color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: August 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stand by the American Mission in Iraq

When I told Noah of this movement, he said, "Hell yes. Finish the mission."

Vets for Freedom (and this family)

Stand by the American Mission in Iraq

Iraq is now the central front in the War on Terrorism - not because Americans want it to be but because America's enemies have said so and made it so. Al-Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias are determined to drive the United States out of Iraq. Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would then use that country as a safe haven from which they can mount attacks on the U.S., its interests and allies

We recognize that the U.S. involvement in Iraq has divided Americans and that our leaders have made mistakes. We also recognize the cost of this war, not only in financial terms but, more importantly, in the loss of more than 3,000 of our bravest men and women. The issue, however, is not how or why U.S. forces became engaged in Iraq but, rather, what is happening there now and what would happen if we were to leave too soon.

Today, U.S. forces are making real and significant progress. We are driving al-Qaeda out of key strongholds, recruiting Iraqis to join the fight, and training them to defend themselves.

General Petraeus and the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, will report to Congress in mid-September on the American effort. We urge our nation's leaders to:

  • Recognize the importance of fighting and defeating al-Qaeda, wherever they can be found, not least in Iraq;

  • Consider the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker with an open mind and without regard for partisan politics;

  • Recognize the significant threat to U.S. national security that a hasty retreat or a made-in-Washington timetable for withdrawal from Iraq would generate; and

  • Listen to the U.S. service members who willingly sacrifice to protect our country and who do not want defeat legislated in Washington so long as American troops are making progress on the battlefield.

  • America has a chance to strike a serious blow against terrorism and the ideologies that drive terrorism. By contrast, the defeat of the United States would embolden terrorists, making the world a more dangerous place for Americans and consigning the people of Iraq and the Middle East to a perilous future.

    We urge you to support our troops by giving them the resources and time they need to successfully complete their mission.

    If you're a Vet, sign up HERE.

    You can watch some powerful commercials HERE.

    There is Strength in our numbers.

    Tuesday, August 28, 2007

    For Greyhawk...

    For you, Greyhawk... Very early this morning... the lunar eclipse from Cheyenne Mountain (taken by a sister of mine)... it looked the same from our house...

    (click image for a close up view)

    Image copyrighted and protected. MCK

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Two Years On...

    It is two years today that Noah was wounded. I wasn't going to write about it. It's "old news".

    But then I watched a special report on ABC News "War on the Brain: Understanding TBIs" hosted by Bob Woodruff, himself recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury. I watched the original February 2007 Woodruff report on his recovery that featured these same soldiers as they recovered from TBI.

    When I saw the dramatic recoveries of some of the soldiers who in February could hardly walk or speak and who are now walking, running and speaking almost without affect, I cried happy tears... happy tears for them, for their wives and for their families. And when I saw those soldiers who are recovering more slowly... or whose recovery is as good as it is going to be... and I witnessed the despair or the optimissim of the mothers and wives who have become the primary care givers, I cried tears of loss and of sadness... for all that was and all that may never be.

    It brought all the feelings and emotions of that horrible night in August 2005 back in waves that seemed surprisingly fresh and raw despite the passage of time.

    Even now I can recall with clarity the events and conversations of that night... I remember begging and pleading with God to please... please let our son live... they said serious spinal injury and I told God that we'd deal with everything that entailed later...

    And this week as Noah and his wife settle in and do the "have to go [here]..." [VA] [DMV] [bank] [Vet Center] [college], the nightmares have returned in force... and the dreams seem more intense... response to the stress of the changes... the move... the transition... the loss of 1LT Edds... he checked in the LT at Battalion when he'd arrived shortly before this deployment...

    But we all recognize that the date -- this date each year -- evokes powerful memories...

