July 15, 2009

WORLD'S WORST IDEA

I will try to write this post without using Rachel Lucas-type exclamations like "Jesus tapdancing on a cracker" and such.

But it will be rough.

The Pentagon says it won't ban smoking by troops in war zones despite a  recent study recommending a tobacco-free military.

Really?

I mean, do I have to do any more other than quote the first line of that article?  Probably not, but here goes.

These are grown men and women whose only control over their own lives is the few minutes' enjoyment they might get from a cigarette.  How dare you even consider taking that away from them?  My own husband, decidedly not a smoker, enjoys a cigar or two downrange.  It's stress relief.  It's camaraderie.  It's the one thing they have.  You took their beer and now you want to take their smokes too?  Are you insane?

I don't care if it's bad for you; free adults get to make choices that are bad for them.  Period.

Repealing cigarettes would clear out the Army faster than repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell.

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July 14, 2009

THIRD TIME IS THE BEST

It was deja vu all over again.

We just did this, just a year ago.  So I forgot everything.  I forgot to stock up on soap and baby wipes for him.  I thought I had already done it.  Turns out that was last year.

We just kept remarking that it didn't seem possible to already be saying goodbye again.

My husband was sad today, far sadder than the last two times.  I think the last two times, he was overwhelmed with stress: his first time, obviously, it was the first time; the second time because he was deploying on his own and his unit made no preparations for him whatsoever.  The plan was to drop him in country and have him hitchhike his own way to his gaining unit.  He was a basketcase.

But this time, this time they departed on the dot of when they said they would.  He was going with the most squared-away team possible.  He had no worries...other than leaving his wife, his maybe-baby, and his pup.

He wanted to mow the back yard before he left.  Really, I couldn't have cared less.  If it didn't get done, I'd bribe someone else to do it.  Not a big deal.  But he insisted.  He made a huge deal of it.  It had to get done, he had to do this for me.  It was his husbandly duty.

It was sweet.

He was mushy today.  He's rarely mushy.

And watching him say goodbye to the dog was torture.  He misses that creature so much when he's gone.  I snapped this photo about a month ago of them: him doing push-ups and Charlie thinking it's a game that needs toys.



If I could let him take the dog, I would.

But he may not need that this time.  This time he is deploying with friends.  If I had to deploy, I'd love to take three of my closest friends with me.  It might not be so bad.

I told them all to stay safe...and to try to have a little fun too.

I told him I hope when he comes home, I plunk a baby into his arms.  We'll see where we stand on that tomorrow morning.

Thus starts deployment three.

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OBLIQUELY RUN, BUT PLEASE STAY SAFE

As I post each time...

A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.

by John Donne

AS virtuous men pass mildly away, 
    And whisper to their souls to go, 
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    "Now his breath goes," and some say, "No."                     

So let us melt, and make no noise,                                       
    No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
'Twere profanation of our joys 
    To tell the laity our love. 

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant ;                              
But trepidation of the spheres, 
    Though greater far, is innocent. 

Dull sublunary lovers' love 
    —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit 
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove                                    
    The thing which elemented it. 

But we by a love so much refined,
    That ourselves know not what it is, 
Inter-assurèd of the mind, 
    Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.                           

Our two souls therefore, which are one, 
    Though I must go, endure not yet 
A breach, but an expansion, 
    Like gold to aery thinness beat. 

If they be two, they are two so                                         
    As stiff twin compasses are two ; 
Thy soul, the fix'd foot, makes no show 
    To move, but doth, if th' other do. 

And though it in the centre sit, 
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,                                
It leans, and hearkens after it, 
    And grows erect, as that comes home. 

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
    Like th' other foot, obliquely run ;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,                                   
    And makes me end where I begun. 

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NOT ENOUGH MINUTES TO GO

Today feels like this. (Well, except for the dying in the end, heh.)
But you keep checking your watch, noting aloud how much time you have left.
My husband keeps changing the words to this song and making me laugh.

"Well, we're cursing at Quiznos and I'm mowing the yard, with X more hours to go..."

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July 07, 2009

THEY ARE A TEAM

I write about my husband's team on Facebook often, but rarely here.  For a little while now, I have been taking them hot lunch once a week: enchiladas, manicotti, meatloaf, etc.  Today I took them their last lunch, complete with a cake for all the fellas who will be deployed over their birthdays, starting with my husband.

