Religious Extremists Try to Impose ‘Dark Vision’

By John Valceanu American Forces Press Service

DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 14, 2005 — The Middle East is currently going through a revolutionary period in which small groups of religious extremists are attempting to impose their “dark vision” upon the vast majority of the region’s people, the U.S. general responsible for the region said.
On several occasions during a Feb. 11-13 visit to Iraq, Army Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command, compared the extremists to other violent revolutionary groups that managed to assume power and ultimately oppressed entire regions.

Abizaid said the world in the past was not able to identify and eliminate the threat posed by the extremists in time to stop them from amassing and consolidating their power. This time, however, he said the coalition has an opportunity to stop the extremists before they can create other regimes like the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

“When ruthless people start to take power, a very small group of them can be very effective very quickly and move the world in a direction that’s unexpected,” Abizaid said. “If you look at Bolshevism in the early 1900s or if you look at fascism in the early 1920s, we didn’t have guts enough to get out in front of them. Well, this time we’ve actually gotten out in front of them.”
There is an opportunity during this time of revolution, according to Abizaid, to take advantage of revolutionary times and help the region’s people to make a better way of life for themselves, channeling energies for change into a positive force.

“We actually have a chance to move the revolutionary process of a better way of life for people in the Middle East to come forward because we have guts enough to take on the threat,” Abizaid said, whose command includes 27 nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the horn of Africa.
The extremists do not enjoy popular support in Iraq, Afghanistan or other places in the region, according to Abizaid, but they have to be stopped before they can gain power.

“The vast majority of the people don’t want to have anything to do with (terrorists Osama) bin Laden or (Abu Musab al-)Zarqawi or any of these guys. What they want to do is just to live a better life,” Abizaid said. “What we can’t allow to happen is to let guys like Zarqawi to get started. It’s the same way that we turned our back when Hitler was getting going or Lenin was getting going. You just can’t turn your back on these types of movements. You’ve got to stand up and fight them.”

The people who are attracted to extremism are feeding off anger and resentment at their condition, Abizaid said, and extremist leaders encourage their negativity and turn their hatred into terror.

“They attract people in much the same way that the Bolsheviks or the fascists attract people. Bin Laden’s type of theological argument is almost Islamic fascism. I hate to even use the term Islamic because there’s very little ‘Islamic’ about it. It’s just extremist in a way that is very hateful, very violent and very dangerous.”

The extremists are trying to obscure and distort the true conflict, which is not between competing religions or cultures, according to Abizaid.

“It’s not like they would have their followers believe — the Crusaders versus the Islamic heroes. It is not in my mind Islam versus the West. It really is moderation versus extremism,” he said.
The culture of the people, and the religion of Islam itself, are actually forces against the extremists who have twisted the religion and seek to oppress the people, the general noted.

“The good news is — and this is a point that is hard for people who don’t really understand the region — most people in this region are moderate,” Abizaid said. “Islam is, in and of itself, a very moderate religion, a very tolerant religion. The moderates need to be supported against the extremists during this period so that this ideology does not take off on us.”

War Journal

I’m going to start posting excerpts from my journal that I kept from the day we were told that we were going north to Iraq from our little outpost in the deserts of Kuwait. It won’t be pretty sometimes, but I’ll try to include my trademark nonsense in posts between entries. I start with the day it all started:

1952, 24 February 2003, Monday

Last night at about 2100, the commander called the company into the CP to tell us we’re going to war. A lot of us were starting to think that it wasn’t gonna happen. It seems in the press like Bush has passed the most opportune time to conduct an attack. We were supposed to be in Doha about 3 days ago to begin our redeployment back to Fort Stewart. I’m just glad that we now have a purpose. It felt like we were just spinning our wheels for a while there. It was demotivating. We’re supposed to leave for an intermediate assembly area for about 7 days on the 27th. That’s 3 days away. Then we’ll move into tactical assembly areas for another couple of days. Why we’re moving into two separate assembly areas has confused everyone.

