Thursday, December 22, 2011


Having missed Halloween (which isn't that big a deal for me), Veteran's Day (again, not that big a deal), Thanksgiving and Ellie's second birthday (yep, these are some biggies), it's no surprise that I won't be home for Christmas (pretty HUGE holiday for my family). However, I'm happy to announce that I will be leaving tomorrow to begin making my way home for R&R.
Although it's going to take roughly a week for me to touch down in K-town, I'm pretty excited about the prospect of going home and seeing family and friends. Although I have a tendency to become impatient with the "hurry up and wait" mentality of the Army, it's going to be nice to not have to work this next week and then have 15 days to just focus on being a husband, father, son, brother and friend. It stinks that I won't be home to enjoy this time of year with many of you; however, I take comfort in knowing that it won't be much longer until I'm holding my baby girl and beautiful wife!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Baby Girl Turns 2

The song "I'd Do Anything (A Soldier's Lament)" by the John Butler Trio speaks EXACTLY to what I'm going through right now. Butler is singing from the point of view of a Soldier who's serving in Afghanistan, trying to keep himself together despite being in the throws of war and away from his most important possession, his family. There's even a verse where he says:

It's a little girl's birthday, and yes we are apart -
Ain't gonna make a big deal out of it, but it breaks my heart.

I bring this up because today is Ellie's second birthday. Right now, this day doesn't quite resonate with her the way it will when she's older. Nonetheless, it's a special day for her and I'm not there to help celebrate. I am very grateful for all the family and friends who are helping Leslie celebrate our baby girl's birthday; however, I still cannot shake the fact that I won't be not there. These are the times when it's difficult to accept the fact that I made the decision to go on this deployment. There is nothing in the world (aside from my relationship with Christ) more important than my family. I just hope and pray that this is the last time I miss any more of her special days.

I love you, EB!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

In The Bonds

In the Spring of my Junior Year at Maryville College, I pledged the Mu Chi chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Despite being in a national service Fraternity while at CNC (Alpha Phi Omega), I was in search of an organization at my new school that promoted both public service and brotherhood. I definitely got that when I pledged and became a Deke.
It's been almost 10 years since I graduated from college, and I am sorry to say that I've lost touch with many of my "brothers". However, shortly after arriving in East Paktika I found out that LT Patrick King, of the United States Navy, was more than just a co-worker and office mate. In 2005, Pat graduated from Virginia Tech, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha chapter of DKE!
These past few months have been somewhat tumultuous, but it's been much easier to bear with a fellow brother. Although we're from two different branches of military service, and frequently bash each other's chosen path, our relationship is eerily similar to those guys who I considered my family back in college. It's good to know that brotherhood can transcend stages of life.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Love Is The Road

As a kid, I probably had 10 different career ambitions. My mom likes to tell the story of when I told her I wanted to be a Cowboy when I grew up. Not a Dallas Cowboy, but an actual Cowboy. Not sure that's really an option any more; but, it didn't take long before I was on to something else, like baseball, football or (I'm embarrassed to say this now) politics.
While many of us might have a hidden ambition to do something on a grand scale, we easily get overwhelmed by the many obstacles that stand in our way. For some, it's the fear of failure, while for others it might be a lack of personal confidence. Either way, it's easy to dream about what could happen, but taking the initiative to make it happen is another matter.
Two of my very dear friends have just taken a very bold step and I'd like to tell you about it. Jason and Lena (Hood) Cox met in college at Belmont University. Both had a deep passion for music and both had dreams of launching a career in the music industry. Jason had been writing and performing songs on the Christian music scene for a number of years, and Lena released a solo EP a couple of years ago; however, they didn't feel like they were reaching their full potential.
Shortly after I returned from my tour in Iraq, Leslie and I started doing monthly double dates with the Cox's. Over many dinners and too many cups of coffee, Jason and Lena expressed a desire to start a country music duet called Ragdoll. Anyone in the industry will tell you that breaking onto the country music scene is a huge risk because it takes a lot of money, time, energy, networking, money, meetings, begging, borrowing, (did I mention money?) to record and promote an album.
After countless hours of writing and recording, Jason and Lena are proud to announce the release of their first album "Love Is The Road" on Tuesday, December 6th.
I don't want you to think that I'm writing this to help promote their work and encourage you to buy their album, which is being sold on iTunes, Amazon and other digital outlets. (Okay, that's part of the reason I'm writing this!) Rather, my main intent is to highlight their willingness to take some serious risks to pursue a lifelong passion. I admire their courage, ambition and desire to share their songs with the world. Moreover, despite going into the secular music industry, you will undoubtedly notice their undying devotion to their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you are in to music from the heart and soul, you won't be disappointed with their album. It's got some great upbeat songs about being a Southerner (which many of your reading this are Hillbillies!), as well as some sweet love songs that will make you long for the warm embrace of your significant other.
I hope everyone will at least take the time to visit their website, or watch their first video "Rainshine" (a personal favorite of mine) on YouTube, and give them some positive words of encouragement as they begin this awesome journey. Jason and Lena, I love you guys and am so proud of this step you have taken. I look forward to many more two-steps and trifectas when I get home!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving...on Friday???