    Now he's here... he's home... after a few years of trying as hard as he knew how to continue his military service... and trying to put this memory and many other memories in perspective (can there be perspective in war??) and suffering from the residue and remainder of his physical injuries and plagued by [possibly/probably TBI] and certainly by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder... the war rages... here and there... but we so count ourselves among the lucky...

    and as we shuffle and rush around and reorganize our lives to accomodate Noah and M... and await the arrival of their first child... and between the calls to the VA.... to pay offices at Fort Benning... and the Transportation office... and fill out paper work for the GI Bill... for Veterans' scholarships and benefits... applying for jobs... and starting college classes... as our lives are turned topsy-turvy... and the other day we spoke of the night Noah was wounded and the weeks and months that followed... and I remarked to Noah's wife about how we begged and pleaded with God to please... please let Noah live... and how I told God we'd deal with everything later... and she said, "Well, Mom... guess this all must be the "later"... [smile and hug]

    So remember those who are still in the fight on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan and other places in the world... and those home but who brought the battle with them... and those that bear the wounds and scars of war... and will for their lifetimes... and the families of those who serve, have served, will serve... and remember to help and support our troops and those who have served and carry the torch to finish the mission.


    Confronting your own mortality at any time is hard... at age 20 in the form of 2000 +/- lbs. of C4 in a yellow dump truck is impossible to fathom for the uninitiated and the unbelievers... but you are forced to look at the inevitable by the force of the blast... and again moments later -- after someone has dragged you from under the rubble that used to be the outer wall and ceiling of the room you were in... and again as your cheek is burned by an RPG as it races by and slams into the wall immediately behind you... and for a second time you have been dragged from under concrete chunks and blocks and you have a fleeting thought about feeling like being hit by a truck...

    and your mort
    ality at 20 is all too real as you pick up the weapon at your feet and take up position as Tangos appear on the rooftops all around your outpost... but you cannot hear through the screaming ring in your ears... and you fire and fire and fire again in response to the muzzle fire on the other rooftops... and you see bodies fall and shit! shit! is that more Tangos on the street below??? Shit! Shit!! even in your 10th month here, the slot machine thoughts that occur to you in the midst of a firefight when your training... and the experience of the past 10 months... kick in...

    but the gun jams and when you look you see that blood has soaked the weapon and you're not sure whether it's your blood or someone else's because you know this is not your weapon... your weapon and one boot and your other things are somewhere under the rubble of the room you last remember being in but now you're in what was the hallway... there's another gun... and you still cannot hear a damn thing but you can see your brothers who have sought cover in the stairway just to your right... and they all look a bit dazed... and the thought flashes by that they... we... you... them... could be over run at any time and screaming to them to get the 50 up... for you are standing in the doorway of the crushed room that now lacks most of the outer wall... and they are below the sight line and they cannot see what you can see... you cannot hear what they are saying... and not sure they can hear you either but you're sure you are telling them at the top of your voice in no uncertain terms and in language even a Longshoreman has not yet heard that you are not dying in this fucking stairwell today... that you are not fucking dying here today...

    and you and Tim Watkins are now firing... and at some point others join you... and it seems like hours have passed but it really has been minutes... and now you and Watkins and others are dragging the .240 (machine gun) to a position on the upper reaches of the building although you do not remember how you got there or where you were just minutes -- was it hours -- ago... and then there are your brothers from the combat outpost...

    and people think there are soldiers in the rubble and people are digging with bare hands... but that's about all you remember until Matt is standing over you and you're in a Humvee with Dave M. beside you... and Matt is saying something about you and him and a trip to Alaska... but you still cannot hear much over the damn buzz and bells of Notre Dame slamming in your ears... and there is blood on your chest... on your hands... running off your head... Dave is looking bad... there is blood all over him... Doc is there and he's telling you that you're going to be OK... is he talking to Dave or you? and doesn't he say that to everyone... and when Doc asks you cannot squeeze his hand... and you can barely move your head and there's something wrong with your neck and you cannot feel your hands or your legs... everything moves in slow motion... and then you're in Balad...