I didn’t end up going to church yesterday. I meant to at least be around to take the sacrament. I waited in a line for two and a half hours waiting to mail 2 packages that cost me over $30 to mail. At about 1345 I peeked into the chapel to see if they were done yet, but they were still holding the meeting. I was stuck in the line for so long and I just forgot to go back. Time is short and now is the time I should really be putting my spiritual life more in order. Thing is, I don’t feel like I’m in any way falling away. Emily says that she has been having trouble with the church, but hasn’t elaborated too much. It sounds like the big problem is that other people in the church use it as a welfare system where they can be free of responsibility for a couple of hours and not have to deal with their children. So, she puts all this effort into making church something that is edifying for her but it only feels like she’s a babysitter. None of the other parents want to help with the kids. They don’t volunteer or accept callings in the primary. I can see where it’s getting old. I wouldn’t take it and I told her that she should give up her calling. I don’t think it’s a big deal having to go to church every Sunday. I’m pretty strong in my faith right now. I kind of have to be.

I’m about to face the prospect of death associated with war. I’m not afraid of dying, I’d just be worried about Emily and the kids. We’ll be attached to the units that are spearheading the whole attack. I should see quite the fireworks show. We’re expecting to have a lot of EPWs that we’ll have to deal with. I’ll talk more about that as it comes up.

So these are my thoughts. Today we made our last trip to Camp Doha. I spent about $95 on things I didn’t really NEED, but really wanted. I bought the X-Men 1.5 DVD and Angel Season 1 DVD set. I bought some brown t-shirts, toilet paper, pens, and shampoo also. On the way back our “new� M-1025 (HMMWV) overheated. The M-1025 is a lightly, if at all, armored version of the HMMWV. Where a normal HMMWV is like a stick of soft butter to a bullet, the 1025 is like a stick of hard butter. Not much difference. We got these things from E/9 Cav and you can tell they didn’t give us their best trucks. We’ve already had to replace numerous hub seals, 3 tires, a leaky exhaust manifold, and a shock. Today we had to drain the radiator fluid as a result of the overheat. While we were pulled over on the side of the road outside Al Jahra, Kuwait, some Kuwaiti policemen pulled over to help us. They were real nice and gave us fish, water, cokes, and other things. I gave them a couple of MRE’s. They’ll probably hate Americans for life now. I filled up the radiator with 100% coolant instead of the coolant/water mix. I thought it was premixed so tomorrow we have to drain some of it and refill the radiator with water.

That’s it for today. See you tomorrow.

And this was the beginning of our journey into something that would change my life forever.

The New Army Combat Uniform (ACU)

Last year, the Army announced that it would field a new ACU. The ACU will replace the BDU’s that we’ve been wearing since the early 80’s. You can read about the new ACU here.

Personally, I don’t really mind the new uniform. While it’s always cool to have something new and interesting to wear after years of putting on the same uniform for years, I don’t like the idea of having to purchase another new uniform. Since I’ve been in the Army, I’ve had to buy three completely new sets of uniforms…out of my own pocket. The Army’s answer to this each time is the yearly clothing allowance we get. The allowance is meant to replace up to 2 uniforms a year. We get it on the anniversary of when we joined the Army each year. Officers don’t get this allowance. Without fail, I usually end up spending more than this allowance on uniform items, to include new uniforms, boots, socks, t-shirts, patches, sewing, shoe polish, headgear, laundry, belts, awards, etc.

When the new Army Physical Fitness Uniform (APFU) came out, it cost me almost $200 to purchase. The uniform consists of a jacket, long pants, 4 pairs of shorts, 4 short sleeve t-shirts, 4 long sleeve t-shirts, and running shoes. Additionally, I wear spandex shorts under my shorts to prevent chafing while running. Then came the new Class A uniform material. There goes another $250 to purchase the jacket, 2 pairs of pants, 2 short sleeve shirts and 2 long sleeve shirts. Now, we get the ACU. The ACU will cost us about $90 a set (we are required to possess 4 complete uniforms – $360). To offset a uniform change each time, the Army has adopted a “wear-out” date. Soldiers are usually given about 2-3 years to purchase new uniforms.