This branch of the Army is unique in a sense, in that the whole thing revolves around four-man teams.  My husband goes on training missions with them, shares an office with them, does PT with them, eats breakfast with them, and will deploy with only them.  In short, they have grown very tight.  And while my husband had the same type of closeness with his tank crew back when he was in Armor, it's just somehow a little different.

The average age of the team is 27.  They have spent a combined total of 10 years in combat.  They have more tattoos than I'm able to count.

They've grown so tight that it annoys the other teams.  They're so tight that their commander has split them up on occasion because it looks bad that they shoot better, run faster, lift more, and just click better than anyone else.

They truly are a team.  I am so grateful they have each other.  I thank heavens my husband ended up with these three outstanding men.

And I will miss taking them lunch.

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July 01, 2009

"MORE FAIR" REVISITED

This is a rant I probably oughtn't make...

Remember the post I wrote about how the Army had to make my husband's upcoming deployment "more fair"?  The last one was 7 mos so this one had to be 9 mos because they were both supposed to be 8 mos.  We have to even it all up so it's fair to everyone.

The way it works in my husband's branch is that four-man teams deploy to a variety of places.  Of the teams in his company, two of them are going to Afghanistan and the other teams are going to various other Middle Eastern countries (not Iraq).

It turns out that the teams going to other countries have had an unforeseen complication.  So they have to wait it out.  One team is estimated to be gone by August, another may hem and haw until October.  So those teams won't deploy in two weeksish when my husband does.  But apparently everyone's still slated to come home at the same time.

The two Afghanistan teams will therefore be the only people deploying for nine months!

More fair?  More FAIR?  You're kidding me, right?

The teams going to the dangerous country will be gone longer and paid much much less.

I'm not good at this branch.  I think I need out of it before I hurt someone.

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June 19, 2009

NEW AFGHAN STRATEGY (NOT A KNITTING POST)

Via CaliValleyGirl a few weeks ago when I first started this post:  New U.S. Afghan strategy will cost billions, take years

I'm sorry, but I've just never bought into the idea that Afghanistan is the "good war."  My husband has actually had someone say to him that at least his upcoming deployment is to Afghanistan, which serves a purpose and has meaning, unlike Iraq.  I wholeheartedly reject that idea.  I also disagree vehemently with Pres Obama when he said, "Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice..."  As Neal Boortz said recently, all wars are a choice.  None of the 9/11 hijackers came from Afghanistan, so please explain to me how Afghanistan wasn't a choice that was made.

I've been thinking about Afghanistan a lot lately, and I have a hard time feeling good about my husband going there.  Frankly, I am not convinced that country deserves his effort.

Ralph Peters:

[Petraeus] doesn't seem to grasp that, while al Qaeda was a foreign and ultimately unwanted presence in Iraq, the Taliban's the home team in Afghanistan. Afghan tribesmen just don't share our interests. And Iraq's a state. Afghanistan's an accident.

We'd need hundreds of thousands of troops and decades of commitment to attempt to nation-build where there's no nation to build.

Interestingly enough, my husband said the exact same thing this morning when I said I wanted to work on my Afghanistan post.  Iraq had a history of being governed; Afghanistan doesn't.  So what is our goal?

This very thing was discussed on the final panel at the Milblogs Conference this year.  Bill Roggio, Andrew Exum, and Bill Nagle all kinda shrugged their shoulders and expressed an inability to decipher what the Obama administration's end goal is in Afghanistan.  Even if you disagree with the shifting goals in Iraq, at least most people can articulate what they were: finding WMDs, bringing democracy, leaving Iraq with some sort of intact system of government.  Can the layman come up with any proposed goal in Afghanistan?  I can't, other than, um, kill al Qaeda?

And maybe that in itself is the goal.  It is according to Ralph Peters:

Getting it right in Afghanistan -- and across the frontier in Pakistan -- means digging fewer wells and forcing our enemies to dig more graves.

But when does it end?  Americans squawked that we had no "exit strategy" in Iraq, but holy cow, what is the exit strategy for a war of attrition?  Then you're in GEN LeMay territory: "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting."  Do we stay in Afghanistan until every terrorist is dead?  I don't think that is really a true goal, certainly not an attainable one.

And I don't even think that is the Obama goal, otherwise he would not be doing this:

President Barack Obama's choice to take charge of the war in Afghanistan Tuesday called "significant growth" of the Afghan army and national police the key to his strategy, but the annual cost of building and maintaining the existing Afghan force is more than four times larger than the entire Afghan economy.
[...]
"We are building an army they will never be able to afford," a senior U.S. military official told McClatchy.

