Monday, December 1, 2014

The End is Near!

I’ve started this post 56 times, maybe more.  Too glib.  Too serious.  Too something.

My tour in Afghanistan is over.   Well, almost.  As I write this, I’m not quite home.  As a Reservist, I have to go to a gulag known as North Fort Hood for demobilization.   This is the military process of turning you back in to a pumpkin…but the French toast in the Dining Facility is fantastic, so I’m okay.

I have a million thoughts and contradictory emotions going through my mind, each trying to occupy the same space    I am excited to be home.  I am terrified to be home.  I can’t wait for things to get back to what was normal.  I want things to be different.  I’m so glad to not see the exact same people when I go to the shower, breakfast, lunch, dinner, gym, office, church etc.  I already miss them.  Well, okay, not all of them, but just about.  I don’t want to think about Afghanistan.  I don’t ever want to forget it.  It was an amazing experience that few people have.  I don’t really want to do it again. 

I can’t wait to see my wife and children.  I’m looking forward to BBQ, Christmas with the family, a return to being an assistant prosecutor, and a bathroom in the same zipcode as my bed.  I’m also ready to live on the edge…you know…without the “Big Voice” telling me when lightning has been seen within 5 nautical miles of the base,  walking around in the evening without a reflective belt, and running while wearing earphones (oh, the humanity!). 
Just as I laugh at a memory, or think of another, “one time, at fat camp” story, I remember.  Twelve soldiers passed before my salute, covered by our Nation’s flag.  I didn’t know most of them.  I don’t recall names, but I remember sending them home.  I didn’t do anything noteworthy, as they did. I am not a hero, as they are.  Frankly, my wife and children made greater personal sacrifices than were asked of me in the combat zone.  That said, I don’t think anyone can be witness to war and not affected in some way.  I have been given a gift those men were denied.  I feel compelled to do something with it.  I don’t yet know what.

My thoughts then turn to the people I had the privilege of serving with.  They will forever be the people I served with in Afghanistan.  Accountants, cops, lawyers, students, teachers, and engineers coming together from Florida, Missouri, Texas, Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia and South Carolina to make a base in a combat zone run smoothly.  It was amazing to see.

What a ride!  I think it may just take a while to process things.  Maybe you just shove it all in a mental box and drive the kids to practice.  I don’t know.  

I think if I can just avoid being struck dead by a car I didn't hear because I’m wearing headphones while running in the dark without reflective gear, I’ll be moving in the right direction.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fearless and Afraid

Mail Collection Ending. That's the subject of an email I recently received.
My tour of duty in Afghanistan is coming to an end.  I have a bag laying on my bunk which I am pre-packing; not packing mind you...merely pre-packing. This is the ritual that allow a Soldier to place a year's worth of clothing into a gym bag. This same skill allows me accommodate my wife's habit of, say, packing a parka for a trip to Florida in July...just in case.

One might think that coming home is a joyful thought...and it certainly is, but I'm finding that it carries with it some apprehension. It's been a year. A year ago, no one was worried about Ebola, the Royals had been done playing for a month, ISIS didn't control anything and I had just received a phone call asking if I'd heard that I might be deploying. A lot has happened. I sold a house, I bought a house, I moved my parents in to part of the house and my family in to the rest. I left for Afghanistan. My favorite dog died. My washer died. The garbage disposal died. The furnace died. My car died. My wife's car died. My wife got a new (to her) car. My wife got another dog. She bought some new furniture. Some of my professional colleagues won awards, I have professional colleagues I haven't met. Someone else is in my office. My BBQ grill was destroyed in a storm. My sister had a baby. My son started running Cross Country (if you know me, any family member running on purpose is a life event). My lawnmower died. My teenagers started driving. The Walking Dead started a new season and the Royals were 90ft and a base hit from extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Nearly all of that happened in my absence.  My wife handled it all with grace, and likely a few choice words about my career choices.
I've changed a little too. I wasn't in a combat role here, so its not like I have the "1,000 yard stare" and nightmares...but I think being part of a "war" changes you regardless. I've been as near as I'd like to be to rocket impacts. I've stood at attention on the ramp of an aircraft 7 times, rendering honors to 12 fallen Soldiers. My entire existence has been confined to a half square mile for a year. I've lost 35lbs....I mean seriously....I've lost a kindergartner over here. I've celebrated with Australians, mourned with Romanians and joked with Bosnians. I've advised Generals and counseled Privates. I've discussed the legal issues and ethics of multi-million dollar contracts and $10 unit "coins". I've had someone else doing my laundry for a year and they haven't even lost a sock. That one may haunt me for awhile.