With all that said, let me say that I personally don’t have any problems buying new uniforms. I’m usually one of the first people to wear any new uniform. As a Sergeant First Class, it’s not that much of a deal for me. But, to a the junior enlisted soldiers, this is difficult. Additionally, officers are required to purchase these new uniforms out of their pockets since they don’t get a uniform allowance. So, not only do they have to pay for any and all uniforms and upkeep throughout the year without a uniform allowance, they have to purchase another complete set of uniforms from their own budgets. Granted, officers get paid more than enlisted folks do, but with all their other expenses as officers, it’s still a lot of money. Now, I’m not complaining about the new uniform. Actually, I think it’s a welcome change. A lot of the new features in the uniform are changes I would have recommended.

The point of this post is to highlight a minor change that is really chafing the officer ranks. Enlisted soldiers and Noncommissioned Officers (NCO’s or sergeants) wear their rank on both sides of their collar. Officers and Warrant Officers wear their rank on the left side and their branch insignia on their right. Everyone in the military, enlisted or officer, is a member of a particular branch. Some are Armor, some Infantry, some Military Intelligence, some Artillery, and some Military Police. With the officers, you can tell what branch they are in by looking at their collar most of the time. With enlisted, you have to ask or know them. You can usually tell by what unit they’re in. It’s not a difficult thing to know. With the new ACU, the branch insignia for officers will go away, in favor of just rank in the same location enlisted soldiers will put it.

There was a letter in the Army Times this week from a Captain complaining about the change. His excuses for why it sucked were lame: it serves as advance recognition to soldier so they can render the “proper honors”; it identifies your specialty; it helps them direct detailed questions to the right professionals. Instead of answering these excuses again, let me just paste reply letter I sent to the Army Times immediately after reading this letter:

“You know, I’m tired of hearing the officers whine about the loss of their beloved branch insignia. Their complaints smack of lunacy: it serves as advance recognition (I don’t care about your branch, I salute the rank); it identifies your specialty (I’m a professional NCO with over 10 years in service and haven’t once worn branch insignia – it hasn’t hindered my job performance); I can’t relate to other officers because I don’t know their branch (I’m glad NCOs don’t have that problem, we relate to everyone). I find the arguments belittling to me and my fellow NCOs. We’ve never worn our branch insignia (except in Class A’s) and have never had problems asking others in our branch for help. It’s not that difficult finding people in your branch. It’s called conversation. Unless these officers are asking complete strangers a detailed question on armor tactics or logistics, I find it hard to believe they don’t know their fellow peers’ branches. I say suck it up and drive on. Your branch doesn’t earn you respect. Your rank and ability to lead does.”

I’m sure some people will be offended by that. I’m hoping they are. I’m hoping it changes their perspective and opens their eyes to how absurd their reasoning is.

Until they do so, I’ll remain………

CJ

She’s A Military Wife

Emily (my hottie wife) showed this to me as she was making Valentines for friends and I wanted to share it with everyone.

A woman for all seasons
A woman for today
She grows to meet the challenges
And grows along the way

Her life is not an easy one
With many loads to bear
But she proudly serves her husband
And the uniform he wears

Although she didn’t take the oath
To preserve democracy
She’s there each day on the home front
To keep our country free

She’s foreign-born or a country girl
Diversity you will find
But to be an army wife
It takes a special kind

She’s one who keeps on going
Through adversity and pain
She’s the steady, strong foundation
When nothing stays the same

She the one who sheds a tear
As Old Glory passes by
But couldn’t give an answer
If you were to ask her why

Throughout the years, she marches on
Through tears and joy and strife
She’s America’s unsung hero –
She’s A Military Wife!!

Author Unknown

Jay Leno Show

This was taken after the Jay Leno Show in December. He did a special show and only invited military people. It was a blast. He treated us to dinner at the NBC studios afterward.

Jay Leno Show

The First $0.06

Here’s the first six cents!!

The First $0.06

Parking Lot Pennies

As long as I can remember, I’ve been picking things up off the ground. When I first got married as a young private in the Army, I couldn’t afford to buy a clue, much less anything to put in a house. Our furniture consisted of a milk crate upon which we places a small 10″ screen TV, a wicker, egg-shaped chair that folded you into a paperclip when you sat it in, and a dresser (that’s what we called our suitcases). For a bed, we went to a mattress store and pulled out a queen size mattress and box spring from beside the dumpster and stuck in on the floor in our room – no frame. You should have seen our little Suzuki Esteem carry these things back home on top of the car. One strong gust of wind and we’d have been blown into Monterey Bay car and all (we lived in Monterey, CA at the time). We had a wabbly card table for a kitchen table in our dining room. The house echoed nicely when you spoke. The hardwood floors served well as my desk, so long as I was lying on my stomach. The best thing we had in that house was a stereo system I’d had for when I used to DJ.