When you're on a deployment during the holiday season (or any holiday, for that matter) the days seem to run together, making it easy to forget that a holiday is approaching. However, when it comes to a moment of celebration, especially when a meal is part of the tradition, there are times that missions can take a backseat. However, there are also times when combat operations must take precedence. Case in point: Thanksgiving is traditionally celebrated on the last Thursday of November; however, due to an important series of operations in my AO, the Command Group has decided to delay the Thanksgiving meal until Friday. This is primarily because so many people will be spread throughout the battlefield that they would miss out on the meal if it were to take place on Thursday.
So, while many of you reading this will be standing in line, waiting for your favorite store to open on Black Friday, I'll be in the DFAC, eating some turkey and dressing. The only thing missing will some football games playing in the background and some quality time with the family. Of course, if the Armed Forces Network (AFN) chooses to replay the Turkey Day games, I won't be missing any football!
Happy Thanksgiving everybody!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Well, this is the second time I've been deployed on Veterans Day. The first time, when I was in Iraq, I was only a few weeks from going home. This time, however, I'm not even half-way through my tour! Although I would love to be a little closer to ending this journey, I'm still very thankful for the opportunity to serve my country during such trying times.
On Memorial Day, I posted a message about how easy it is for people to focus thanking men and women in uniform for their service, rather than acknowledging that Memorial Day is reserved for honoring our fallen brothers and sisters. Today, on the other hand, is for celebrating all of those who have put on a uniform. I'm extremely grateful for all of you who have supported and prayed for me throughout my military career. My hope is that today will be the last time I celebrate Veterans Day as an active service member. Rather, I hope that this time next, I'm thanked for what I DID, not what I am DOING!
Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

TN Army Wife

I believe I've already stated this before on my blog, but it's merits deserve further mention. THE toughest job in the military is being the spouse of a deployed service member. In my case, Leslie has a more difficult job than I will ever fathom in theater. Yes, there are moments when my life has been in danger; however, those events pale in comparison my wife's daily struggle to hold down "the fort" while I am away.
For all intents and purposes, right now Leslie is a single parent. Since I am not there to do much of what the other parent does (or should do), she bears the burden of being both the nurturer and discipliner. What is more, Ellie is at that stage in her life where she needs greater oversight and attention. Despite her bubbly personality and charm, she has her moments of being a little monster. As desperately as I want to be there to both attend to Ellie and support Leslie, I am half a world away, busy fighting my own set of little monsters.
Throughout the lead up to my deployment, I've had numerous people come up to me and thank ME for MY service. Yes, I'm doing something that a fraction of our nation's population has ever done; yet, I cannot shake the fact that my wife is making a sacrifice far greater than anything I will ever do over here. Although it's easy to look at my circumstances and say that I'm making a huge sacrifice, I ask that you please consider how much the most important person in my life is sacrificing on a daily basis.
A good friend of mine who is a singer/songwriter in Nashville wrote a song called "She Lives To Give." It's a story about a wife and mother who embodies selflessness and love. Every time I listen to it, I think about Leslie and what she means to me. She is truly a Proverbs 31 wife and I am so blessed to have her in my life. Lord knows where I'd be without her. Luckily I don't ever have to worry about that!
I would like to ask a favor. If you're reading this, please take some time to thank Leslie for HER service. It can be something as simple as a Facebook post, text message, phone call or even just a prayer for her during these trying times. She deserves praise and consideration for her actions far more than I do.
Leslie, I love you and thank God you are my soul mate. Hopefully you will accept this simple message as a token of my love and appreciation for you. You are my everything.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Me!

When it comes to remembering anniversaries, everybody has their list special dates. Just about everybody can remember their birthday (4/25), the first date of a loved one (1/9), weddings (6/26), and their children's birthdays (12/18). We mark them on our calendars, scribble reminders in planners or input them into an electronic device that we carry on our persons.
One special date that I have always remembered is the day I joined the military. While I wouldn't consider it a "special" day, nonetheless it's a date that has marked much of my life since the day I "since signed my life away."
Today is my eight year anniversary and a very, very special one. Why? Because it means that I have successfully completed my military service obligation (MSO) and am no longer required to serve in the military. Now, I know what you're thinking. This doesn't mean I can jump on the first helicopter I see and get out of Afghanistan. Rather, it means that once I am done with my service here, I can resign my commission and hang up my combat boots.
It's been a bittersweet ride over these past eight years. I've had good days and definitely a few bad ones. While I might complain about this whole process, I do not regret the commitment I made all those years ago. I am proud to say that I have served my country (and will continue to do so for several more months); however, I believe the time has come for us to part ways. There are so many other things in life that I want to do and none of them are able to accommodate continued service in the Armed Forces.
I would like to thank my family, especially my wife who's been with me the whole way. Come to think of it, I've been married to the military longer than Leslie! I'd also like to thank my friends who have supported us throughout this journey. I've lived in four states and four countries in these eight years, and I wouldn't change any of the experiences. I've made several close friends and lost a few along the way. Although my time isn't completely over, I take comfort in knowing that it will be ending soon...and boy am I going to celebrate!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sobering Reminders

