April 30, 2004


I got a postcard from Nerdstar today, in response to the birthday card I sent her a while back. It's amazing how the blogosphere can connect two people who would've never met and bring them together to support each other. That makes one letter from an acquaintence soldier and zero from my "best friend" from back home. Perspective.

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Mail takes about two weeks to and from Iraq. Apparently email takes three days. Just this morning I got an email that my husband sent me on Tuesday. Weird.

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April 27, 2004


I know there's some expression about things getting darkest right before dawn or something like that, but I can't put my finger on it right now. Nonetheless, it fits me today: I've had two really great conversations today and I feel like the friend situation here is really looking up. It was a tide-turning day.

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April 26, 2004


Hey, do you collect anything? I collect lots of stuff. Not nice things like china patterns, but real dorky collections. Touristy magnets. Bottle caps. Matchbooks. Buttons. Tourist t-shirts from Las Vegas. Weird stuff. What do you collect?

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April 23, 2004


Yesterday was a rough day for my friends here. The two of them work in the Quartermaster: they tag and sort soldiers' uniforms and TA50 to be laundered. Yesterday PFC Ludlam's laundry came in. My two friends tearfully and carefully tagged every piece of clothing PFC Ludlam had here in Germany, to make absolutely certain that all of it comes back to them clean so it can be shipped home to his family. Their hearts were breaking as they did this, as mine did when I heard the story.

I know some of my readers know PFC Ludlam's family. They can be assured that my two friends are doing everything they can to respect his belongings and make sure they make it home.

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April 21, 2004


My students had to write a short reaction to an article on anti-militarism in universities. The responses varied, as they would vary in any cross-section of the public, but does it seem like more than a coincidence that the only student to use the phrases "imperialistic government", "ducking the texas national guard", and "barbarian invaders" is the civilian who's already studied at a university in the US? I refrained from writing snide comments on his paper even though I could have torn his argument to shreds, and he still got the same grade as everyone else. But I certainly noticed the difference in tone.

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April 19, 2004


After reading this new Amritas post, I just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank Marc Miyake for being such a good friend. Sunday in an email I mentioned that I was feeling rather down, and he called me to make sure I was doing OK. Some people I have known for years have not called or emailed me once since my husband left for Iraq, yet a virtual stranger loses sleep at night worrying about me. Not only is he insanely smart (the dude taught himself Japanese), but he's also extremely caring and a wonderful friend.

(And he'll probably kill me for broadcasting this...)

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I had a wonderful dream last night: somehow we spouses were taken to Iraq to visit our soldiers. It seemed more like a 10 minute prison visit than R&R -- dozens of couples standing around together just hugging and smiling -- but I was there with my arms tight around him laughing and talking. It was just about time to leave when my alarm went off, and I tried desperately to go back to sleep so I could see him one more time. But at least I didn't have to say goodbye again.

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April 16, 2004


I just got a phone call from a soldier who bet another soldier $20 that there was a grammar error in the NCO Creed. They called me to be the judge. And they're not even my students; they're soldiers in other classes who know I work here.

Have I mentioned how much I love my job?

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My friend wrote me an email and echoed Erik's sentiments in the comments below; her father has Parkinson's, so stem cell research is close to her heart the way national security is to mine. But I did have a quick thought.

Den Beste is not personally affected by the war as a software engineer. Lileks has little chance of seeing an attack near Jasperwood. Amritas doesn't have any friends or family in the military. But all of these men, and countless other bloggers, rate the war on terror as the highest on their list. I've heard that numerous bloggers shifted hard to the Right after 9/11 only based on terrorism. None of their other views have changed, but for these folks -- most of whom don't have a husband who's sitting outside Najaf as we speak -- the war on terror trumps all other hands.

Yes, I have big issues with the current restrictions on stem cell research because I'd really like to see our medical technology move forward. But how can we as a country continue to move forward when an entire section of the globe is stuck in the fifteenth century and determined to convert us to their antediluvian ways? If we did ignore the Middle East and focused instead on new research, we might miss the fact that they were doing research of their own, that which leads them to nukes. A radical Muslim with a nuclear weapon is the most frightening thing I've ever imagined in my life, and I believe this war on terror is aimed at just that fear.