I am by no means smart about these things.  But it seems to me that we Americans are being naive about Afghanistan, even more naive than we were in Iraq.

This Michael Scheuer excerpt (via Amritas) rings true and worries me:

At this point we again run into one of those quaint and always-wrong assumptions that the West operates on when it intervenes in a Muslim country. Whether in Washington, London, or The Hague, the most basic assumption of nation-building is that if poor, illiterate, unhealthy Muslims are given potable water, schooling, prenatal care, and voting booths, they will abandon their faith, love Israel, demand visits by Saiman Rushdie, and encourage their daughters to be feminist with a moral sense alien to most of the Islamic world--that is, they will try to become Europeans.

This, of course, has never occurred in the wake of a Western intervention in a Muslim country. Islam invariably becomes more, not less, important to the inhabitants of an invaded Muslim country, and while improvements in water, disease resistance, and schoolbooks are appreciated, they are not religiously transforming. We simply end up with Muslims who are better educated, healthier, and more militantly Islamic. This has happened in countries (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and several of the Balkan states) and in prison camps; in Guantanamo Bay, for example, we are building a truly dedicated and virulently anti-U.S. mujahedin battalion, the members of which will have the best-cared-for teeth in the Islamic world. But through it all, U.S. and Western leaders, the UN, and untold numbers of NGO spokespersons continue to sell shopworn lies to Western electorates-that nation-building will yield secularists who will desire only to live in peace with their Western conquerors.

I think we project too much onto a people and culture we simply cannot grok.  Our American mantra that all men desire to be free may just not apply.  (Read The Places In Between if you want to be horrified by the Afghan midset.)  And eight years into this clash, we still are making monumental and basic mistakes, even at the highest levels: US envoy Holbrooke just made an enormous cultural faux-pas.  Afghanistan bloggers caught the gaff and flipped out; how is the "Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan under the Obama administration" making such mistakes while bloggers know better?  (To echo J.G. Thayer and my husband, please show us that "smart diplomacy" and distinguish yourself from yokel Bush whenever you're ready.)  How is it that my husband has arguments at work about the definitions of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, with the very people who are supposed to know the difference and carry it out?  How can "experts" still be so under-educated and naive about something that's been going on for eight years?

I am murky about what I should hope for in Afghanistan.  What are the benchmarks?  What does success look like?  What is my husband's role?

And how long will this take?

Steven den Beste a few days after 9/11: "The progress and spread of freedom worldwide will continue; this war won't end for centuries." [emphasis mine, because the enormity of that thought is horrifying]

I find the whole thing quite stressful, and I am not ready to send my husband to Afghanistan.  I personally thought Iraq was the battle of the long war I could get behind.  I am having a harder time working up the emotional investment this milspouse needs to send her husband off to fight.

I am not ready for my husband to join a new front in a war that won't end for centuries.

UPDATED:

I meant to add this originally and forgot.  I just wanted to put links to the blogs my husband's been reading that cover Afghanistan-related issues:

Registan.net
Ghosts of Alexander
Small Wars Journal
The Long War Journal

I probably need to start reading them too.

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June 05, 2009

MORE OVERSHARING

A bit more oversharing and more stuff that will make me look depressed.  And then I'll go back to working on my long Afghanistan post.

Yesterday morning, I remembered what deployment feels like.

My husband is again gone for training, his last week of it before he deploys.  And as I spent my fourth day without him, I remembered how bad it sucks.  I miss him too much this week, and it's a pain I had quickly forgotten after he returned in December.

I'm not really ready to let him leave again.

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May 25, 2009

MEMORIAL



On Saturday, we went to the local military museum and listened to a presentation given by Chester Biggs, a WWII POW of the Japanese.  The talk was very interesting, but I was disappointed that only a handful of people were there.  And the majority of the people in the room were his comrades.

You know who does not need to hear the story of a POW?  Other POWs.

At the end of his speech, after he had described four years in a POW camp as a PFC, someone asked him what he did after the war.  He said he reenlisted and then subsequently fought in Korea.  Later that night, my husband remarked that he was sure -- after hearing this apologetic man explain that he wasn't actually in WWII and had to learn about it later in history books -- that this man, a war prisoner, felt he hadn't done his fair share.

Mr. Biggs was one of the lucky ones to make it home...and allowed to collect his per diem of "$1 per day of imprisonment for failure to receive sufficient quantity and quality of food" under the War Claims Act.

Many of his comrades didn't make it home...