    Friday, August 17, 2007

    Another 3ID Baby!!

    from a private 3ID family support site:

    Tuesday 14 Aug 2007 12:59PM

    Brooke's sister-in-law, Brandi is having her baby today or at least that's the way they were planning it. She's in the hospital... they put her in last night and started the drip this morning... could y'all please pray for Brandi, Hayden (her husband) and baby Hayley Drew? Hayden is currently in Iraq with Chuck, and Brooke is trying to keep them updated with IM's. It's gonna be a difficult day for everybody.

    two days later...

    Thursday 16 Aug 2007 10:37AM

    I talked to Brooke for a FEW minutes: Haley Drew weighed in at 6 lbs 3 oz, is 20-¾ inches long... Brandi is doing well now, she was having some [problems]... and should hopefully be able to come home tomorrow. Hayden was online [from Iraq] through the entire thing; Brooke was sending him IM's. When she told him it was time to push she got a response that said "PUSH". I guess he's doing ok also.

    Welcome to the World and Welcome to 3ID, Haley Drew!

    Congratualtions to Mom, Dad and Haley!


    Wednesday, August 15, 2007

    Hansel the Soldier and Gretel the Wife... and Hansel the Sailor

    I've always found the story of Hansel & Gretel a little disturbing -- that a father should intentionally lose his children in the woods -- not once but twice! -- at the behest of the stepmother and that these "lovable" children stay in the cottage made of cake & chocolate for days while the wicked witch (who wanted to eat the children) was burned to death in the oven... and then they steal the witch's money, find the stepmother has died, the father is forgiven and they all live happily ever after. (What the hell was supposed to be the moral of that fairy tale??)

    Be that as it may, I wanted to make the reader think mostly just of the children finding their way home after a harrowing and hellacious ordeal...

    Noah signed out at Battalion at 10:43AM EDT this morning. He said leaving the Army was bittersweet (although the way he has been treated by some recently, more sweet than bitter.)

    So now Noah and Melanie are on their way home... although neither of them has actually ever lived here before. No matter. It is where there are people that love them... and respect the sacrifices they have endured... and cherish the hope they represent. The guy who said, "Home is where the heart is" knew what he was talking about.

    They have spent their last two weeks at Fort Benning packing, junking, sorting, cleaning... returning the house to the Army -- after a water pipe burst in the wall the night before the movers were to arrive -- and Army Housing didn't have a key to the water shutoff and the water company took 3 hours to arrive on a Sunday night!

    Returned all the Army's stuff... he had to replace a bunch of missing gear... some that had been purloined... some loaned to soldiers at NTC and other times but who are now deployed and the gear with them or stored and inaccessible... some simply lost... and some that has been missing since he was evacuated from Iraq (like his first aid kit and kevlar cover probably still buried in the rubble of the rooms at Hotel)... but which the Army requires soldiers to return, replace or pay for... he figures in all he found or was given replacements for about $1,200 of equipment... much of which other soldiers had duplicates or which had been turned in to a kind of "lost and found"... Noah figures he spent $150 of his money replacing stuff he couldn't find...

    Much of his time has been spent on paper work, paper work, more paper work... retrieved medical records... more paper work at Finance... two days in a row at Finance... I can't say that his NCO Sgt. H was supportive or helpful to Noah or to any of the other Wounded awaiting discharge... In fact, at times Sgt. H made it as hard as he possibly could for Noah (and the other young wounded soldiers.) It has been my experience -- from the first day Noah was wounded and up to and including the present day -- that there is a whole group of NCOs that blame wounded soldiers for being wounded and are not only unsupportive but outright obstructive to them... at least I have found that true in Noah's company... I had heard from people when we landed at Landstuhl almost two years ago that there was a sour attitude within Noah's Division about the wounded and found it hard to believe... but I am a believer now. Some of the NCOs not deployed from Ft. Benning with the brigade -- Sgt. H right at the top of that list -- suck. (Note to Sgt. H: do your job or get the hell out of the Army... you give it a bad name.)