As I pack up, I have to wonder: What now? What next?

What does coming home look like? What am I going to eat first? When do I go back to work? How long before my wife and I find "normal" again? When are my taxes due again? What kinds of cases might I come back to? Am I going to remember everything? Am I going to gain all that weight back (Heaven forbid!)? Who is going to make me breakfast? Do I have to find a way to buy another car? How will I do that? What else is out there? Do I have any options? Do I want any? How soon before I yell at my kids? Will it feel like I was never gone? Am I going to remember those 12 guys who didn't come home? Is what I'm doing going to honor their sacrifice? Wait...I lost I going to have to spend money on clothes? Does it matter that I was gone, that I was here or that I'm back? How soon before I lose my own socks in the laundry?

I don't know.

Lots of folks have done this. I've done nothing as remarkable. Most of my military friends have done this more than once. I suspect that most, if not all of them, have had similar thoughts as they returned. I'm telling myself that it comes with the territory, and eventually, I'll look up and realize I've been home for longer than I was gone.
Perhaps the end of a deployment is much the same as the beginning, with every Soldier balancing being fearless and afraid.  I'm ready for home.  See you soon!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Harry S. Truman and Torque Converters. 

A Love Story.

I oppose sensitive, romantic, emotional posts via Social Media.  Primarily because I’m uncomfortable being sensitive, romantic or emotional.  I am, however, creating an exception for Anniversaries occurring while serving in Afghanistan.  Rather than you reading a note to her, I’ll have her read a note to you…and I’ll put it out here a couple days early so she knows I didn’t forget and do it quick.

20 years ago my roommate went out with a girl from church.  He’d mentioned her a few times.  I had no idea who he was talking about.  They had a “sports date”, i.e. running, tennis, volleyball etc.  Clearly NOT the girl for me.  He came home and reported that “We’re going to be great friends, but nothing really romantic.  I think YOU would like her though.”  Nope.  I’m headed for the Army, where, after being the first attorney to win the Medal of Honor, I will enter private practice, win millions in verdicts, attract the attention of Sandra Bullock and eventually run for the Presidency.  “Yeah, well, I think you’d like her” he said.  Pffft.

Summer came.  There was a canoe trip.  My roommate was adept at keeping our canoe near the pretty girls.  Don’t ask me how, but Harry S. Truman came up.  Probably because I am a total nerd.  I thought to stump everyone by asking “What does the S. in ‘Harry S. Truman’ stand for?”  “It doesn’t stand for anything” said this girl, “It’s just an initial.”  I was smitten.  What could a date or two hurt?  Knowing only that she worked at K.U. Medical center, I promptly spoke to 462 different operators, nurses, doctors, secretaries and administrators before I found her and asked her out.  We went to the Truman Library.  I know.  How could she NOT be locked in after that? 

She is now the woman I love; the summer romance that I forgot to break off.  I love that she will run screaming through a field while shadow fighting like Bruce Lee if a June bug touches her hair.  I love that the first sign of pregnancy was never a test, but rather her murdering clich├ęs:  “Whoa! That guy is taking his side out of the half of the road middle.”  I love that she speaks the English language faster than anyone I’ve ever met.  I love that the parents of her students love her so much they go out of their way to keep in touch with her.  I love that her students HAVE to run up and say hi and get a hug when they see her in a store.  I love that I can get a phone call and tell her that in two months we’re going to sell a house, move, build an apartment for my parents and then I’m going to leave her with 4 kids, 2 dogs, a lizard and her in-laws for a year while I go to war…and she says: “We’ll be good.”  Well, she also said: AREYOUFREAKINGKIDDINGMECAN’TYOURETIREANDGETAREALLAWJOBTHATPAYSMONEYSOYOUCAN NOTHAVETOLEAVEMEANDGODOTHIS (breath) THISSUCKSDON’TYOUDIEANDLEAVEMEWITHFOURKIDS!
She did eventually say, “we’ll be good”.  I love that she still looks good when cleaning up the mess du jour…whether kid barf, puppy pee, muddy footprints or just sniffing out the source of the boy-stink permeating the house. I love that she tolerates my ability to turn anything in to innuendo (oh yeah…I’ll replace the torque converter!).  I love that we can communicate entire paragraphs and a punch line with a look.  I love that I can amuse her.  I love that she knew the S in Truman’s name didn’t stand for anything.