Today is a day to remember them.  And to realize that we need to take advantage of any opportunity we are afforded to gain perspective from someone like Mr. Biggs.

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May 07, 2009

CONSPIRACY

Oh my heavens, how come no one told me about the Army Combat Shirt?
Makes me wish we were still babymaking...

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April 28, 2009

NOT A CHILD

A great editorial by a soldier in Afghanistan:

In a column, Mr. Putney has again raised the debate about the sacrifice of America's "sons and daughters" in uniform. Some have argued that we must continue the fight to honor their memory "so that they have not died in vain." Others argue we must stop the wars to save soldiers from this fate. I think an essential understanding of what motivates those of us in uniform is missing in this debate.

We are not your sons and daughters, whom you must protect and defend. We are your sword and your shield. We are men and women who volunteer to place our lives on the line so you do not have to. We do not decide when or where we will be sent. We go. You are our advocates, not our parents.
[...]
I know my life is in the hands of others because I choose for it to be that way. I am not your daughter, a child who must be guided. I have made my choice and pledge my honor to it. I will thank you to remember that because we serve our nation, none of us dies in vain, regardless of the cause; end of debate.

(emphasis mine)

The "sons and daughters" argument has always bugged me too.

When I met my husband nearly ten years ago, he was still a teenager.  But he had more responsibility than any of the rest of us in college.  Stayed up until midnight watching TV?  You can skip class, but you can't skip PT.  At 19, he managed his life far better than most.  And by the time he returned from Iraq at 25, he was a full-fledged man, a man who had been responsible for the safety and lives of 15 other soldiers.

He is not, and never was, a child who needs protecting.  He doesn't need concerned citizens to treat him like a dupe or rube and decide what's best for him and where he should direct his energies.  He wants to direct them at the Middle East, and if you "bring him home," he will try to find another way to get there somehow.

He is your sword and your shield.  And he is a man.

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April 15, 2009

"MORE FAIR"

Army: UR doin it wrong

(My compliments to Chuck; I totally stole his joke.)

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April 07, 2009

WHEW

In addition to SpouseBUZZ Live and my husband having to work over the weekend, we were also mentally dealing with this: A Lot Can Change In 36 Hours.

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March 14, 2009

BROTHERS AT WAR

I have been out of my element this week, so I was grateful that Laughing Wolf called me last night to invite me to the opening of the movie Brothers At War.

When I saw this trailer two weeks ago, I groaned. I feared another Hollywood movie that made soldiers look like dupes and sadists. But when I saw that Soldiers' Angels was backing the movie, I told my husband that it had the seal of approval and that we ought to go see it.

We attended the premiere tonight with director Jake Rademacher, his brothers, and Gary Sinise. It was such a good movie...and I'm not just saying that because I want a non-anti-war movie to do well. It was laugh-out-loud funny in parts, sad in other parts, and above all it was real. Plus it avoided all the typical maudlin crap that most war movies have: the inner angst, the "we did not fight the enemy; we fought ourselves" voice-overs, or the sniveling soldiers who make me look like an emotional Rambo.

I can't recommend the movie enough.

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March 13, 2009

INSENSITIVE

I followed the heated discussion at SpouseBUZZ over the change in policy to allow the media to photograph our returning fallen at Dover.

Chuck Z found the first example of complete insensitivity.

I hope this is not a taste of boorishness to come.

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March 11, 2009

SHARING A ROOM

I have been surprised at how many people were shocked that I shared an ultrasound room. Is it because it's a military hospital? I've never tried to have a baby anywhere else. But there's always been more than one person in the room when I've been there for an ultrasound, just never someone so loud and obnoxious. None of you readers who had babies on other installations had to double-up on ultrasound rooms?

Oh, and I totally called it: I've already had two people tell me that yesterday's news was good. One was even excited about it. Wow.

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March 07, 2009

HE SURVIVED

The first thing my husband did was quote Raising Arizona with a big grin on his face: "When there was no crawdad to be found, we ate sand." "You ate sand?" I smiled back. "We ate SAND," he finished.

He told me was that SERE was so much worse than he ever imagined. I said that I had been crying and worrying about him all week. His response: "You definitely should have been."

The thing about SERE is that everyone is supposed to go in fresh. My husband can't tell me a lot what he went through without revealing the confidential parts of the course, but suffice it to say that the few things that he was allowed to tell me me were plain awful. And I know there are more things that he can't explain in mere words even if he could, things I will never be able to understand.

