October 29, 2010

From the Front: 10/29/2010

Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

Mrs. G.I. Joe: Ripping off the band-aid - Also might be titled: He's not the only one with PTSD. I've breezed by this subject on here a number of times. A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my first year as a Milie. I didn't really know what I was doing back then, if my feelings were normal, or how to get help. So I developed some bad habits and my emotional stability took the brunt of the punishment that followed. After G.I. Joe came home from Iraq in 2007 I kept expecting to "get better." I kept thinking eventually I'd start dealing with stress and emotions the way I used to. Towards the end of that year I started having more panic attacks again and getting sick a lot because my nerves were just fried. I couldn't understand why I didn't "feel normal" yet. He'd been home for 9 months, 10 months...Finally the only thing that changed was I got pregnant. Then there was a whole new definition of normal. I had the world's greatest distraction from the fact that we had been married 2 years and he had been stationed away or deployed for those entire 2 years. (READ MORE)

Bill T: Valour-IT Days - If you’ve come here more than once, you know that we here at the Castle (with the exception of one incorrigible but delightful Sailor Doxie) are solidly Team Army. *hastily shoving DocLady Sly back behind the drapes and pushing Dusty back into the U-Toob vid* Which, considering the hits we took for the Team during our respective times, is only fitting. But this small blurb isn’t about those of us who took hits for the Team. It’s about those who took hits for *all* of us. Not just Team Army, or the Marine Team, or Team Air Force, or Team Navy. They took hits for Team USA. Team Every American. I’m not going to go into the origins of Project Valour-IT, or talk about the success stories, or praise the folks who got it started and the ones who continue to make it work, because people who are much better writers than I am, and who have closer ties than I do, have that covered. I want to tell you a small story, instead, because that’s the one thing I *can* do kinda well. (READ MORE)

James Dao: The Quiet of War - To most people, the word “war” is likely to conjure dramatic images of combat. Soldiers ducking for cover. Helicopters swooping low. Medics treating the critically wounded. But for deployed troops, life at war is also filled with many quieter moments. Mundane, perhaps; but those moments may carry powerful memories, bitter and fond. They may evoke a vivid sense of place. They may even define a deployment in some intensely personal way. Consider: soldiers standing by the orange flames of a trash fire. Every combat outpost has its burn pit, where hundreds of plastic water bottles and food containers from Meals Ready to Eat are incinerated every day. The smell is acrid, the smoke bad for the lungs, the chore of tending it onerous. And yet, for these soldiers, it also provides a warm place to unwind against the chill of a September night. Another: a soldier strumming an acoustic guitar in the crude concrete bunkroom of a police compound. (READ MORE)

C.J. Chivers: Courage, Recognized: The Infantry and Joao Silva - During a few frantic minutes late in 2006, Joao Silva, a photographer for The New York Times, made a series of photographs of a Marine sergeant, Jesse E. Leach, retrieving from the line of fire a radio operator, Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez-Castillo, who had just been shot by a sniper on a foot patrol in Karma, Iraq. The sniper’s bullet had passed through Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo’s upper arm, entered his upper torso and exited his back. Helpless, unable to stand, exposed, Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo, a father of two young children, was in grave peril. He was both at risk of being shot again and in danger, without immediate aid, of bleeding to death. He tried to right himself, but fell back. Joao had been walking near Sergeant Leach and Lance Corporal Valdez-Castillo that day. Exposed himself, he took a knee there in the open and calmly and quietly documented the kind of scene that rarely gets captured by a lens. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Here Come the Iranians - In the campaign for the upcoming U.S. election, Afghanistan and Iraq don't get much of a mention. Of course that is understandable. Americans have many immediate issues to think about instead of bothering with countries far away. Unfortunately, there are those who are giving Iraq some thought. An Iranian trade delegation is visiting Najaf to discuss investment opportunities. Iran already has signed deals to rebuild Basra. This particular group is looking at construction projects. This article says plenty of Iraqi businesses already are accepting Iranian currency the same way they take Iraqi dinars or U.S. dollars. Maybe Iraqis are overreacting, but very few are pleased with these developments. (READ MORE)