One terrible thing about being in a combat environment is that sometimes you forget you are at war. Things tend to work much like the movie Groundhog Day, where you get up everyday and do pretty much the same thing. However, sometimes there are events that bring you back to reality. Yesterday was one of those days.
I think I've mentioned them before, but the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Paktika has a team in the East and the West. I work closely with the guys in the East, as we share an office. Yesterday, on a typical road inspection patrol, two members of the team in the West were killed by an IED. Moreover, a young boy around the age of 12 was struck by a bullet that ricocheted off a berm at one of our ranges. The bullet entered one of his cheeks and got lodged at the base of his skull, breaking his neck. Luckily he still alive, but was evacuated to Bagram Air Field to receive treatment and has not seen any of his family since leaving OE. Today, I had to tell his older brother and cousin that he is in stable condition, but it will be a while before they can see him. In both cases, these people were going through their normal routines; yet they were just in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Complacency is a disease that can permeate every aspect of life in theater. When you first show up here, you are keenly aware of every loud noise, whether it's incoming or outgoing artillery, or merely a door that closes to hard and rattles the walls. However, you become so used to that kind of stuff that you forget the fact that death and destruction may be lurking over the shoulder. Thinking too much about that can drive you insane, yet forgetting it can be just as deadly.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

FOB Tillman

On Monday, I flew out to one of our unit's other operating bases, FOB Tillman. In case you're wondering, it was named after former NFL player and Army Ranger Pat Tillman. The FOB is situated in a valley between a couple of mountains and is a stone's throw (or rocket lob, as you'll find out) away from the Pakistani border.
The main purpose for coming out here was to help the Battle Space Owner (BSO) with figuring out how to engage a couple of smaller sub-tribes in the district who are seen as hostile.
At roughly 0300 yesterday morning, I set out with a platoon conducting a ground movement (that means we walked) to a nearby village to meet with some of the elders (called a Key Leader Engagement, or KLE). We left at night (because it's a little too dangerous to walk on the road during daylight) and arrived at our destination around 0500. However, it was still dark and nobody in the village was awake. So, we all just sat on the side of a big hill until the sun came up and people started moving about the village. Despite the cold chill running down my back, it was a beautiful sight to see the sun coming up over the ridge line. Absolutely breathtaking (or maybe that was from the walk).
After meeting with the village elders and learning about all the things they need (pretty much the only thing they talk to me about), we made our way back to base. However, since it was daylight we had to take another route, this one up and over a few ridge lines. Back in the states, I enjoy this kind of stuff. Give me some trekking poles, a little water and I'm good to go. Yet, with about 70 pounds of armor strapped to body and my M4, it was another matter. I got to stop and admire the views at the top, and nobody started shooting at us, so all in all it was a good trip (with the exception of the sprained ankle I got while stepping down into a dry riverbed).
Why am I still here, you might ask? Well, funny story. I was standing on the flight line this morning, waiting for our helicopter with about 8 other guys, when we started taking indirect fire (IDF). In other words, the enemy started shooting rockets at us. We had a couple land within about 200 meters of us, and the other 6 throughout the day haven't done any serious damage; however, because of the IDF, they cancelled all flights for 24. Hopefully we won't get shot at anymore so I can go back to OE!
One of the other guys waiting on the bird was an Army Chaplain. We were chatting up our favorite college football teams. While in the bunker, waiting for the "all clear", he looked at me and said, "You know, the shooting started happening when we were talking about UT Football." This is going to be a long season/deployment, I thought to myself.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mandatory Fun Movie Night