After a few months of that, some friends from church asked us if we’d watch their kids for an afternoon and evening. Later that evening, the doorbell rang. I looked to the peephole to find the family standing outside. The door wasn’t locked and they obviously had keys to their own house. I opened the door to an enormous, “SURPRISE!” My eyes gazed past them and fixed on a little wooden chair. They told me that the rest of it was in the back of the truck. Their entire purpose for leaving that day was to buy Emily and I a solid oak desk with chair and dresser. Actually, the church had purchased it for us. Apparently, clothes should be in a drawers not on the floor in a suitcase. Of course, if you ask Emily, I still don’t get that concept. My clothes are everywhere. I now had a chair and desk to do my homework on (I was in an intense Spanish immersion course at the Army’s Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center). We were speachless and still have that dresser and desk after 10 years, even though it doesn’t really go with anything anymore.

Anyway, if I see something of value on the ground, I pick it up, especially money. I don’t care if it’s a penny or a $50 bill. Today as I was walking into the PX, I noticed a nickel and penny on the ground. Hey, that’s $.06. I thought to myself, “how much money do I think I’ve picked up from a parking lot or sidewalk in my life?” Then I thought, “mmmm…..Taco Bell.” After that thought was gone, I thought it would be a neat idea to document my “Parking Lot Penny” exploits and find out how much money I indeed make bending down and freeing these coins from their miserable lots in life. It’s gotta suck just lying there and letting cars run over you all the time. I woudn’t like it. Some pennies have obviously been waiting a long time for a savior to come by and pick them up so they can become a useful member of the monetary society.

For some reason, it seems soldiers just don’t respect their pennies. You find them everywhere from a parking lot to the PT field to the counters next to a cash register (apparently because it’s too difficult to carry around the extra weight of a few cents). If I see ’em, I’m picking them up. And from now on, I’ll be keeping track of all the money I find on the streets and in my daily doings and writing it down here. I start with the nickel and penny I found today in the PX parking lot. I’m calling my project, Parking Lot Pennies. Check back often for updates.

Until I’m a millionaire (that’s a hundred million pennies), I remain……

CJ

A Day At The Office

Let me tell you a little about what my life is like when I’m not shooting at people. I work in an office now as a planner/ceiling tile counter. I kill a lot trees by filling out multiple forms and making obscene copies of each one. My eyes are in a constant zombie-like state from staring at a computer screen 27 hours a day. Sometimes I take a break and count the Homies on my desk (or play with the bobble headed ones) or walk down the hall to the Dr. Pepper machine (mmmmmmm………Dr. Pepper). You know, this would be the perfect job if there was a Taco Bell right outside my door. I could roll my chair over the door and into the hallway and order a 7-layer burrito then roll back to my desk.

Anyway, because of all the deployment requirements, we haven’t had a rotation here in a few months. I’ve been keeping busy by taking courses and attending conferences related to my job. I’ve become really good playing Gin. I’ve read more news articles that CNN can publish in a year. I’ve spent a lot of time reading the Al Jazeera “news.” I’ve probably listened to my entire collection of 2,500 CD’s. And all this I’ve done in the last hour!! Lucky for me, I found one of those squishy things that are meant to relieve stress. Mine is shaped like a brain. It’s kind of ironic really. While my brain is being wasted, a squishier version is get a better workout.

There are 34 tiles on my ceiling. Actually, 28 because 4 of them are lights and two are vents. They all seem to be in good order. No leaks from an unknown source. I’m listening to Powerman5000, one of my favorite groups and another CD I’ve heard a lot of lately. To keep things entertaining, I brought in some push up bars to the office. My rule is that anytime I walk into the office I have to do 30 pushups. Eventually, I’ll move that up to 40 then 50. So, each morning I walk in, I knock out 30. If I go to the bathroom, 30 more. A Dr. Pepper costs me 30. Lunch, if I leave, is another set. In a quite efficient move, I’ve managed to keep my office leavings to a minimum. I don’t want to do anymore pushups. I’m sure that I’m sterile now since I keep waiting until the last minute to relieve myself. I have to make sure that when I go, it’s worth 30 pushups. The problem is that Dr. Pepper and the latrine (that’s military speak for bathroom) are not on good speaking terms. And one invariably pushes me off on the other. So, a Dr. Pepper is pretty much worth about 90 pushups instead of 30 because it sends me to the potty twice…at least. Then, I also drink water to keep myself hydrated which is another visit.

