sites also usually include newsletters from the unit commanders in the field and the Brigade and Battalion through the course of the deployment. The letters won’t give you detailed information on operations, but they make you feel connected to your soldier and they will tell you generally about their camp (or Forward Operating Base (FOB)) and what they are doing promotions, births, etc. And they usually have some pictures! It will do you a world of good. Really.
Join support groups. Get on the Family Readiness Group (FRG) email list. If you are local to your soldier’s duty station, involve yourself with the FRG. [Look at sites like www.support3id.com, www.SpouseBuzz.com, www.military.com, etc.]There are also private support group websites started and maintained by family members during the deployment. Find them – they are a wealth of information and rumor/myth busting and a hand to hold and shoulder to cry on when you’re down. Keep yourself busy with other things. That will be hard as keeping track of your soldier and trying to communicate with your soldier will consume a lot of your non-working (and in some cases working) time. You will think about them night and day. All perfectly normal, but they want you to have a life. As Noah said, “That’s why we’re here – so you can live normally there.” So do it.
Stacy also reminds us to do a scrapbook... The Society for the 3rd ID had commemorative "Back to Iraq 2005" t-shirts that they sold... and bumper stickers, pins, etc. so I ordered some of those and put them away for him. I have also printed and saved news articles, my blog entries, the battalion and unit newsletters and put them all in 3-ring binders (there are now Volumes I, II and III). They may not appreciate it now, but they will (a) when they have children, and/or (b) they write their memoirs (wink). They will have tangible reminders that they made history...
HERE’S A FEW REQUESTS FOR CO’s AND NCO’s
Try to insist that your soldiers give someone’s name to the FRG so that they have someone getting the emails.
Put out a newsletter regularly (not just occasionally). Yes, we know you’re running a war over there – but these newsletters are a precious link to our soldier and we count on that information. We LIVE for any information about their situation we can get our hands on (and it goes a long way to stopping the rumor mill back home.)
Please show parents the same respect and involvement that you show to spouses. Be sure your FRG includes parents and girlfriends and be sure your single soldiers know they can be included!HERE’S SOME ADVICE FOR SOLDIERS:
First, as for Saddam's outburst yesterday to us all, "Go to Hell!" I say, YOU FIRST.
That was followed in 1998 by a tree sent to the oldest son serving in the U.S. Navy at a Joint Military Task Force in England (sorry no picture.) At last year's Christmas telling of the story of Dad's tree, Noah voiced his acknowledgement that he would be entitled to "his tree" while deployed in support of OIF III.
So back in July we had begun to search online and in stores for the "perfect tree". Then Noah was wounded in that nasty little incident in August and the search for the tree was put on hold. As the time passed into the Fall, Noah's recovery progressed and we could once again focus on the approach of Christmas. We began to think about The Tree again. We knew that Noah had well-earned his deployment tree even if he would be Stateside for Christmas, so we renewed the search for his Deployment Tree.
There are some requirements for The Tree: it must not be too breakable since we hope it will travel with our son for many years. It can not be too big (tough to ship and move around with your possessions) nor too small (what would be the point?) It can not have decorations easily broken or misplaced or that require some high degree of care. It must play music. It's one of those "We'll know it when we see it."
Well, we found it...
And there's a picture of a soldier in the outpost they call "Hotel" -- which is the building Noah was in when he was wounded...
and I haven't heard from Our Guys in more than a week... very unusual... very worrying. Having experienced the injury and worse of those close to us, I am glued to the reports coming out of the area.... like a moth to a flame. Just because Noah is home hasn't reduced my worrying much. That the clock is winding down does nothing but heighten my worry... So still chanting "no.news.is.good.news.and.bad.news.travels.fast."
I've also been a little down that Our Guys will not be home this Christmas. As I've written before, Christmas is my most favorite holiday. Not because of the presents, but because of the extreme sense of family it engenders. And while I haven't been out in the malls and the stores much, it seems the minute I do walk into a store, "I'll Be Home for Christmas" starts to play and it brings tears to my eyes... every time... and I'm thinking about the Guys and imagining their Christmas this year. I know I'll get through it and am hanging tough... I only have to think of Andi and the others who have loved ones just deployed with the holidays upon us, and I am strengthened.