Though she could have done far better,  I thank God daily for her poor judgment and 19 years of tolerance.  I’ll be home soon.  I’m gonna get after replacing that torque converter.

Happy Anniversary!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bananas.  The POO of Happiness

Displaying IMG_0343.JPG"What's it like?" is a question sometimes best answered by describing the little things. Its always the little things that provide the humor, frustration, or happiness that make any experience what it is.  Here are a few signs that you've been deployed (for too long).

1.  You have used the word "POO" in a sentence with other adults and no one started to giggle.  I mean, seriously…doesn’t anyone review our acronyms to ensure that we don’t sound like 9 year old boys on a bathroom break? It means "Point of Origin".  

2.  You have stood on the outside of a code-entry door, vainly punching in one of 362 number combinations, hoping that one of them actually works.  The likelihood of this happening is usually inversely proportional to your need to use the facilities.

3.  The armpits on your t-shirts are hardened to the point of qualifying as an addition to your body armor.

4.  You think nothing of your battle buddy standing next to you in the bathroom, glancing at the color of your urine, handing you a bottle of water and ordering you to "hydrate".  In most other places, this conduct would be a Misdemeanor.

5.  Few things make you happier than walking in to the DFAC for breakfast to find that they have bananas.  If the Army knew how happy this makes me, they would likely ban and test for bananas.

6.  When someone refers to important people, Very Important People, and Very Very Important People, you understand exactly what they are saying and who is in each category.  These terms were borrowed from a Middle School activities committee.

7.  You actually understand what other Soldiers are asking for when they grunt, waive and play charades in the chow line in order to tell the non-English speaking server that they'd like more of that stuff right there.  No... not that one. The next one over...yeah, that stuff.

8.  You have walked in to the PX and browsed the exact same items 27 times without making a single purchase just for something to do.

9.  You have pondered the culinary train wreck that occurs when you have cooks from Nepal making Mexican food with Kuwaiti ingredients served in an American dining facility in Afghanistan to Romanian soldiers.  This is how you get a taco bar with no taco shells and spaghetti with enchilada sauce.

10.  You begin thinking the 5 roll toilet paper dispenser is pretty neat and would look like fine in the master bath at home.

11.  Your first thought when the recorded British girl comes on the Big Voice to tell you you're under rocket attack is that she sounds attractive.

12.  When you hear the term “weather”, it no longer means rain, thunderstorms or wind.  It means dirt.  “We’ll have lots of weather” = “We’ll have lots of dirt in the air”. 

13.  You can tell who's in the other shower stalls because you recognize the underwear draped on the bench outside the showers.

14.  Though you understand when your FB friends post things about missing their spouses since they’ll be gone for a week or two on business, you secretly want to punch them in the throat and scream “suck it up buttercup”.

15.  Breakfast is the best meal of the day.  It tastes like breakfast.   It is really, really hard to screw up breakfast.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering to Forget

As I rose on September 11, 2001, life was different.  I had just left active duty in the Army.  I was living in a small rental house with two 3 year olds and a pregnant wife.  I had been job hunting and a few very nice firms had shown some interest.  In fact, I was to have a second interview the next week.  Then it happened.  The entire world changed.

Today, while serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan, we honored our dead, both from that day and since, just a stone’s throw from the camp at which the terrorists trained for the attack on September 11th.  It was good to remember.  It was right to honor our fallen brothers and sisters who answered the call of a Nation deeply wounded. I must wonder though, if they wouldn’t want us to be able to forget.