I’ve also started riding my bike to work. The motorcycle is a little jealous, but I’m getting a little more exercise this way. Since I can’t run anymore (due to back injury), riding a bike and swimming is the only form of cardiovascular exercise available to me. Of course, after a few days of riding a bike, my butt hurts. Hopefully, that will go away. I just knocked over a Homie four Homie dogs with my brain (the squishy one). Hmmm….Homie bowling. That should keep me occupied for a bit.

Until I again lose my sanity, I remain….

CJ

Homies

I love Homies. And I’m not talking about the gangbangers walking up and down Barstow with their water pistols and black “T-Bird” jackets (a homage to my favorite movie). I’m talking about the little 1 1/2 inch tall figures that you buy from gumball machines. I’ve been collecting them for about 9 months now.

It all started at one of my favorite places in all the world – Taco Bell!! After eating a deliciously tantalizing 7-Layer burrito with chicken and a zesty chicken soft taco with a large Dr. Pepper, my office buddies and I left. On the way, we spied a machine with little men in it and one of the guys realized he had $.50 in his pocket. He dug out the money, picked off the pocket lint, and carefully slid the Abraham Lincoln image laden coins into the slots. After a quick turn of the dial, out came the first Homie. Of course, we all had $.50 in our pockets and plunked down the change to get one of our own. After that, I was hooked. We all were. But none as much as me.

Every time I’d see a machine with Homies in it, I’d fish through my pockets until I had the proper change to get one. My desk is now filled with over 160 Homies. I get a lot of funny looks when people walk in in amazement. I’m sure they’re thinking, “what’s a white boy doing collecting Homies?” I’m still missing a lot of figures from Set #4 and #6. I recently bought the entire #1 set of Hoodrats. My goal is to find the Homie Clowns, which I have only 2 of. They also came out with another series I’ve been collecting called the Palermos. Kind of an Italian mafia set. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t stick money in the machine anymore because I keep getting the same figures.

Every now and then Emily and I go to Victorville (the closest thing resembling a real town) to shop at the mall or get a real meal. They only thing that could possibly make Victorville a better place would be a Super Walmart and an Old Navy. It could also use a Ryan’s Steakhouse or Golden Corral.

In Victorville, there is a huge indoor swap meet-type place. One of the shops in there is owned by a Mexican family and specializes in Cell phone parts and obscure rap and salsa music. They also have a Homie addict’s paradise display of Homies. You can buy them in packages or one at a time. The cost is about $1 per Homie. The sets vary in price according to set and number of figures in it. I don’t mind paying that price for a Homie, because I was spending more than that on a machine trying to get one that I didn’t have. This (along with Magic: The Gathering Cards) are my only true addictions. Okay, and music. And my wife. And my motorcycle. Okay, I have a few addictions, but at least they don’t cause cancer or brain cell loss. I can’t afford that.

“By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them”

The stories tell it all:

“Medics Provide a U.S. Army ‘Band-Aid’ to Iraqi Kids” Dec 22, 2004
“MPs Render First Aid to Injured Afghan Family” (car accident) Dec 23, 2004
“U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet first to provide naval support to Indonesia’s Aceh” Jan 1, 2005
“US airmen provide aid to Iran” Dec 29, 2003
“US to continue to provide financial aid to the Palestinians” Sep 20, 2003
“U.S. Food Donation For North Korea” Feb 25, 2003

All these headlines are drawn from multiple sources throughout in the media. There are obviously many other headlines about the US, and particularly the US military, providing aid to countries across the entire spectrum of the globe. And yet, I mentioned here six examples of where we’ve aided the “enemy.” According to the Muslim world, we are their enemy. Yet we have assisted practically every Islamic nation in its time of need.