    Noah received his Good Conduct Medal more than a year after it was recommended and approved (but Sgt. H -- who apparently has more important things to do than his job and besides doesn't like having to deal with the wounded -- refused to submit the final paper work...)... to go with his Army Commendation Medal with "V" device... and that damn Purple one...

    The trip has been mapped... the navigation device is on the dash... the car is packed with clothing and personal items... their household goods are in transit -- apparently to temporary storage in Colorado Springs -- awaiting the "ok to deliver" phone call. Noah is registered for college classes... he has an appointment with the Veterans' advisor at the college (who for some odd reason decided to take his two weeks vacation the two weeks before classes commence... and has no backup... go figger)... and he has an appointment to meet with the state VA rep who handles OEF and OIF evaluations... They will take an extra day to arrive here so that they can stop along the way to visit with the parents of another wounded soldier who is on medical hold and with whom Noah & Mel stayed these past 10 days...

    Their rooms are ready... linens cleaned... extra pillows all fluffed... decorative but little-used furniture (like a coffee table near the guest room sofa) moved out and more useful pieces (like a large desk and chairs) moved in... all items previously stored in the guest closets removed to newly-constructed storage elsewhere... the small guest room dresser moved out and a much larger two-person dresser moved in...

    We all share the same feelings at the moment: great anticipation at the arrival but trepidation at the same time. It has been a few years since we have had other people live with us in our home (I was going to say "kids" but they have both been in the Army... he has been to war and bears the wounds... they are married... they are expecting a child... but still just 22... ) and she's a little anxious about coming to stay with the in-laws... I used to call mine -- quite affectionately -- the outlaws [wink]. Mel, I understand.

    We all know that this will take some getting used to... that compromises will need to be made... that it will be an adjustment for all of us. When I said to Noah, "Well, you know we haven't had kids in the house for a while," he chuckled and said, "That's OK, Ma... we haven't had parents in the house for a while either." We have agreed to have an informal "sit down" (we called them "family meetings" when I was a kid) when they arrive just to air all our expectations... I don't want to call them "rules"... speaking for the parent side of the equation, our expectations really are pretty simple: clean up after yourselves and just show common courtesies for others in the house. Other than that, you do your thing, we'll do ours.

    We don't how long this arrangement will last. They are hoping to get a place of their own sooner rather than later... we hope the same. Not that we don't want them here, but it's a good thing when the hatchlings can fly the nest and soar on their own. It's our job as parents: equip our children with the skills and ability to make reasoned decisions and choices, leave home and then stay there... LOL.

    SO wave and blow kisses at that dark blue SUV with the Georgia plates manned by that handsome couple heading west on I-40 for the next few days!

    So, here's the start of a whole new chapter in the book we call "Life with Children"... in a time of war. I plan to continue to blog about all things related to all Our Guys... here and there.

    Sometimes the lights all shinin' on me
    Other times I can barely see
    Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been
    Truckin', I'm a goin' home. whoa whoa baby, back where I belong
    Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin' on
    Hey now get back truckin' home.

    Truckin' (Garcia/Weir/Lesh/Hunter)

    And in addition to this soldier coming come, we are wishing fair winds and following seas to our sailor son who set sail very recently on the Navy's version of a "surge" deployment (that's Navy speak for "you got three days to get ready for a [maybe] 5 month cruise...) He's been there, done this before... So, dear Hansel our Sailor, please find your way home safe.... and soon. We'll check in on your girls regular.


    Monday, August 13, 2007

    False advertising is afoot...

    From the esteemed (oh man, I know he'd hate that) Michael Yon's latest dispatch Three Marks on the Horizon (my emphasis):
    False advertising is afoot. I write these words from Indonesia, soaking wet, having just returned from photographing rice paddies in a pouring rain, wearing a Florida Gators shirt. That means there is a green alligator on my chest. While supporting my team, my shirt perpetuates the myth that alligators are green, when in fact they are black when wet, gray when dry.The mantra that “there is no political progress in Iraq” is rapidly becoming the “surge” equivalent of a green alligator: when enough people repeat something that sounds plausible, but also happens to be false, it becomes accepted as fact. The more often it is repeated—and the larger the number of people repeating it—the harder it is to convince anyone of the truth: alligators are not green, and Iraqis are making plenty of political progress.