I'd love to focus more on the US and her internal problems. But to me right now that seems like trying to study for a test while someone keeps hitting you with spitwads. Sooner or later you're going to have to go over and deal with the nuisance before he graduates to a slingshot, and studying will have to wait until you can concentrate. I believe the terrorists will never give up or get bored or look for ways to improve their own health care system, so until their threat is abolished we must remain diligent.

That's not just the military wife in me talking.

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April 15, 2004


Sometimes the simplest things can teach us the biggest lessons.

I had an extremely informative IM chat with an old friend this evening. She and I had never talked politics, but the phrase "I like Kerry" came up, so I decided to gently explore. What I found out was remarkable in its simplicity.

I'm surrounded by the military community, a segment of the population that intimately feels the burden of the war on terror. I spend all my free time reading blogs about terrorism, Iraq, or US foreign policy. I completely take it for granted that these are pressing issues that deserve immediate attention and steadfast determination.

Others don't.

When you're a regular 26 year old, working a good job in the Midwest, terrorism couldn't be further from your mind. The things that matter to you are often the more domestic social issues. Not the socialist junk like health care -- you've got good benefits -- but the role of a conservative government with respect to 21st century social issues.

I agree with my friend that I am concerned about the marriage amendment. I agree that I prefer less government control on issues like abortion. I agree that stem cell research is high on my list of beef with Republicans. As I listened to her reasons why she currently intends to vote Kerry over Bush, I could relate.

Except there's a war on.

I explained my view to her that, although the war affects me personally as a military wife, it also affects all of us as Americans. When there are radical Muslims out there who have sworn to kill Americans by any means necessary, all else must come secondary, in my opinion. "Stem cells and abortions won't matter when we're all anthraxed," I said. And she thoughtfully listened to me and said that I had given her important things to digest.

I hope we both learned a little from our exchange tonight; I certainly did. I realized that there are voters out there who don't see the war on terror as the pivotal issue; there are some people who don't care one way or the other whether the UN is with us in Iraq, because Iraq is not their top priority. She doesn't prefer Kerry because he's multilateral; she prefers him because his party represents certain social issues that she thinks are important. I can respect that. I don't even know how to counter it, because I agree with all of the things she said.

But I'd still like her to entertain the idea that terrorism, if left unchecked, could someday become a pressing issue in her own life in the Midwest.


See above.

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April 11, 2004


The husband called this morning. He said that they had been talking about R&R before all the Fallujah stuff started. As the Platoon Leader, he had to rank his soldiers by who he thinks deserves R&R the most. He put himself at the bottom of the list.

I'm so proud of him.

Since most of his guys were also nine months in Kosovo last year, he thinks they all deserve it more than he does. He also said he's not sure how big of an effect this list will have anyway, since they've stopped all talk of R&R since Fallujah. I told him I was impressed by his integrity and that we'd take R&R if we could but I'll be proud of him if we can't.

I'm so lucky to be married to such a selfless soldier.

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April 09, 2004


No word from my husband, but I can assume he won't be calling for a while. His best friend emailed me to say that my husband signed for a lemon tank, so he was working as hard as he could to replace the broken track before they left. Best friend said he was sent to the email specifically by my husband to write me and tell me he loves me.

A secondhand love letter (riddled with soldier swear words) is better than nothing at all...

Best friend concluded with

But trust me...you have nothing to worry about...he's going to do a mission that you can be very proud of. It's a big one.


Spoke too soon; the husband just called. Ten minutes sure goes fast.

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April 08, 2004


Offical word came through this evening that my husband is in fact moving closer to the heat. I haven't heard from him personally, but he will be leaving sometime soon to move to an area "where he's needed". This move could be for anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months; my only hope is that wherever he goes, he's safe. And that maybe he gets to contact me somehow. As I joked with my father-in-law tonight, our communication system sure can't get any worse! Maybe his moving will have some advantages.

Hell, I can hope so, right?

I can't say I'm not worried -- he's my best friend and my whole life -- but all I can do is remind myself that he's smart and prepared. That thought gives me the confidence and fortitude I need to accept his new mission.

And if there's something I've learned from life, it's that there's always someone who has it worse.

Time to listen to I Won't Back Down again...