When huge earthquakes devastated Iran, no doubt for their anti-Zionist ranting, we rushed in and helped them rebuild. Iran is a part of the “axis of evil.” The US has contributed more food to North Korea, which obviously helped feed Kim Jong Il and his harem, than any other nation. They are a member of the “axis of evil.” Palestinians are/were mortal enemies of our staunch allies in Israel and yet we provide them aid, most likely to purchase more car bombs and suicide vests, and fight feverishly to ensure they status as an independent state. Everyone knows what we’re doing and have done for Iraq and Afghanistan so I won’t go into that.

The point I’m trying to make is this: In just two days, tomorrow will be yesterday…. What does that mean? I don’t know. I DON’T KNOW!! But, it’s a catchy phrase isn’t it. Will it ever really be tomorrow. I mean, before you know it it’s today and suddenly yesterday was the tomorrow you were worried about two days ago. It’s all very confusing and quite interesting.

I’m listening to Blue Man Group as I type this. These guys are awesome. Oh, yeah, back to what I was typing earlier…

The reason I brought all that up is a headline I was reading in today’s news: “Tsunami survivors await help as officials are accused of plundering aid… ” Where is the Muslim world with their complaints about the hundreds and thousands of Muslims being bribed by their Muslim governments for aid or outright denied. When we first decided to give aid to Indonesian crisis, all they could do was complain about the stinginess of our help. If I were President at the time, I’d have taken it all back and told them, “you want to complain about what we’re giving you FREE, then we’ll take it back and use it to buy our own country lunch at Taco Bell.”

I wouldn’t make a good President. I wouldn’t bow to political pressure. So you gave me $2 million during my campaign, thanks for helping me win. Now, give another $2 million to your local school district and show some real Americanism. Give $2 million to your local veteran’s home.

I think I forgot the whole purpose of this post. The title is from Matthew 7:16 in the Bible. I guess the point of all this is that good people (and countries) do good things, for EVERYONE. One of my favorite sayings is, “Your friends teach you what you want to know. Enemies teach you what you need to know.” Again, that doesn’t quite fit here, but I’m fishing now. Good people don’t usually do bad things. Of course, no one’s perfect, but a good person will admit mistakes and those are the good fruits.

Okay, I’m going to start a new post and try to be more focused.

CJ

Pictures From Mahmudiya

These pictures are a little out of order. The top right is just before we entered town. The bottom our convoy slowly driving through town and destroying Iraqi defenses. The top left is a burning Iraqi T-72 tank that was just destroyed.

Pictures Of Mahmudiya

Going To Mahmudiya

Taken on the way back into Mahmudiya. The huge cloud is a secondary explosion from an ammo truck we destroyed.

Going Into Mahmudiya

Flashbacks

I had a rough night last night. Sleeping was labored, even with the Vicodin I take to overcome my back pain at night. I woke up numerous times wondering where I was for a few seconds, then falling back asleep.

I was dreaming about my trip through the town of Al Mahmudiyah. The town is located just south of Baghdad. Before we took Baghdad, we had to go through this town and destroy any forces that may try to ambush us during our taking of the great city. Hidden between buildings and in alleys were Iraqi T-80 and T-72 tanks, as well as BMPs, AA guns, mortars, you name it. As we slowly progressed through the town, the sounds of main tank rounds resonated along the streets as we slowly destroyed the Iraqi Forces defenses. I was in the middle of the convoy going through this town…in a HMMWV (a humvee). We didn’t have the up-armored HMMWVs that we have nowadays. Heck, for the first week of the war, I was in a HMMWV with canvas doors and covering. After a week or so, I was able to trade our truck out for a turtleback HMMWV. It looks a lot like the armored ones, but with thinner skin. Definitely a lot safer than my other truck. As least if hot shrapnel landed on my truck, it would burn through the roof onto my lap.

As the tanks and Bradleys ahead of me continued their raping of Iraqi defenses (and I don’t mean that in a sexual sense), we faithfully followed, picking off the remaining pockets of soldiers that slipped the sights of the big guns. At one instance, while crossing a bridge, a soldier in a bunker opened up on our convoy. I shot back at him with my M-16, and when that jammed, the AK-47 I had taken earlier in the war. The shooting stopped in the bunker, but the noise inside the truck was VERY loud. My chief in the seat in front of me took the brunt of it with his ears. His hearing is a lot worse than when we left.