    There may be little progress on political goals crafted in America, to meet American concerns, by politicians who have a cushion of 200 years of democracy. Washington might as well be on the moon. Iraqis don’t respond well to rules imposed from outside their acknowledged authorities, though I have many times seen Iraqi Police and Army of all ranks responding very well to American Marines and soldiers who they have come to respect, and in many cases actually admire and try to emulate. Our military has increasing moral authority in Iraq, but the same cannot be said for our government at home. In fact, it’s in moral deficit because many Iraqis are increasingly frightened we will abandon them to genocide. The Iraqis I speak with couldn’t care less what is said from Washington but large numbers of them pay close attention to what some Marine Gunny says, or what American battalion commanders all over Iraq say. Some of our commanders could probably run for local offices in Iraq, and win. To say there has been no political progress in Iraq in 2007 is patently absurd, completely wrong and dangerously dismissive of the significant changes and improvements happening all across Iraq. Whether or not Americans are seeing it on the nightly news or reading it in their local papers, Iraqis are actively writing their children’s history.
    You must read the whole thing if you really want the truth of what is transpiring in Iraq.... Aye, there's the rub: IF YOU WANT THE TRUTH...

    P.S. I don't even have to be in Iraq to know how true this statement from Yon is (hell, Michael -- they don't have any moral clout IN the USA and we think it's a circus act... both sides of the aisle):
    Washington has no moral clout in Iraq. Washington looks like a circus act. The authority is coming from our military. The importance of this fact would be difficult to overstate.


    Friday, August 10, 2007

    All Due Respect to Military Spouses...

    after all, I count a few as good friends of mine... but this kind of got my hackles up:

    Bill Would Memorialize Military Spouses

    When it comes to honoring the sacrifices and contributions that military spouses have made to national defense and our country, Rep. Thelma Drake (R-VA) intends to make sure there is no generation gap and that no spouse is left behind.

    Last month, Rep. Drake introduced H.R. 3026, the Military Spouses Memorial Act of 2007, which would "establish in our nation's Capitol a memorial commemorating the selfless sacrifice of military spouses from 1776 to the present day." The monument will be intended to recognize the strength and courage of all military spouses, including survivors, and tell their story to all generations.
    I have said it for all the years my sons have been in the military and have heard the same complaint from virtually every military mom I have ever spoken with: military moms (actually, military parents) are an afterthought to the various service branches. Even the website for Noah's unit when it deployed in 2005 said... "and parents might find this site useful, too." As if when our children joined the military or married we somehow lose interest in their lives and their well-being.

    And while I really do admire how hard military spouses have to work at all they do -- especially during deployments -- I think we should save our war memorials for those who fight in those wars... and if the members of Congress really want to pay homage to military spouses, then use the tax dollars they propose to spend on a "memorial" to instead pay the military husbands/wives a better salary, make sure they all have access to the best health care, give them modern and convenient housing, schools for their children that are second to none and make sure those who fight have the best weapons and protection money can buy... and be sure the wounded are ably cared for and compensated... THAT'S how you honor military spouses.

    But build a statue in the nation's Capitol?? I will support the Spouses Memorial endeavour after they build a monument to Military Moms... and then the one for Military Dads. After all, not every Soldier, Marine, Airman, Sailor and Coastguardsman has/had a spouse, but every single one of them has (or had) a Mom. Come to think of it, so did those military spouses... where do you think they learned to support their military spouse?


