Happy Monday Folks –
I thought rather than try to be quirky about what happened over the weekend, I would share an email my friend Eric sent me. For those of you that don’t know Eric, he is a friend of mine that is a Captain in the U.S. Army and fought in Iraq. I use to post his emails from Iraq on my old blog. He was injured in a roadside bomb and has been recooping at home.
Where do I begin?
My last letter was sent on the 25th of June, just before my trip home for R&Râ€¦it is amazing what can happen in two and a half months. The entire world can change.
I do believe that the easiest way for me to write this letterâ€¦or these letters, are to write more than one. If I were forced to write one last letter…I could only believe that I would write one that was too terribly long. So I will try and pick up from my life as it was in late Juneâ€¦
I was sickâ€¦as a dog. What impeccable timing. Just getting ready to start one of the greatest vacations of my lifeâ€¦and I was sick. My first major sickness this entire year in Iraq, just to add insult to injury. I had a fever, I was sweating, my throat felt like sand paper, and my nose dripped constantly. Boy, was I sick. I have no clue where I got it from or who couldâ€™ve given it to me, but now I had to look at about a four day trip ahead, flying from continent to continent, time zone to time zone. This would only get worse, and I was supposed to be going to Hawaii in about a week. Thenâ€¦I missed my flight leaving Mosul for Kuwait. My arrogance of thinking I could beat the air movement system stranded me for four days. For four long days I sat at the personnel (PAX) terminal on Mosul Airfield waiting for the flight that would start my journey home to Heather for my rest and recuperation leave. Little did I know that this was Godâ€™s intended purpose all alongâ€¦of course. Ye of little faithâ€¦.yeah, that was me.
So, I sat there in bed at the temporary billeting on the airfield for four days. Its pretty amazing what four days of nothing but sleep can do for a bad cold. By the time my flight flew out, I was totally healed. I arrived in Kuwait aboard a C-130 cargo planeâ€¦the workhorse in Iraq. If you never get a chance to fly in one of these babiesâ€¦count yourself lucky. Those of you with weak stomachs bewareâ€¦not for the faint of heart. My flight arrived in Kuwait at approximately 2100 hrs (9pm), and againâ€¦I was stuck for three more days. The average wait time for a flight home is no more than twelve hoursâ€¦I felt as though the Lord was allowing me to be tested. Why do I have to wait for almost a week just to get home? The thought of my cold healing had already left me. I was frustrated to no end. I just wanted to get home and see Heather. Our flight to Hawaii left on the 4th of July; I did not want to cut it too close. Then I was given the best news of the entire tripâ€¦I was to be the flight commander for all 267 soldiers flying home to the US. Yippee. Can I just get a single break? Interesting how weâ€¦Iâ€¦can let such trivial things bother me, especially after experiencing nine months in combat. Interesting how God always answers me with a blessing. Come to find out, due to the fact that I was the flight commander, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit in first class seating all the way from Kuwait to Dallas/Fort Worth. The flight lasted about 18 hours and I had not a complaint in the worldâ€¦not anymore. God is goodâ€¦all the time.
I arrived in Seattle on July 2nd late in the afternoon. During my flight from DFW to SeaTac, my mind raced with thoughts of Heather, my past nine months, the upcoming trip to Hawaii. I was nervous. Like the first time I met Heather. I felt sick. But I knew that it would all subside as soon as my eyes were fixed on her and her face. The plane landed and taxied to the terminal. It seem as though it took an hour for a five minute process and it just so happened that I was near the very end of the plane. My heart had to endure almost the entire plane exiting off before I would be reunited with my soul mate. I have no idea what she was thinkingâ€¦â€is he on this flight?â€; â€œdid he miss his flight?â€ She had to watch as the entire flight got off the plane, she had to watch numerous other soldiers get off the plane. â€œWhere is my husband?â€
Finally, my foot landed on the terminal bridge, I walked as fast as the guy in front would let me…then I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Then I saw her face. You just do not know what my heart did. I cried. It was the most uncontrollable cry I had had in a long time. Not a sorrowful, bellowing cry. Not a weepy, pitiful cry. But the cry of a soldier who had not seen his wife for nine months. A soldier that loves his wife more than his own life. We embraced and I held Heather forever. I could smell her hair; I could feel her heart pounding. She was in my arms and I would not let her go for some time. Her hero was homeâ€¦just for two weeksâ€¦but, nonetheless her hero was home.
Now I would love to go into endless detail about our trip to Hawaiiâ€¦but that would take forever. It was beautiful, of course. It was sunny, of course. And it was great, of course. Just know that a loving couple was reunited for two weeks. We spent almost every moment together. We spent way too much money and thanked God that we could be togetherâ€¦safe and sound.
I left Heather on July 18th with the worst sunburn in my life. This time the goodbyes were relatively easy compared to October 2004. We knew that we only had two months of separation to endure till I could be home for good. She walked me to my terminal, we said goodbye and I flew back to Iraq. Back to the unknown and eventful life of a combat soldier.
I arrived in Mosul with the new knowledge that my entire unit was gone. They had been ordered south, along the Euphrates River to a rather average sized town called Rawah. It was a sort of â€œretirement communityâ€ for the Baath Party, now overrun by Al-Qaeda terrorists and foreign insurgents that come across the Iraqi-Syrian border just to the west about 60Km. I had seen Rawah just briefly this past May, during my Squadronâ€™s reconnaissance stint in the desert. It was a ghost town. The terrorists ruled and there were no bones about it. Thatâ€™s why my unit was order to that area, among some other reasons. All having to do with the insurgent population coming across the border.
I sat in Mosul for about four days, waiting on a Chinook helicopter flight down to the new combat outpost. It was about a six hour drive, army style, or an hour and a half flight. As I sat in Mosul and made my twice daily trip to the dining facility, I was informed and then reminded by a whole host of different people of the harsh living conditions suffered by my unit down in Rawah. Everyday someone else would describe a horrible event that had just taken place down thereâ€¦a car bomb hit, noâ€¦two. There was a long gunfight, there were several roadside bombs. I began to worry. For the first time in a year, I seriously began to worry.
Nine months had gone by and I was okayâ€¦I had made it so far this year without anything too horrific happening to me. I had been through the violent streets of Tallâ€™Afar, through several mortar attacks in Mosul and Anaconda. I just got back from R&R, I only had two more months to go, now my unit and I were forced to suffer another violent town. Why usâ€¦why 2-14 Cavalry? Some units get the calm easy towns, the peaceful villages, not us. Then I put all the fears aside. God. God had brought me this far, what was another two months to God? He had given me that air of invincibility all this time. That fearlessness I had become known to have. That peace that surpasses all understanding. Okayâ€¦now I was ready to go to Rawah.
Thank you for all your support, for me and my family as I continue to heal and write these letters. A good friend of mine, Major Tarpon Wiseman said it best. He surmised that I wrote these letters as a sort of therapeutic way to deal with my life in Iraq. Well, more and more I am beginning to agree with him.