One (of the many) annoying things about the Army is the notion that if people work together all day long, at the end of the day they should spend more time together socializing. Particularly in garrison, we are required to attend gatherings and "enjoy each other's company", as if we didn't just see each other the previous 12 hours of the day. On that note, the Battalion Executive Officer (XO) has made Friday evenings a mandatory movie night event for all the primary Staff Officers. Each week, one of us picks a movie for us all to watch, and this past Friday the XO chose our feature presentation: The Road.
First off, in probably any other setting I might have enjoyed this movie. I like Viggo Mortensen as an actor and thought there were a couple of good scenes; however, when forced to watch any movie, it's bound to slant your overall opinion. If you haven't seen it, the plot (or lack thereof) focuses on a father and son who try to survive the aftermath of an apocalyptic event. Throughout the movie, both main characters escape numerous brushes with death, including dual suicide. In one scene, Viggo's character and his son were hiding from potential killers in a bathroom. Rather than risk their fate with the cannibals, Viggo prepares to shoot his son in the head. Forgive me for thinking this way, but I wanted him to do it because I thought it would mean the end of the movie! What is more, you're showing this to a group of guys who each have a pistol attached to his hip, as if to provoke us to do the same in hopes of ending the misery that accompanied a mandatory movie as depressing as this one.
In sum, mandatory fun is an oxymoron. Forcing people to do something fun becomes the exact opposite, especially when you show a movie that is, at the very least, unfun. Thanks again big Army for making me do something I don't want to do and preventing me from skyping with my family back home...probably the only fun thing I could have done on a Friday night in Afghanistan!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


In an effort to combat victim initiated Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) against Coalition Forces, the military began using a method of detecting them before it was too late. The piece of equipment we use is called a mineroller. In short, it's a nifty contraption on the front of a vehicle that detonates the IED before the vehicle rolls over it, thus limiting the direct impact of the blast and the lives of countless personnel have been saved because of it. However, there are some downsides to this piece of equipment and I experienced one in particular today (don't worry, Leslie, nothing scary happened).
Because the roads in Afghanistan are terrible, and many of the vehicles we use aren't very condusive to this terrain, it's possible something on them to break every once a while. On the way back from a small village in the southern portion of our AO, our lead vehicle made a rough turn going up a hill and the mineroller broke. Luckily we were on our way back and had already swept the road for IEDs, so it did it's job! After assessing the damage, we realized that the only real solution was to just drive very slowly in hopes that it would not become worse. When fully mission capable (FMC), the mineroller will twist and turn in whatever direction the driver turns the steering wheel; but, now the assessment was that "it couldn't pass a sobriety test," according to one observer. It was twisting and turning in whatever direction it wanted.
In sum, for over 4 HOURS we drove 15 MPH and stopped periodically to fix it after going through another rough patch in the road (or lack thereof). While the layperson might consider this to be somewhat of a security concern, I can assure you that we were in no real or present danger (as evidenced by the 30 minute power nap I took in the back of the truck while we tied a towbar to the top of the mineroller in order to keep it straight). Thanks for the protection, big Army, but in doing so you took an extra 4 hours of my life that I'll never get back. Then again, I probably would've spent that time sitting in front of a computer making powerpoint slides. Nevermind!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Keep Your Eyes Open

I recently downloaded NeedToBreathe's new album "The Reckoning" (which, by the way, took me about an hour because the internet connection is so slow over here!). Anyways, there are a bunch of songs that I absolutely love listening to, but one in particular that really speaks to me. I was listening to it while working out and I almost cried and throw two fifty-pound weights threw a wall at the same time!
Keep Your Eyes Open is, in my opinion, a song written from point of view of our Creator. In this song, He is telling us that there are so many times in life that will be difficult, painful, hard and downright scary; however, we can't let those emotions paralyze us, especially if they stand between us and something in life that we desperately want to obtain or become. Regardless of struggles, if we keep our eyes open (on Him), we can achieve anything. However, if we quit or give up, then we will never fulfill what He has planned for us.
These words could never be more applicable to my life than now. The chorus says, "If you never leave home, never let go, you'll never make it to the great unknown." Honestly, that's exactly what I did when I decided to come over here. I a) left home, b) let go of everything keeping me there (friends, family, work, etc.) because I believed that upon my return, I'll hopefully go into the "great unknown". While I can't really what that is just yet, I firmly believe God has some big plans for me. Maybe not in the world's eyes, but His. All I have to do is keep my eyes open.