Letters to You: Here goes nothing - I hope this does you justice - Good afternoon. My name is Chrissy ------ and I am a 2008 graduate of Penns Manor. Today I’m here to talk to you about someone very close to my heart. How many times have you read a story in the paper or saw a clip on the news involving an American military member who had been killed while serving his or her country? If you are anything like most other people, you're immediate reaction was probably, "Oh my gosh, that is so horrible," or "how sad" or "I'm glad my family doesn't have to deal with anything like that." While you may have the utmost respect and admiration for the members of our military, it is difficult for most of you to understand the danger they place themselves in each and every day to protect the lives we all live here in the United States of America. Anyone with a heart feels a certain degree of sadness when they hear about a service member losing their life in combat. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Getting Embed - AUGUST 2010: I am home from my boomerang trips between Camp Shelby, Miss. and Camp Dodge, Iowa. In the months following news of my non-deployment, I've been on temporary active duty doing my small part to help the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34 BCT) hopscotch from Camp Ripley, Minn.; to Camp Shelby, Miss.; to Fort Irwin, Calif, to Afghanistan. To my team leader, I float the idea of using some accrued vacation time to go out to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. I figure that, on my own time and my own dime, I can continue some of the work I've been doing on lessons-learned and unit history. My supervisor asks, a little shocked: "Why would you do that?!" I am surprised at his surprise. I stumble around for an answer that doesn't sound crazier than the idea itself. No one, apparently, has ever requested or volunteered to go to Fort Irwin. (READ MORE)

Jennifer See: How Much Do You Tell The Kids? - It was a conversation that came up during the early morning hustle, during the last-minute running around, as I was getting backpacks, instruments and signed folders together, trying to get us all dressed, ready and out the door on time to school. The question came from the innocent face of my 8-year-old daughter. The morning news was droning on in the background, with some sort of story of Iraq being reported. I try to keep the news off. I really, really try. This morning, though, it was on. And of course, I thought no one was listening to it. "Daddy's in Iraq, but he's not fighting in the war, right?" she asked. "Because he's a doctor." This was a conversation I was not ready to face at 6:45 a.m. "Doctors don't fight in the war, only soldiers do, right Mama?" she probed. Her older brother stepped in to try to help me out. "Daddy is a soldier, not just a doctor," he explained. Her look became a bit more panicked. (READ MORE)

Marine Wife: I'm not Super-Woman...and I Don't Play Her on TV either - First Lady Michelle Obama recently gave the keynote address at The Women's Conference 2010 in Long Beach, CA. After reading her speech, I believe she is sincerely making an effort to get to know us as a group and to give voice to the concerns and needs of our community. You can read her words in their entirety here. The First Lady spent the vast majority of her speech addressing military spouses. She talked about her encounters with mil-spouses and the stories they had shared with her, saying: "Many of these women were much younger than I was. They had far less support and far fewer resources than I did. And every day, they were confronting challenges that I could barely even imagine." I can understand her reaction. As a LINKS mentor and as a Key Volunteer, I often found myself wondering how on earth women much younger and less experienced than I was could cope with the current realities of being married to the military (especially during those times when I wasn't coping particularly well). (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: gunmen attack NATO trucks in Pakistan - Farooque Ahmed, the U.S. citizen arrested earlier this week on terrorism charges for an alleged plot to bomb several Metro stops in the DC area, sought to fight American forces in Afghanistan, and had trained himself in martial arts, the use of firearms, and knife and gun tactics, according to recently unsealed court documents. Ahmed emigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 1993, and he and his wife worked in northern Virginia's technology industry, mostly "keep[ing] to themselves". The tip that led the FBI to set up a sting is said to have come from the Muslim community. Bonus read: our sister newsletter, the Legal War on Terror, a twice-weekly look at the ins and outs of Guantanamo and terrorism in the courts. Unidentified gunmen carried out two separate attacks on NATO supply trucks in southwest Pakistan earlier today, killing one driver and wounding a 12 year old boy. The alleged militants escaped in both cases and there have been no claims of responsibility yet. (READ MORE)

Mark Ottawa: “From UBC to Kabul”/Bruce R. Kandahar Update - Further to this post, “Why Afghanistan matters, and why I’m going”/Barbarian myth Update. Brian Platt’s Ubyssey blog, with lots of photos, on his visit is here. Excerpts from one post: Day 1 in Afghanistan … The airport here is extremely spartan, as you might expect. Although one bonus of such a tiny airport is that my luggage came out immediately on the carousel! I registered as a foreigner, and then walked out into the sunshine. I was supposed to meet a driver a little ways off from the airport, as non-passengers are not allowed to come near the terminal. It took me a long time to find him, and I even had to talk my way past one police checkpoint as I doubled back toward the airport (I’ve already gone through innumerable checkpoints since being here. There are police everywhere.) Finally I found a guy holding a sign with my name on it. I was pretty happy to see him! As we were driving away from the airport, we passed by a checkpoint manned by Bulgarian NATO soldiers. (READ MORE)

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