I have been in Afghanistan for the better part of a year now.  I suspect that when I return, there are some who will approach me at church or in the courthouse and ask: “Where have you been, it’s been awhile!”  People have forgotten which one is my parking space.  At least one person has forgotten that it’s MY office.  I watch my friends and family from afar, usually via Facebook and I see date nights, BBQs, church activities, ladies nights, DIY projects, back to school pictures and anniversary photos.  I see the ordinarily extraordinary lives of my fellow Americans.  Not one of them is thinking, at that moment, of any of us here in Afghanistan…and that is exactly what I want.  I suspect that may be exactly what many of us here want:  Friends and family with no fear of an imminent attack; children able to play in the park and attend school with no threat of being kidnapped or beheaded by ISIS monsters; young women pursing an education without fear of being mutilated or enslaved.  The option of “forgetting” is a gift from God delivered by an effective Military standing between us and these horrors that are reality for too many.

For my Grandfather and my Great-Uncle, the day was December 7, 1941.   It was the most horrendous surprise attack in our Nation’s history.  They answered the call.  They fought, sacrificed and lost comrades in the war that followed.  For me, the war was history.  I didn’t fear the Japanese.  I drove a Honda.  My future intersected their past only when I eagerly awaited my first assignment to Germany.  I too had the privilege of forgetting.  My ability to grow up free, pursue an education and marry the pretty girl who knew that the “S” in Harry Truman’s name didn't stand for anything was a privilege borne of their victory.  I have to admit, I didn't really think about it, but for maybe a moment on Pearl Harbor Day.  I think that’s exactly what they were fighting for.  A world where their grandchildren could forget what they could not.

I don’t mean to support ingratitude or argue for ignorance.  It is good and right to pause and Never Forget.  But, as a Soldier serving his tour in Afghanistan, I certainly hope that my grandchildren have the option of forgetting we were ever here, and I think it might be okay too if you happen to remember to Forget on your way to the BBQ or school play.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What they couldn't see

The band Vertical Horizon and actress Christina Moore visited us in Kandahar, Afghanistan for our Fourth of July celebration.  Yes, you know their music.  Yes you know her from that ‘70s Show, and more importantly in my house, as the mom on Disney’s “Jessie”.  They were awesome.  Troops can be a tough crowd, but they can’t help but respond when entertainers give it their all just for them.

Let me be clear.  I’m neither musical nor talented.  Asking me to sing or read a note of music is akin to asking me to taste how purple smells.  I just don’t “get it”.  Tonight, for some reason, I did.  In fact, I think I saw things that even these professional entertainers didn’t see…

Ms. Moore merely had to walk in to the dining facility.  The murmuring was immediate.  “That’s no contractor!”  “Dude…can you SMELL her?  That’s better than bacon.”  The troops she spoke to in the coffee line smiled all the way back to their table of buddies and told lies about how she winked at them.  She was, for the moment, the embodiment of the women they love and are striving to get home to. 

When the band took the stage and started their set, all they could see were a few thousand troops slowly loosening up.  What they couldn’t see were the nurses from our ROLE 3 Trauma unit, who just a few days ago fought to save a Soldier and lost.  They were smiling and singing along.  Soldiers who had carried and saluted 5 brothers as they were loaded on a plane for the final trip home, were laughing and making fun of each other’s singing.  Troops who will go out tomorrow and face death, were enjoying every moment of life as they sang along.  A few thousand troops from several nations got to pull out just a little of that humanity that is stowed away for safety when entering a combat zone.  Prosecutors facing fiscal law questions…well, nevermind.

Those are the things that I wish they could see.  At a time when some “acts” have cancelled because the Army can’t pay them enough or in the way they prefer, Vertical Horizon and Ms. Moore showed up.  They thought they were just giving of their time and talent.  In reality, they were “exactly the right thing at exactly the right time.”

Friday, June 27, 2014

Abbott and Afghanistan

Afghanistan.  Superpowers have marched these mountains and deserts since Alexander the Great. Flying over it a few times and looking down, I cannot for the life of me imagine what made anyone...ever...tie up his camel, look at his wife and say:  "Honey....we're here!  This is IT!"  

Fortunately for me, my mission this time is pretty much "inside the wire".  It is really difficult to conjure legal reasons to get outside the wire on a mission.  I am vaguely irritated by this.  

My wife is not.

I have battles of a different sort as we prepare to withdraw, downsize or "descope" in the popular military parlance of the moment.  After hundreds of billions of dollars, we are now parsing every nickel and need.  Because we are the Army, we created a bureaucracy to help. Bureaucratic entities working to reduce bureaucratic bureaucracy leads to exchanges such as this:  

Higher HQ: I need something, but I don't want to be seen asking for it.  I order YOU to ask me for the thing I want so that I don't have to ask me for it. 