Friday, September 23, 2011

On A Unique Mission

For those of you who don't already know, I'm currently serving on a deployment to Afghanistan. My last deployment was in Iraq and I was doing a completely different job, so both the location and work are proving to be somewhat of a challenge.
Anyone not familiar with what a Civil Affairs Officer does could easily google the term and find a variety of different job descriptions. CA is most commonly associated with humanitarian aid and development in a combat or austere environment. Some prime examples of what we do, many of which I have often used myself, include handing out relief supplies, building wells and schools, or working with the host nation government to help strengthen its public institutions. While these are things that we do, what is hard for people to understand is WHY we do them.
The best answer, I think, for what we do is helping the Battle Space Owner (such as a Company or Battalion Commander) win the support of the local populace in order to deny the enemy a safe haven in the area. In many cases, we do this by giving civilians on the battlefield certain things they need or want; however, it is all intended to get something from them in return. Through negotiation and coercion, we can gain points of leverage on the populace that enable Coalition Forces to navigate through an area without civilian obstruction and gain a foothold in enemy occupied territory. If this seems hard to understand, don't worry, it is even harder to explain!
On this tour, I am serving as a Battalion Civil Affairs Officer (S9) and am responsible for helping root out Taliban using the needs and wants of the local populace. This doesn't necessarily mean that all we do is give them food and clothes, or build them schools and clinics. Rather, I am using these potential goods and services as leverage to turn the populace against the enemy. It's a key component in the Counterinsurgency strategy; however, many commanders do not see it that way. Often, all they want to do is kill the enemy; yet, they fail to consider what the fighting can do to the local nationals and how it affects their perception of both Coalition Forces and the enemy. If all we do is blow stuff up and kick in doors, then civilians are more likely to side with the enemy. My job is to show the locals that we are the good guys, not the Taliban.
I'm on a unique mission for two reasons. First, it's not what most people associate with war. Their initial reaction is to think of me as nothing more than a Soldier who walks the streets of Afghanistan, getting shot at or blown up. While this scenario is often the case, they don't quite understand WHY I have to do that. Second, I have to show both my Battalion leadership and peers why I am relevant to their operations. Without me, they risk alienating the locals through fear and intimidation. With me, they have the power to rally thousands of people in the fight against the Taliban.
Over the next several months, I hope to chronicle my efforts and share with you all my successes and failures. It's going to be a long and hard journey, so wish me luck!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Can I Get A Light?

One of the first things I learned about my new "home" is that you have to carry a flashlight on you almost all the time! The sun goes down here around 1815 (6:15pm local time for you civilians) and there are absolutely NO lights outside. We're talking Vin Diesel Pitch Black (a reference to a terrible movie he did back in 2000)! Luckily, before I came here I bought a survival knife with a LED light on the end of it because I can't see 6 inches in front of my face whenever I try to walk around this place. Even worse, the building I live in has no windows and we never turn the hall light on because people are sleeping all hours of the day, so I have to use it in there too! The only good thing about all this is that the enemy can't really see us when we're walking around at night; however, I'm more likely to get hurt walking into a wall or vehicle!

Monday, September 19, 2011


Shortly after reporting back to Ft. Dix in August, I was informed by my company commander that I had been reassigned to another company operating in another province in Afghanistan. However, that was pretty much all the information I had been given. Rather than write a post about the many possibilities of what I would be doing in my new position, I figured I would just wait until I got here, then write a post about it.
To give you a little back brief, I was originally slotted to be the Civil Military Operations Center Chief in Kandahar, supporting the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. This position and location had a certain set of responsibilities that I'd been preparing for prior to the mobilization. When I got here (here being Paktika Province), I was told that I would be the Battalion S9 (read Civil Affairs Officer) supporting the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172 Infantry Brigade. While this is not a completely different job, the duties and responsibilities are unique and have their own set of challenges. Rather than provide you with a bunch of information that could be an obvious OPSEC (operational security) violation and put the lives of my fellow service members in jeopardy, I'll keep my mouth (read fingers) shut.
I arrived in the province last week and got to my new "home" yesterday, so I'm currently getting spun up on operations in the area. The most relevant analogy for what I'm doing now is "drinking from a fire hose" because there's so much information being thrown at me that it's hard to consume it all. Kind of like drinking water from a fire hose...get it???
As always, it will take some time to get established and comfortable in my new locale, so any prayers of support and encouragement will be much appreciated. I have access to the internet on regular basis, so I should be able to communicate pretty easily while here. Hope everyone reading this is doing well and I look forward to hearing about your life back in the states. It will be a nice release from the wartime environment!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Long(est) Goodbye

If someone told me at the beginning of this whole deployment process the first week of March that I would not be leaving until the first week of September, I probably would've asked that very person to punch me in the face. Getting my bell rung might at least distract me from the nauseous feeling in my stomach.
Since the start of this (not so) epic journey, I've been to Fort Jackson, Fort Bragg (where I got branched a Civil Affairs Officer) and Fort Dix 5 times. Yep, that's right. 5 times. Although 2 of the trips were personal trips back home to see my family, the only reason I got to take them was because somebody forgot to inform me and a few others that we were supposed to fly out on 22 August! In short, Fort Dix has become my own person Purgatory. I feel like I'm in a Monopoly game and Dix is the "Do Not Pass Go" block on the board. However, all of that will come to an end today (hopefully). Sometime this afternoon/evening, I'll be on a plane over the Atlantic. I've got a few layovers, but I expect to be in Afghanistan by the end of this week.
Although I might complain about this ridiculously long process, I honestly wouldn't change a thing. I've been blessed with some great, quality time with my family and friends. I have also done a lot of soul searching and discovered that the good Lord has some really interesting plans for me upon my return. Not exactly sure how everything will play out, but I'm sure it will be the beginning of another great chapter in my life. For now, all I have to do is come home!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Beginning Of The End

