29 April 2008

Welcome Back

I just got word that the last of the Captain Mafia has returned from theater. After a similarly grueling long travel trip, Kevin, Brendan and Tom are now safely in the US and will go through the same 4 day out-processing ordeal that the rest of us went through. This may sound slightly silly, but I'm a lot more relaxed knowing that they are safe. I missed them.

When the regular Army deploys, the unit tends to hold that vigilant watch until everyone is home safe. Because this deployment was more like a smattering of individuals, the strength of the team cohesion resembled watery paste rather than the typical super glue found normally in the Army. This doesn't mean that we didn't create some close bonds over there. You couldn't help but get to know the people you worked, ate and shared a cramped trailer with on a daily basis. They became your adhoc family and confidants when the people back in the real world weren't there to share the in the enlightening experience we were going through. Who else could you share humorous stories of dodging rockets over a crappy meal of curried something in the mess hall? I could get all cliché about the strong bonds you create during a deployment, but I find myself reluctantly holding onto my hatred I developed during my stint over there. Besides, I've already cashed in some man-points for admitting I missed those guys, so I'll stop while I can.

So, welcome home fellas. Drink your 40’s and celebrate your freedom.

"I wonder if Girl Scout cookies go with 40's of malt liquor?"

18 April 2008


Since I am homeless, I am staying with Alissa at her "aparment-o-animals". Now, let me start off by saying that I am in fact allergic to both cats and dogs. I love my girlfriend, but I think I love breathing a little more. Thank goodness for Claritin-D, for without it I'd be a weezing, rashy mess. When I left, she had one long haired cat (we'll call her mellow cat for now) that was just getting use to the river of snot that would drip out of my nose when I bent over to pet the furry critter. When I came home for my mid-tour leave from Iraq, her kitten family grew by one (and we'll call him fat cat) who was spoiled rotten.

Imagine my surprise when I got a phone call a few months back that said that she got a puppy. At first, the guys in my "office" thought it was great that she was thinking of my Asian heritage and was preparing a Korean feast for when I got home. When I informed them that I didn't eat dog meat and that I was allergic to dogs, they asked me if my girlfriend hated me.

The puppy (we'll call her appetizer) needs to be potty trained and torments the hell out of the other two cats who had reign of the apartment before the puppy was introduced, but overall the puppy is a good dog and her "cuteness" attracts a lot of attention. She resembles a small child in terms of the amount of attention it requires and you have to plan your whole day around taking care of it, which is something I'm not a stranger to since I grew up with a dog (and cats). It's just that I wasn't mentally prepared to take care of an untrained puppy when I returned from Iraq and it is taking some time to get adjusted to. Lucky for her that I don't follow my Asian roots that closely or else we'd be having some kay-go-gee for dinner.


“I wasn’t born here, but I got here as soon as I could!”

That’s a bumper sticker I use to see all the time while wasting many hours of my life sitting in Dallas traffic. Originally I was bothered by the exorbitant amount of pride this state had in itself, but now I’d gladly put this sticker on the back of my truck declaring my giddiness to be back in the Lone Star State.

It has taken me a few days to get readjusted to civilian life. As I sit here, unshaven, in my non-issued shorts and T-shirt, laptop resting on my legs, my fungus covered feet (thank you Iraq) propped up on the coffee table of Alissa’s apartment, watching TV with commercials, I remember that I use to take this all for granted. Let me say that I am now relishing in all of the little freedoms that I’ve lacked in the last year.

I spent the weekend at my parent’s house in Gatesville. It was great to see them and I’m glad that I didn’t have to battle through the hype of a large welcome home party at their hands. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a get together with friends and family to celebrate my return, but I think its going to be a while before I feel like commemorating my arrival back in the states with food, alcohol, music and people. I still hate most people, but I think that will change the longer I don’t have to lug around body armor or wear combat boots.

I’m trudging through all the things that I need to do now that I’m back. Uncle Sam still has a hold of me for a while before I return to work at my civilian job and I intend to use that time to do some important things, like finding a place to live, getting my stuff out of storage, getting rid of all my Army stuff, and consuming as much Blue Bell ice cream that my body can retain. Since I don’t have to keep myself in “army shape” any longer, I’m contemplating a new career in sumo wrestling. Now if I can only get sponsored by Papa John and Jason’s Deli...

My journey to Iraq and back is over and I hope that the blog has helped those friends, families and strangers who were interested to stay informed of the happenings of little ol’ me. Thank you for everyone who supported me and the rest of the gang with comments, letters, packages and prayers. I didn’t get to write as much as I would have liked to, but it’s not like I want to go back to make up for my lack of blogging. There were issues that I couldn’t write about, and there were issues that I just plain didn’t want to write about, but all of them are still creeping and crawling in my head searching for a stream of coherent words that might lone day describe them. They say hindsight is 20/20, so stop by now and then to see what babble I've jotted down. Maybe as time rolls on I’ll try to reflect on my Iraq experiences with a little more clarity than I am now in my current Ben and Jerry’s induced comma.

To all those who are still in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or anywhere else that body armor and foot fungus is present, please be safe, hurry home, and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

Me and the parental unit's at their house

07 April 2008


Kansas. I never thought I’d see her rolling hills or lack of citizens with teeth again, but here I am, freezing my rear off on the tundra of scrub brush and cattle. Everyone is in a tizzy here as it appears that the state has a team in the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m following it much like I follow NASCAR, which is, not at all. There is so much of the current life here that I don't know that I'm not getting too wrapped up in who is going to win a basketball game.

I’m here at Fort Riley (again) to go through the final steps of me getting out of the Army (again). It will take 4 days of my life to shed the chains and so far the powers that be have treated us good by not making us do silly things to waste our time. Alissa made the drive up from Texas in my truck to welcome me back and it is great to see her (and my truck).

