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.