The convoy pushed further south, leaving behind burning chunks of metal and barely recognizable military equipment. Some of those vehicles were ammunition carriers. After they were destroyed, the intense heat and fire would set off the rounds as we were passing by them. One such vehicle was literally on the shoulder about 25 feet from us as we passed it, popping off mortar rounds and sending bullets zinging past our truck. Pieces of shrapnel landed and bounced on the hood of our vehicle and landed on the top. The concussions were deafening, indescribable booms that pierced your very soul. At that moment, I was more afraid of the dead stuff than the stuff shooting at me.

Then, at the worst possible moment, the convoy would stop. Off to our right and further away to our left artillery shells and mortars were still cooking off. Bullets were zinging over and beside our truck and we were just sitting there. There wasn’t a human being hurling those shots at us. We couldn’t return fire to quell the rage. The targets of those rounds were left totally random. The fact that not one pierced or even grazed our truck was more miracle than chance. The 1SG just ahead of us had red hot shrapnel land on his shoulder and burn through his uniform onto his neck. Eventually, it was over and we made it through the town and past the defenses on the other side. But, that was just the beginning… we had to go back!!

The entire way back through the town we had just blow to bits was like driving through a gauntlet. The only thing that got me through that ordeal unscathed was prayer and faith. I made my peace and privately said goodbye to my family and begged their forgiveness for not coming home. But, we made it through. We had some injuries, but surprisingly no one died. As we got to the northern side of town where we had entered, the Iraqis were out cheering for us and thanking us for saving them.

Last night, I relived this episode again. I’ve relived it many times before without any problems. But, last night wasn’t like any other time. My youngest daughter was playing in the streets of Al Mahmudiyah last night. I couldn’t catch her and bring her into the safety of my vehicle and out of harm’s way on the street. She had her favorite blankie with her and was sucking on her two fingers in the usual fashion. She was giggling and completely oblivious to the fighting going on around her. Didn’t notice the shrapnel that pierced the lower part of her blanket and left a burnt ring near the corner. Each time I woke up, I tried to gain my bearing, realized it was dream, and drifted back into the same terrifying loop as before.

When I finally woke up to the voice of my son and wife calling me, I was dizzy. I couldn’t see anything straight as the world whizzed by me from left to right. I went downstairs and listened to my wife read our morning scriptures to the kids before they headed off to the busstop. A couple of times, I had to go to the bathroom because I thought I was gonna be sick from all the spinning. It was hard to open my eyes. Emily allowed me to fall back asleep on the couch and when I awoke I felt a little better. But, it was time for work and I needed to take a shower. I headed upstairs, took a shower, and began feeling a lot better. I was only slightly dizzy when I mounted my trusty steed (my mighty ’03 Suzuki Hayabusa) and headed to work. Within an hour I was back to normal.

Emily reads this blog, so I know she’s going to read this. I didn’t tell her about why I probably felt the way I did. I didn’t tell her about my dream, though I know she asked me why I was up so many times last night. I don’t talk a lot about what’s going on in my mind, cause usually not much really is going on in my mind. Usually, it’s just a bunch of voices arguing over whether or not to eat another Tootsie Roll or drink another Dr. Pepper. Sometimes my mind contemplate deep issues like whether black is really purple and we just named it wrong. Most of the time the only thing going on in my mind the breeze travelling from ear to ear. So, as you read this Emily, forgive me for not talking to you about it first. You know I don’t like discussing my weaknesses. I need to be the strong man you married, not the weak guy who has a bad dream every so often and can’t talk about it.

By the way, Hannah’s blanket is fine. I didn’t notice any holes in it this morning.

Kids On Blackie Mtn

This was taken at the top of Blackie Mountain overlooking Fort Irwin (in the background). Hannah even hiked about 3/4 of the way up by herself (the other quarter was on my shoulders)!!

Kids On Top Of Blackie Mtn.

Pvt. Murphy’s Law

This was in last week’s Army Times. I used to do this and still hear it to this day. It’s a funny look at military life for those that don’t get to read Pvt. Murphy’s Law.

Pvt Murphy