Subordinate Unit: Um..Yes sir.....Sir?  I would very much like to have the thing you want so that I can give it to you.

Higher HQ: Nay, Nay! Your request is disapproved. Why would you ask me for such a thing? Now, come back later, ask me again and tell me WHY I want it.

Abbott and Costello couldn't have done it better themselves. If it weren't so wildly entertaining at times, it could drive you absolutely insane.  The problem is that if you went insane, it is unlikely that anyone would immediately notice.  But just as you're walking out of the meeting, shaking your head and wisecracking, you notice the flags.  They are now at half-staff. 

There is a real war going on "outside".  A fallen hero has arrived on base.  In a few hours, we will send him on his way home.

And there it is.  That's Afghanistan.  It takes you from humor to madness; frustration to sadness; grief to brotherhood; and from loss back to laughter..  

Time keeps moving.  The days are long, but the weeks are fast.  Before you know it, it will be time for someone to ask me to ask them if its time for me to go home.  They might say yes.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Ollie and the Ivy

Here it is.

The 4th Infantry Division Patch on my right shoulder.  Steadfast and Loyal.  Soldiers call it a combat patch. It's the mark of having served in a combat zone. The Ivy is a play on the IV of the Roman numeral 4.  Clever, huh?  I'm proud to wear the patch, but any patch on my right shoulder is an honor.  My 23+ years seem vindicated.  The red tab above it is part of a tourniquet.  We all wear it in the same pocket, so that should it be needed, you know right where to look.  Given the dangers that I am exposed to on a daily basis, I suspect having it is overkill.  I can't fathom the paper-cut or staple stab that might require me to staunch the flow of blood at its arterial source.  I am not kicking in doors, calling for fire or close air support. Mostly, I am reviewing government contracts, policy letterszzzzzzzzzzzz, oh, sorry.....proposed operating procedures, and the transfer of property between NATO Framework nations and guarding pots of money.  It is a very complex command environment.  My new friend Ollie understood this and helped by sending this:

Ollie isn't too great with letters, but he is clearly a strategic thinker, an organizational genius, and a fiscal wunderkind.  His note came in an "Any Soldier" care package.

As you can see, he included the NATO organizational chart.  It is a perfect depiction of the complex international positions and command relationships.  He has also color-coded the lines to better chart the "colors of money" that enable our mission here in Afghanistan.  As you can see, lots of green goes in at the top....and lots of red comes out at the bottom.  Somewhere in the middle things get a little bit messy, but somehow it works.  We're going to complete this mission having done our best for the people of Afghanistan.  Ollie indicates this with what is probably a heart, but  after 5 months away from home looks a little bit like cleavage to me.  I digress. Ollie clearly knew that it was my job to help make all of this work and wanted to help.

Clearly uncertain of what to do with all this, Ollie concluded with "I love you?".  Note the question mark.

Its okay Ollie. It can be a bit confusing, but the 4th Infantry Division and I are doing our best.

I love you too?

Thanks for the box of Savannah Smiles.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jesus and the Soldier

Have you seen this statement?  "Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you.  Jesus Christ and the American Soldier.  One died for your soul, the other for your freedom."  I just saw it again on Facebook.

I appreciate the spirit and sentiment the words intend.  Though as I sit here in Afghanistan in a uniform doing my duty on the day before Easter, it has made me think.  It’s not entirely true.  The truth is I'm not thinking of you at all.  I love my country, and I will die for it if I must, but I won't likely be thinking of YOU.  You haven't even sent me a care package!  My wife and kids perhaps…but ask any Soldier and the truth is that in a "fight" we think of the Soldiers to our left and right.  Should I be killed in battle, I will be proud to have died doing my duty, but I can assure you it was a total surprise to me and completely unplanned.  With a nod to General Patton, I was doing my level best to make the other guy die for your freedom.

Jesus Christ is a totally different story.  He knew He would be ridiculed and reviled immediately and for centuries to come.  He gave Himself anyway. He knew he would be unjustly convicted, beaten and killed.  He gave Himself anyway.  In the very moment that He did, he thought of you. You.  The you your spouse hasn't met, your friends don't know and your parent would be shocked to meet.  You.  He gave Himself for you anyway, but that’s not the best part.