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They're talking about shuffling troops around in Iraq, moving people where they're needed during this volatile week. My husband is located in a relatively safe section of Iraq; his main concern so far has been how to get supplies to the neighboring Iraqis. I have a feeling he won't be in that area for long when he's needed elsewhere.

After reading the news yesterday night, I awoke this morning to a feeling of anxiety. No phone call in the middle of the night. No email. Nothing telling me what's going on in my husband's company. I couldn't even read blogs; after half an hour I just shut it down and went back to bed. And when I felt like I couldn't stand it anymore, I knew what I wanted to do.

I wanted to call a friend.

My definition of friend has changed tremendously since last year. I've really reflected on who I want to share my life with, and I've narrowed the list of people I'd approach in a crisis. Here on post, there's a feeling of walking on tiptoes, not wanting to stress anyone out more than they are already. No one wants to hear my problems, because they are all looking for ways to deal with their own. And as much as I trust my favorite friend here on post, her husband is on rear detachment, so it's sometimes hard for her to relate.

So I called Tim.

He talked about the agony of being so near the finish line and seeing the goalpost move. I talked about the agony of uncertainty, of not knowing where my husband is or what he may be doing. We just talked, venting our frustrations for a few minutes, as friends do.

And I feel a whole lot better.

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April 07, 2004


Twelve Marines are dead, and this is what I read:

[Coalition spokeswoman Paola] Della Casa said the Iraqi attackers used civilians as human shields, and a woman and two children were among the dead.

I've always tried to maintain my resolve throughout this war. When other wives say that they wish we could just nuke Iraq into a parking lot and bring our husbands home, I always tried to remember that what my husband is doing there is necessary for the future of the Middle East. I've maintained my optimism and idealism, even saying "Our soldiers are lucky to be part of something so monumental in history. When the puzzle is complete, all their work will make sense, and a beautiful new Iraq will emerge from the pieces."

But today I'm not so resolved. We're fighting to save a country from itself. As Victor Davis Hanson said Sunday, "Are the citizens of Fallujah the victims of Saddam, or did folk like this find their natural identity expressed in Saddam?" I'm starting to wonder about that myself.

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April 06, 2004


I finally got a call from the husband last night. At 1240, which is 0240 in Iraq. This is the only time he could find in his day to call me, which makes me feel a little crazy. Apparently, the commander has said that no one is allowed to go to the phones unless they all go together, which would mean a group of 18 driving over to use four phones. None of them have five hours to kill waiting in line with each other, so they never get to go. The husband could technically go since he's the LT, but he doesn't go if his soldiers aren't allowed, which is the reason why 15 days passed between his phone calls. I'm really disappointed that they have this rule there, not for myself but for him; he sounded really beat down. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, "I'd be doing better if I could talk to you more often." I think soldiers need contact with their families as a way to unwind and vent, and I'm disappointed that his company is being denied phone use. But they are moving to another camp in the next two weeks, so when the phones are right there instead of three kilometers away, perhaps the rules will change a little. I hope so; that was the worst I've heard him so far.

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April 05, 2004


I'm growing as a person.

When another dissenting reader first used to come around here and leave comments, it used to make me so mad. I would absolutely fume at home, complaining to my husband that I wished this guy would leave me alone and that I really thought he was wrong, but didn't know how to counter him. I would lie in bed thinking about it, wondering what I could say, and I would be overcome with anger and worry.

I resolved on New Year's to learn to be bemused. So far I think I've been doing a great job of reaching my goal; at least now I don't let things affect me so much to where I can't sleep at night.

Look, the title of my blog is trying to grok. Trying. I would never be one to say that I've got the world all figured out, or that my way of thinking is the only one. I'm open for suggestion. But there's a difference between suggestion and beating someone over the head until they give in. There's a difference between Joshua coming here to have a healthy debate about Israel/Palestine and someone coming here to insult me on three different comment threads.

And, I'm sorry, but the idea that my disgust with vandals who care more about putting Bush down than respecting a historic monument would dishonor my husband makes me laugh instead of fret. Laugh. I'm at the point where I can laugh at this stuff, which means I've done a whole lot of personal growing since I started this blog.

Deal with this: I'm bemused.

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April 04, 2004


Last night I went to see The Passion of Christ.
This morning I'm going to the circus.

If there's any bigger clash in activities, I don't know what it is.

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