He said he came away from the training with so much respect for people like John McCain. My husband spent a few days as a simulated prisoner, and he said it was enough to make you wish you were dead. He said he cannot imagine how POWs survived for years on end in a real prison, with real guards and real solitary confinement and real torture.

One facet of the desperation they felt can be summed up by a story he told. During the evasion part, my husband was lucky enough to happen upon a snake. He killed it and then carried the dead snake with him until the next day when they could safely make a fire and eat it. But the saddest part was when he said that he was so miserable from the weather that he didn't even notice how starving he was. And he was starving enough that he lost more than 20 pounds in one week.

But he's been in a good mood since the moment I saw him grinning at me. I suppose liberation from such an ordeal must make you happy in so many ways.

Me, I had trouble falling asleep last night and woke up very early this morning, listening to him breathe -- and hack and cough, since his weakened condition has made him sicker than I've ever seen him -- and just being so thankful that he's home, and thankful that the whole thing was simulated.

All I could think about all week was how wives of real POWs could bear it. I couldn't bear one week of agony, knowing that somewhere out there my husband was being mistreated...by paid professionals who only mean to teach the soldiers valuable lessons. I don't know how ladies in the past woke up every morning knowing that their husbands were truly being tortured.

And his hands. His poor hands, destroyed from clawing his way through thorn bushes under a new moon in the pouring rain to evade the enemy. Every time I see them, it's a reminder of all he went through.

But he survived. He returned with honor. And I'm very proud of him.

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March 01, 2009

THIS IS TOO HARD

I don't know if I can take this. My heart hurts:

When I wrote the other day about bearing my burden while my husband is at SERE, I had no idea that the scales would tip towards him so quickly. He has begun his last week of the class, which means he's at the "practical application" point of survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. And my heart hurts so bad for him because it's been pouring rain. Just pouring. And they're forecasting snow for tomorrow.

I know my husband is a tough guy and that he'll figure out how to get through this week, but there is nothing that hurts me more than the thought of him suffering. I've sat here all weekend in my warm house with my electric blanket, and the sound of the unrelenting rain is just killing me.

It makes me cry to picture him trying to survive outside in this weather. It is a far heavier burden than anything happening to me.

The sound of that rain is just paralyzing me. It makes me sick. It makes me want to go find where is he is rescue him.

I can't stop worrying about him.

It's a different form of the agony of the unknown that we feel when we stand and wait.

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February 16, 2009

GONE AGAIN

I dropped my husband off for SERE school this morning. I was cold just sitting in the car for 30 minutes; I shudder to think how cold it will be for them outside during the escape and evade parts.

Yesterday, a friend asked me what in the heck SERE even is. There was a CNN Presents about it some years back. From the article:

What goes on at the school is three weeks of "stress inoculation" via a course the Army calls Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE. The school provides a realistic setting for soldiers to learn how to live off the land if they are cut off from friendly forces. Students also learn how to evade the enemy and escape if hunted down and finally how to resist if captured, imprisoned and tortured.
[...]
Much of the school's training is classified. But Chief Warrant Officer Mike Durant credits the training for helping him survive 10 days in captivity in 1993 when the Black Hawk helicopter he was piloting was shot down in Mogadishu, Somalia.
To prepare commandos who are at high risk of capture, the course includes sleep deprivation and food deprivation -- severe enough that, over the course of survival school, a student typically drops 15 pounds.

The article has photos of guys eating worms and being taken prisoner. The last photo breaks my heart.

I can hardly bear the thought of someone hurting my husband, even in training. This is going to be a long three weeks for my heart...and his poor body.

He got out of the car and loaded himself up with at least 50 lbs of gear. And as I looked at him, "three words went through my mind endlessly, repeating themselves like a broken record: 'You're so cool. You're so cool. You're so cool.'"

It was harder for me to let him go this morning than it was last year when he deployed.

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January 16, 2009

THE DEPLOYMENT IS OVER. LONG LIVE THE DEPLOYMENT!

I can't believe my husband has almost been home for a month.

I also can't believe that he will deploy again in about 25 weeks, and he came home with a training schedule last night showing that he will be gone for nine of those weeks. So much for dwell time. We now have this ridiculous calendar which is an overlay of his training and my fertility.

Also, I've been chuckling that my husband's branch is supposed to alternate between a combat deployment and a non-combat one. His combat one was Iraq; his upcoming non-combat one is being attached to the Navy SEALs in Afghanistan. Cuz that makes total sense.

But now we can't stop saying it in that voice. You know the one I mean.

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