Well, it's been two months and I'm now back at Fort Dix, NJ, sitting in roughly the same spot I was in when they told me to go home and tend to my "medical issue." Having done so, I have returned to resume my mobilization training for the deployment to Afghanistan. Although my unit has already been in Kandahar for over a month, just recently they joined up with the unit we will be supporting, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. So, I'm not going to be too far behind them.
At present, I'm still not sure how much training I have left to complete before I can leave, and I won't get scheduled for a flight until I'm done with training. As a result, I'm probably going to be here for a couple of weeks. If any of you think this is a very short time period, you've obviously never been to Ft. Dix. It's a pretty miserable place to be and zombies have more of a bubbly personality than some of the people that work here!
Although I enjoyed practically every moment that I was away from here, it's kind of good to be back. Certainly not because I'm away from my family; rather, it represents a milestone in my Army career. As many of you already know, my 8-year military service obligation expires this October, and I've vowed to get out of the Army upon returning from this deployment. So, I guess you could say this is the beginning of the end for me. While I am one step closer to going to Afghanistan, I'm also one step closer to getting out of the Army, and right now that's the only good thing about being back at Ft. Dix!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Got My Orders

After a few weeks of medical tests and evaluations, and several more weeks of waiting for the Army bureaucracy to cut my orders, I'm now back on the deployment roster and scheduled to return to Fort Dix, NJ on 9 Aug. Although I'm not sure how much training I have left, I don't expect to be there more than a few weeks before heading over to Afghanistan. The last word I received from my unit was that each team is supposed to push out to their supporting units this week, so hopefully I won't be too far behind them.
Although I have been blessed with a unique and unexpected opportunity to spend a couple of months with friends and family, I haven't been able to shake the fact that my unit is over there and I'm not. Since I've been home, each morning I have thanked God for being with my family; however, I have prayed for the day I rejoin my military family down range. Not knowing when it will come, and getting ever so frustrated with the process of getting medically cleared to rejoin them, I truly feel a peace about my situation. Les and I have continuously prepared for this moment and, despite the fact that we are going to be apart for such a long time, we are comforted in knowing that God will reunite us again in the near future.
To all of you that have prayed for and supported us during this time of uncertainty, we are truly grateful. Now, we ask for your continued prayers for us during this time of separation. My return to active duty has been long overdue, but hopefully it will be my last!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Reminder

One of the (many) upsides to being released from active duty to attend to my thyroid issues is being home on Father's Day. Although this isn't my first year as a father, it is still a blessing to be at home with my family and enjoy this special holiday with them. It was also great to spend some quality time with my own father, who I took to a Tennessee Smokies game this past Thursday. The game of baseball has been, and will continue to be, an intimate part of our relationship and I'm thankful for every moment we get to spend together watching our nation's past time.
At church this morning, I was listening to a sermon that began like most sermons on Father's Day. The guest pastor spewed out some sobering statistics about how many fatherless homes there are in America and the thousands more that have "absentee fathers', men who live in the home but aren't really present in the lives of their children. Next came the part where we were lectured on how important fathers are, and how as Christians we have a duty to teach and train our children on the ways of the world and guide them towards living a Christ-like life.
I'll be honest, at first I was a little perturbed. I was hoping for a message much like the ones given to mothers on their day, where they are lauded for all they do every other day of the year. However, I was quickly brought back to the reality of why as fathers we get these messages every year. It's because of what many of us DON'T do every other day of the year.
This is the first Father's Day that my dad will spend without his father, who passed away on April 19th. Their relationship was tumultuous, at best; however, I'm inclined to believe that, in the waning years of his life, my grandfather felt deep remorse for his past indiscretions, although he never admitted it. Moreover, unlike many sons who have disavowed their absentee fathers, my dad made a concerted effort to show him love as best he could.
Father's Day reminds me that, 1) I am so blessed to have such a great father and 2) the greatest gift I can give my child(ren) is my time, attention and unconditional love. Withholding these gifts will do immeasurable damage to both them and me. As fathers, we need to be reminded of this duty from time to time. What better day than when we are honored as fathers?