The best part is that He did both.  He died for your soul and He can give you freedom.  Even better?

He is risen.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Unknown Soldier

The words echoed across the tarmac.  First in English, then in Romanian.  The darkness hid the source in such a way that it seemed as if the night itself were delivering the orders.

“Attention!”  The word was drawn out, somehow emphasizing each individual syllable.

“Present.  ARMS!”

In unison, everyone in the formation delivered the ceremonial salute, right hands moving slowly to the brow with the hand becoming a knife’s edge, taking three full seconds to make the trip.

I didn’t know him.  This was the first such ceremony my unit had been called upon to perform.  No more rehearsals.  We were sending a Soldier on his last trip home.  Home to his wife.  Home to his one year old daughter.  There is no way to be unaffected by the sight of it all.

His brothers in arms silently carry him toward the plane.  His casket draped in the colors of Romania, but somehow in this moment nationality is at once everything and nothing.  We are all Romanians and they are all Americans.

We just had a BBQ in the Romanian compound.  Maybe I was next to him in line.  Perhaps I sat by him at the table as we ate.  Less than 48 hours later, he was out on a mission, his unit was attacked and he died of his wounds.  Part of their mission is what we call force protection.  In other words, part of his mission was protecting ME.  It is likely selfish to consider myself at all in this moment or to search for some connection.  I couldn’t share the emotion that was so evident amongst the troops with whom he served.  They knew him.  He was theirs, but reality, mortality and perspective tend to strike hard in these moments.

While he was on patrol, I was likely busy doing a completely unimportant legal review of an event that no one will remember.  I remember a line from Saving Private Ryan in which CPT Miller says to PVT Ryan:  “Earn this.”  As I watch this Soldier’s casket pass by me, I can’t help but wonder:  Is there anything I’m ever going to do that would make these poor people think that I “earned” the absence of their husband, father, son, brother, or friend?  I think not.  He didn’t know me.  He wasn’t thinking of me.  Nonetheless, we are bonded now he and I.  I don’t think I can ever forget him.  A Romanian Soldier unknown to me, but forever remembered.

I find myself challenged spiritually as well.  The thought almost unavoidable in the face of such sacrifice.  When Christ died, he WAS thinking of me (and you).  He knew I couldn't earn it.  He did it anyway.  What have I really done about that?

The last strains of taps disappear in to the darkness.  A final ceremonial salute.  A Soldier's thank you.

“Dismissed.”  Now to find a way to earn it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Murphy.  He is real and he may be Taliban.

Every Soldier knows that Murphy will attack the moment they leave home.  We know this with the same certainty that you will hit every red light when you’re running late or that having Taco Bell for lunch is delicious but will cause gastrointestinal apocalypse within 20 minutes.

Our experience was no different.   A few days before my flight, we discovered that the icemaker supply valve failed, creating a lovely waterfall in the basement living room.  Hours after my departure, my wife had my beloved dog at the vet for what we thought were allergies.  It was cancer.  She then had to plan his care and a loving end alone.  Arriving home, she noticed water under the washing machine.  This, of course was just before a massive snow storm, which made repairmen scarce.  It also meant it was a great time for the garbage disposal to fall out of the sink.  The same snowstorm led her to drive my previously trusty SUV ...until the window and door latch broke leaving her to climb though the passenger’s side to drive it with the window down in a snowstorm.  This forced her back in to the other car, which already required a screw driver to get it in to gear (I swear I was gonna get to it).  You can just imagine her relief when a helpful neighbor pulled up and informed her that her brake lights weren’t working.  Sadly, this just added an errand when, the next day, two of the four kids became ill.  Meanwhile, the hotel the Army had me in was providing only oatmeal raisin cookies and not chocolate chip.  No, I didn’t tell her that.  Yes, I helped in whatever telephonic ways I could.  I’m not nearly as dumb as I look. 

Ah, the first week done.  Fifty more to go. 