    Update: Andi supports the idea because she believes the memorial is to be funded by private donations, but also raises a point about a memorial to the military family. The DH and I had the same thought on a Memorial to military Families encompassing parents, spouses and the children of those who defend us -- as a reminder to the world of the sacrifices military families make. Now that memorial I'll support 100% !!

    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    Home... to the Place Where They Belong

    He was days shy of his 18th birthday and the country days shy of war when he joined the brotherhood. It wasn't a surprise to anyone. He had always wanted to be a soldier.

    Three months after high school graduation the recruiter came by and took him off to MEPS and a whole new life and a whole new home. He did well in basic training and absolutely loved Airborne training.

    He was assigned to an Infantry unit. He said Army life was everything he imagined it would be. His unit had already done a deployment to Iraq and they trained incessantly for the deployment he knew would come. He thrived.

    When he was 19, he received his orders to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He spent Christmas with his family and friends just weeks before he left. I was there when he left his US base for Iraq.

    Just days after they arrived in Iraq, SFC Salie was killed.

    Just weeks after arriving, he celebrated his 20th birthday in the Sandbox smoking cigars and eating birthday brownies from home. Sometimes he drove Humvee; sometimes Bradleys; sometimes he rode; sometimes he gunned; sometimes he walked. They walked a lot.

    They lost CPL Long and 1LT Harris.

    In the ninth month of his deployment, after surviving more than 25 IEDs, he was wounded by a VBIED and evacuated first to Germany and then to the US for treatment of his head, neck and spinal injuries. While he was in Germany he heard that his battalion had lost 1LT Diaz, and days later his friend SPC Matt Bohling and after that his friend Sgt Benford.

    While continuing his recovery, SSgt Schelbert was killed and then, as if to deal one more punch, he lost his friends SSgt Summers, SPC Byrd, SPC Corban, SPC Hardy and SPC Watkins in a single IED attack. The journey of grieving and burying those with whom he served -- trained, ate, slept, joked, fought with --covered here, here, here, here, here, here, here ... and especially here.

    The rest of his friends returned from OIF3 in waves. He was returned to his unit... and he re-enlisted...

    Although beset by severe and chronic PTSD, he was determined to remain in the Army, do his duty... serve his country. It was not to be.

    His buds deployed again but without him... and he began the dismal and nightmarish process of being medically discharged... MEB, PEB, etc. and learned first hand what the news reports said about the Army shortchanging soldiers on disability ratings.

    He opted not to prosecute a formal appeal of the PEB decision and accept the initial disability rating... for many reasons -- not least of which were the experiences of other soldiers on medical hold who learned the hard way that if you appeal = you will be punished.

    As if that weren't insult enough, Army Transportation is arriving to pack and move their possessions a week before they have to vacate the Army housing (they expect the soldier and his family to sleep on the floor and buy meals out???) and they are being made to leave their Army housing five full days before his orders allow them to leave the base (they were told to get a hotel or bunk with someone else.) I kid you not. I wish I were. Noah and his pregnant wife will sleep on an air mattress on the floor first at their home and then at home of another disabled soldier.

    So within a few short weeks, Noah will be medically discharged from the US Army and will no longer be an active duty soldier... he and his bride "M" will make the trip cross-country and will stay with us retired folks until they get a little settled: do the VA thing, enrolled in college classes, look for a job, find an apartment, await the birth of their first child... you know -- get on with life.

    So in days when he drives away from his home of the last four years, I will no longer "officially" be a "soldier's mom"-- although I will always be some soldier's mom and will forever be Some Soldier's Mom.

    I'm staring out into the night,
    Trying to hide the pain.
    I'm going to the place where love
    And feeling good don't ever cost a thing.
    And the pain you feel's a different kind of pain.
    I'm going home,
    Back to the place where I belong,
    And where your love has always been enough for me.
    I'm not running from,
    No, I think you got me all wrong.
    I don't regret this life I chose for me.
    But these places and these faces are getting old,
    So I'm going home.
    Well I'm going home.
    "Home" Chris Daughtrey