Monday, June 6, 2011


Well, I have officially been released from active duty and am now sitting in the Philadelphia International Airport, waiting for my flight home. As is common with the military, there have been some serious catches to my leaving here and going home for a little while.
First, and most obviously, since I'm no longer working for the Army during this time, I'm not being paid by them. Moreover, at this point they are not providing me with the free health insurance that I need in order to go to the doctors they are telling me to see and getting the lab work done that they say I need to have in order to get back on active duty and do this deployment. Really?
The fickle beast of rationality has once again escaped the Army bureaucracy and so my family is being forced to jump through a series of hoops to get this situation resolved, or we will have to fork out the money needed to get back on Tricare Reserve health care program.
One of the advantages to doing this deployment was it's ability to help increase the cushion of our reserve funds; however, it looks like we're going to have to deplete some of it before getting a return on our investment. On the bright side, I'll gladly pay whatever price to be home with my family and friends. You can't put a price tag on these relationships!
Can't wait to see many of you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Door Number Three

My best friend, Jeff "Freight Train" Knox, told me one day at lunch right before I began this whole journey, "God opens doors and it's our job to walk through them." Pretty powerful words from such a close confident. "By the way," he said just before he shoved a slice of pizza in his mouth, "I've trademarked that saying, so you can't use it! I'm probably going to use it in a book title or motivational speaking seminar."
Moving along with this analogy, I woke up this morning thinking that I had only two doors to walk through: one leading to Afghanistan and the other leading back home. However, to my surprise a third door flew wide open this evening and I just ran right through it. This one still leads to Afghanistan, but with a pit stop in Knoxville!
In short, I'm still getting released from active duty; however, I'm being sent home to "recover" and rest so that my TSH levels can begin to normalize. As soon as I have a couple of lab tests that come back within the normal range, I will be medically cleared to proceed with the deployment. I think it should take roughly 4 weeks to get back to normal. As soon as I'm cleared, I will head down to Ft Benning, GA for a 5-7 day mobilization course and then head over to Afghanistan to meet up with the rest of my unit. If this timeline holds tight, I will only be a week or two behind them.
The greatest part of this whole situation is that I'm getting a lot of quality time with the family! The thought of going the rest of the year without seeing them was starting to tear me apart inside, so it's truly a blessing from God that I'm getting this opportunity. However, all this is dependent on my health. So, please continue to pray for us throughout this process. It will be tough leaving the guys, but great to be reunited with the family for a while.
Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support. Take care and I look forward to seeing many of you in the very near future!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I'm A No-Go

In a post last week, I mentioned that my thyroid disease might hinder my ability to deploy. Despite lab results coming back normal last week, the doctors decided to have another test done this week, in hopes of confirming that my levels were back to normal. Today, my worst fears came to life when they told me that lab results showed severe hypothyroidism. On a regular basis, a person's TSH level (don't ask me what they means) ranges between .34 and 5.6. Currently, mine are at 15. As a result, I have been recommended for REFRAD (release from active duty).
As previously stated, I have felt a strong conviction to go on another deployment and I believe I have been following God's will for my life up to this point. However, unless the highest ranking Army medical officer at Fort Dix gives me a waiver to deploy, I will be released from active duty and sent home to recover and get my body back to normal. The only problem is, my body probably won't ever be back to normal! Sure my levels might begin to normalize, but the chances of having an extended period of time with normal levels is highly unlikely, especially when participating in such intensive combat training (which, by the way, I've been able to complete without any problem!).
Although I firmly believe my life is always in God's hands, up to this point I've done pretty much all I can do and will await the final decision. I will continue to keep everyone abreast of the situation. Please just pray for peace, comfort and strength, regardless of the outcome. God is great and so is his will. All I can do now is conform to it.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorialized On This Day

Since joining the Army, I have had the misfortune of losing some of fellow Soldiers. On days like today it is very difficult to come to grips with the fact that my life has been spared in war, while others were not. This is not to say that they did anything wrong, or that I did anything right; rather, it is merely a fact of war. Some of us make it back home and some do not, and there is no escaping this reality.
Specialist Deangelo Snow and I first met in the Summer of 2009. He was a Soldier fresh out of mechanic school and came to my platoon with a willing heart to learn everything he could about his new job. Not long after he showed up, I moved jobs and became the Executive Officer for our Squadron's Headquarters Troop. Oddly enough, only a few months later, Deangelo was reassigned to my Troop as a member of the Command Group's Personal Security Detail (PSD). He exchanged his mechanic tools for a 240B machine gun and became a gunner. On September 17th of last year, his vehicle was hit by a rocket propelled grenade and he died of shrapnel wounds.
Roughly around the same time that SPC Snow came to my platoon, another young Soldier named Specialist David Hess showed up with an eagerness to serve his country. And just like Deangelo, David was reassigned to the PSD platoon as a driver. On October 10th, he and Staff Sergeant David Weigle, the PSD platoon sergeant, were driving in the lead vehicle of a convoy that hit a pressure plate IED in the road. Both SSG Weigle and SPC Hess died instantly.
Each year on this day, many of us serving in uniform are inundated by civilians we come into contact with, honoring us for our service to this great country. However, I cannot shake the fact that we should not be thanked today. Those of us who were fortunate enough to make it back from war are honored on Veteran's Day. Today is reserved for the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice and gave their lives in service to our country. Memorial Day must remain their day, not ours.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