Before you begin sending sympathy checks (remember, my name is with a Y not an I), know that people were there for us.   Some fantastic friends helped move kids, fix cars, find ceiling fixers, lent vehicles and more.  I even have nurse friends volunteering to provide first aid when I come home on pass and Marsha punches me in the face for deploying.  In all of it, we begin to see that we aren’t alone.  Sometimes when people say “call me if you need anything”, they mean it.  Sometimes the church is the Church.  Sometimes, when you ask God for help, He looks an awful lot like a neighbor just watching your daughter for a couple of hours.

Thanks to those who helped us and who help any Soldier’s family.  When you help my wife fix a car door, you have her back.  When you have her back, you have mine.  When I know my back is covered, I can focus on covering another Soldier’s back.  Thats how we all make it home so our spouses can punch us in the face.
Seriously though, oatmeal raisin…THAT is hardship.  Looks like a cookie.  Contains raisins.  Unfixable.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Need What?

Rather than moving cases along in my regular docket, I spent the day drawing my combat gear.  Talk about a change of pace.  I use the term "combat gear" rather loosely given the slim chance of a lawyer seeing "combat".  The gear however, is the same, so there you have it.  This process is called "RFI" for Rapid Fielding Initiative".  Bear with me here.  This is a program that quickly evaluates lessons learned from the theater of operations, identifies equipment that will assist Soldiers in accomplishing their missions while maximizing safety, and then quickly acquires and issues that equipment to the Soldiers who need it.

You may now understand my reaction when I was issued an "Improved Groin Protection System".  This causes me concern on a number of different levels.  First, the name implies that there was a previous Groin Protection System that needed to be improved.  Did it not work?  In what ways did it fail?  Can someone explain to me the criterion for "fail".  Seriously, I think I deserve to know.  A second concern quickly followed:  I NEED A GROIN PROTECTION SYSTEM?  I'm virtually certain that targeting that area is a foul in most sports and violates the law of war.  Must we have such a thing?  I don't know, but what I do know is that I'll put it on at the first hint that anyone thinks it might be a good idea to do so.  I have no desire to be the first beneficiary of a "Don't ask, can't tell" policy.

As I think about it, I am filled with an even greater patriotic fervor for my Nation.  How wonderful to realize that the things my country values and the things that I value are so very perfectly aligned.   Thank you America.  Thank you indeed.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Are you going to be here tomorrow?"

This innocent question has become part of the night time routine. Spoken in the cutest 8-year-old girl voice you’ve ever heard, it echoes like the war drums that will soon change my answer to her question. 

I would prefer to tell you a story of the courtroom or some silly criminal caper, but this blog is about what I’m doing, and what I’m doing of late is more about preparing to deploy with the Army.  Perhaps in some way I can take you on the roller-coaster with me.  I suspect there will be a great many ups and downs, but hopefully, in the end, it will have been worth it. 

I’m not doing anything that a half a million other Soldiers and their families haven’t endured before.  I’m neither special nor different.  I will likely be as safe as one can be in Afghanistan.  Lets face it, if your lawyer is returning fire…something has gone horribly wrong.  My job is not inherently dangerous.  There will be no movie entitled “Lone Solicitor”, though I think Daniel Craig would do a marvelous job if he can manage a Midwestern accent.  The thing is…its still hard. 

It is a hard thing to leave your wife, even when you know that others are there to support her.  It is a hard thing to leave your children, even when there are others who will help care for them.  It is a hard thing to put aside your cases, handing them off to co-workers (who have yet to complain of it in my hearing).  I am supposed to be there to do all of those things.  I won’t be. 

It is not my intent to whine (even though I am, just a little), but rather to document what I think every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine feels when the Nation calls.    It can leave you downright schizophrenic.  The Soldier is eager to test his training and vindicate his service.  The husband and father laments every missed teacher conference, wrestling match, choir performance, or dinner time conversation of the year that hasn’t yet come.  For the most part, it has been so incredibly busy, that there has been too little time to dwell on what is to come.  Perhaps that is a Divine mercy.  As the day approaches though, it is the small things that are beginning to penetrate the noise.  Small things like the innocent questions of a little girl trying to understand what it all means.

“Yes, sweetie, I will be here tomorrow.”  

“Okay, goodnight daddy…see ya in the morning.”   That may be the secret to making the best of the whole thing; taking it one day at a time. Even so, I already dread the night my answer will be different.

Seriously though, I think Daniel Craig would be a good choice.