I consider myself lucky to have left when I did. The news has shown that things aren’t much better in the IZ and we have reports through our internal channels that we had some folks seriously hurt just the other day at my old FOB. It’s not a good situation there and I wish I could send our plane back to pick up all of my compadres immediately. It sucks to know that I am here and they are not, but I know that they will be home soon, and that helps me let the reality of being home set in a little easier.

06 April 2008

Chasing the Sun

After spending almost a week in purgatory and suffering through countless delays we finally departed Kuwait Sunday afternoon and began our trip home. We are crowded into a DC-10 with two other units which is much different than the almost empty plane we took over here. While we would all prefer the room to spread out, it doesn’t matter, just as long as it gets us home.

Flying west we are chasing the sun. The light coming in from under the rounded window shades is evidence that we are still hanging onto daylight even when it is usually dark by this hour. Sliding the shades open reveal a world below us much different from the bleached and shapeless terrain of the Middle East. Pastures and farms of Germany are a spectacular shade of green. I’m unsure if the green is so vibrant due to the onset of spring or if it’s because my eyes are not use to this hue in the color spectrum. It is nice to look at.

It’s starting to set in a little, that is, the feeling that I’m going home. I’m unsure if I was subconsciously not pondering my homecoming during my stay in Kuwait because I was still in the Middle East, or if it was because being surrounded by people with guns and uniforms didn’t have that “homey” feeling. Regardless, I began my trip home around 6pm on Saturday when we loaded up our bags and made our way from Camp Virginia to our first of many stops home. Customs was difficult because of all the stuff that the Army decided to issue us, they neglected to give us octopus arms to carry the 4 dufflebags, rucksack, backpacks and team boxes for a few of us. None of us were going to let this stop us from getting out of there, so we muscled through it so we could wait another half day in isolation while they prepared the plane for us.

It’s almost dark now as we leave Germany to jump the “pond”. We’ll be in the US soon. Getting out and kissing the ground might very Pope-like, but if I just might do that if I’m not too tired.

04 April 2008


Apparently, Harley Davidson is branching out from making their world renowned motorcycles and delving into the generator market for lightsets in Kuwait. They have installed a few here at Camp Virginia. While the wheeled contraptions lack the signature chrome or the orange blazing eagle that we've come to signify with Harley's, the generators do posses the patented exhaust that make the Harley brand motorcycle so popular. It gives one the impression of sleeping at a biker-rally in say someplace sandy, like Daytona, minus the bikini clad women.

So, waiting in Kuwait is not very fun. Before I go down this tirade, let me start by saying that yes, I am happy not to be in Iraq anymore. Yes, I am lucky that no one is shooting mortars at me. Yes, I'm grateful that I'll be going home soon. No, I have not forgot my friends who are still sitting in the IZ waiting for their time to be up to get out of there. With that said, Kuwait still isn't very fun. Due to the long wait for an available aircraft, we have come to regard this place as pseudo purgatory. It does not personify the frustrating and sometimes dangerous environment of Iraq, but it also does not have the freedoms of being in the US. We're stuck in the middle without much to do but think about how we can make the next hour go by faster. We have depleted all the distractions we brought with us; all the movies watched, all the books read and all the bags repacked (twice). Yes, we recognize that we ought to just enjoy this time of relaxation, but it wears on us when we know that the only thing standing between us and our individual homes are the multiple hours that make up the next few days. It also gives you too much time to think and to anticipate what the real world is going to be like. Sure, we all have our perceptions of how it's going to be after 16 months of being away from home, but the reality is that things will be very different. Friends have changed, family has changed, even the roads that were under construction when you left have changed. I'm sure all of us deployed have changed as well, although our adjustments are less noticeable to each other than they will be to the people we are close to back home. Without a job or rocket attack to preoccupy our minds, some of us have diverted our thoughts on what we'll do in the "real world" when our Uncle Sam releases us from duty. So we wait with anticipation, hoping for the best but preparing ourselves for the worse, and to quote Tom Petty, "Waiting is the hardest part."

On a different note, I've run into some of the old IRR folks that got called up with me at Ft. Benning back in January of 2007 but didn't deploy with me to Iraq. Most of them are stationed here in Kuwait to run security for convoys and I have seen them in the chow hall now and then after they've returned from a mission. Unfortunately I will be going home before them, but that's only because they didn't arrive in country until June 07 and will leave in May 08. It appears that Uncle Sam is going to get the full 545 days out of them for their activation.

I've been slacking in the picture taking department lately, but I hope to rectify that today although there really isn't much to see except tents and desert...lots and lots of desert.

01 April 2008


It is official. I am no longer in Iraq (and it's not an April Fool's joke either). After what was probably the worst C-130 flight in history, our group made it safely to Kuwait the other night. We are now in a staging area waiting for a scheduled plane to take us home.

The computer access at the basecamp so distant from the battle is slow at best, but it does allow me to send a note here or there to the folks back home to tell them that I am still alive. Being out of the IZ is a big relief. Although I'm still in the Middle East, I'm not in Iraq, and that is a good thing.

Not much to do here for the next few days but wait, which is one game that I think I have earned the right to go pro. Seeing as how I've waited almost a year to get home, a few more days shouldn't matter much. For now, I'll just try to catch up on some much needed sleep and get myself ready to re-integrate into the real world.

It's hard to relax knowing that there are still folks I know back in Baghdad at a time where things aren't the best. It would be easier to transition my mind to being a civilian again if I knew that the entire crew was safely out of there. They don't have long to go, but my thoughts are with them. Too bad my thoughts can't shoot down rockets.