For those of you who don't already know, in 2009 I was diagnosed with a somewhat rare thyroid disease. While most people with an irregular thyroid have either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, I unfortunately have both. It has been described to me as a chemical roller coaster that takes place in my body, where at one point my thyroid releases all the chemicals, while at others it won't release any at all. Despite the initial incident that led to my diagnosis (blacking out as I was climbing to the top of a twenty-foot rope), I haven't had any serious health issues. I've been taking a small dosage of medicine when in the hypothyroid stage and that's about it. It's honestly more of a nuisance than anything.
I am bringing this up today because I found out that if my thyroid levels are not normal, I will be deemed non-deployable. While this might be great news for some, I cannot shake the conviction I have felt to deploy again. Ever since leaving active duty with the 101st Airborne last year, at the same time my brothers-in-arms were heading to Afghanistan, I have felt a call to go again. However, this might not be possible if my thyroid is acting up again.
At this time, I'd like to ask all of you who read this to please pray for God's will to be done in the process. If I've done anything, it's follow what I believe to be His will for my life at this point. It tears me up inside to think that I'm going to leave my family for such a long time. I want so badly to be home with my wife and daughter, being the husband and father that I so desperately want to be. However, I also feel compelled to follow His will, regardless of what it may mean for my family. Christ has called us to love Him above all and follow Him, no matter the cost. I truly feel I am doing this by serving my country in war again. However, much like God called Abram to sacrifice his only son - and then rewarded him with a great nation of descendants for his willingness to do so - maybe I have accomplished all he set out for me to do, to be willing to go again. If that is all he wanted me to do, then I guess my reward is being united with my family again, for good.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fort Dixin' It

Throughout my time preparing for this deployment, I have been to Fort Dix, NJ two separate times. The first I was up here for about 10 days and didn't really do anything productive. This time, I've only been up here for two days and still haven't done much. Now, I'm not saying that I come up here and just sit around doing nothing. Think of my time up here like going to the grocery store with a specific list; however, you walk through EVERY aisle, picking up stuff that's not on your list because you know at some point you might need that particular item. Sure, you might be able to go back to the store and get those items again, but you're at the store now, so why not get them?
The unfortunate thing about being up here is that there are over a hundred people needing to do the same thing, but they don't have the capacity to serve everyone at the same time, so they come up with menial classes or training for half the group to do just to keep them occupied while the other half is doing the important stuff. It's annoying, and at times insulting, but the truth is you never know when you might need the information. The real question is whether or not we'll be able to remember what we were taught when it counts!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Branch Qualified

Well, today I am officially a Civil Affairs Officer. We finished up the culmination exercise (CULEX) on Sunday and spent the past two days tying up some loose ends before our graduation ceremony this morning. The past month has consisted of a lot of long days, filled with written examinations and practical exercises, all designed to provide us with the tools and resources needed to make an impact throughout our area of operations.
As I stated in the last post, there have been several phases of this process and I am now on to the last phase before deploying to Afghanistan. Tomorrow morning, 15 of us will make the long trek back up to Ft. Dix, NJ, where we'll continue to hone our warrior skills.
Leaving Ft. Bragg is kind of bitter-sweet because I know that I'm about to leave for a long time, but it also means that I am one step closer to be done with this whole experience. I take comfort in knowing that the good Lord will provide and protect me and my family throughout these difficult times. I want to serve my country; but more importantly, I want to serve my family and my God. Hopefully, by doing the former I am also doing the latter two.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'm Back!!!

Well, if any of you remember why I started this blog roughly three years ago, that main reason I've decided to pick back up with this is because I'm going on another deployment.
Back in 2008, I thought it would be a great idea to have a place to post my thoughts and experiences during my tour to Iraq. Despite being released from active duty last fall, the Reserve unit that I got assigned to in Knoxville, the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, got tapped for a deployment to Afghanistan. Since February, I've been intermittently preparing for this deployment, spending a week at Ft Jackson, SC, a week back in Knoxville, and 10 days at Ft Dix, NJ.
Currently, I'm at Ft Bragg, NC, going through the Civil Affairs Qualification Course (CAQC). Upon completion on 18 May, I will officially be a Civil Affairs Officer. The best way to explain what a CA officer does is I am a liaison between the military leadership in a particular area of operations and the local tribes and clans that live within the area. I also coordinate with other government agencies (OGAs), international governmental organizations (IGOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). However, my favorite description of what we do comes from one of my Non-commissioned officers (NCOs), who said we're like the Peace Corps...with guns!
After completing the CAQC, I will report back to Ft Dix for another few weeks of pre-deployment training. Then, I'm off to Afghanistan.
Hopefully I'll be able to update this blog about as frequently as I did the last time, providing my take on life in a combat theater. Not sure what the good Lord has in store for me, but I'll do my best to keep you posted.
It's good to be back....sort of.