Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Wake Up and Smell the Lilies

31 January 2006

I was at Green Beans the other night getting coffee when I ran into a friend of mine. She asked if I had taken the time to read the link that she forwarded to me with her new website and her new journal. I had told her no, not yet, but I would. Then (foolishly), I asked why. She replied that she mentioned me in terms of comments that I had made to her a month or so ago. I will quote her so that I don’t misquote her words…besides, they are on the web.

“A friend of mine told me that I can’t write about my experiences without including the war and the bloodshed and the horror, since that is what war is, but I am learning that war can be used to build and to unite and to do good. This is what I want you to see…”

“…I hope my little anecdotes and logs bring a smile to your face and help you to feel just a little bit of the experiences I have had so far. I have decided that I am not going to concentrate on politics or war or fear or anything negative. This is a positive time in my life and I want to share it that way.”

Well, Snow White, maybe in your perfect little domain in Florida at Disney World, life is grand and life is perfect. I’m sure that your wars are fought with marshmallows and your IED’s are like whoopee cushions planted in seats. However, in the real world, real people’s lives are destroyed. Real people feel the anger, disappointment and sadness because of the war which you believe “can be used to build and to unite and to do good” while the blood of over 2000 of our soldiers have spilled in the streets in your perceived peaceful little paradise. You may choose to see things through rose colored glasses, but hopefully you won’t be so surprised when (one day) the realities of this little party here hit you and you realize that it sucks and it won’t be ignored, pushed to the back page or prettied-up.

This may be a “positive time in your life” and you may “want to share it that way,” but for many others, the ends aren’t justifying the means. You haven’t been here to live through the rocket and mortar attacks; to see anyone in the trailer next to you burned, maimed or killed; and as a civilian, we certainly haven’t been called upon to accompany the patrols that leave the gate to perform patrols in downtown Baghdad.

I’d like to share with you a letter from an old Air Force buddy of mine. Cary wrote me this email just this week…only hours after I read what a wonderful experience this other friend of mine is having here in her non-confrontational Zen corner at Camp Victory.

I’m sure that Madison will never share the rosy outlook of my friend, and certainly not during her life will anyone ever be able to justify not having her Daddy to share her special moments with throughout her new life when she is born next month, in March. (See Below)

At least our friend here is still having a great time in Iraq accentuating the positive. I’m sure if she keeps those positive thoughts coming, Iraq will be a better place real soon. And remember honey, when you go on leave, wear your rose colored glasses, don’t get spooked when the planes send out flares as a “just in case” against missiles launched at them, and, above all, phone ahead to make sure that you don’t have to share the cargo hold of the C17 or C130 you are flying back to Kuwait in with any flag-draped remains going to Kuwait en route to their destination Stateside.

Cary, may God keep you, everyone that Kyle touched and especially little Madison’s family in his comforting embrace during this difficult time.

“Friends, Scouters, and Family,
The young man mentioned below died in Iraq less than two weeks ago. This really hit me hard as I spent 3 weeks in the summer of 2003 with him backpacking in New Mexico at Philmont. Kyle was a fun kid to be around. This is my first causality of the war. I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking about Kyle.
Please keep his family and friends in your prayers. Hug your kids, kiss your parents, and tell everyone that is important to you that you love them because you never know when your time on the earth will end.
God bless you, our military, and the USA!

Marine from Southern Illinois is killed in Iraq
By Aisha Sultan

A 19-year-old Marine from a small town in Southern Illinois was killed by enemy fire while on guard duty in Ramadi, Iraq.

Lance Cpl. Jonathan Kyle Price, of Woodlawn, was due to return next month and planned to marry his pregnant fiancée within days of his return. Family members learned of his death Friday.

"He wanted to go over there and fight for his family and his country," said John Hunsell, Price's stepfather. Although details about his death were still sketchy, family members said they had been told Price was on security detail for Marine engineers when they came under fire.

Price was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Woodlawn High School in 2004. He was sent to Iraq in August.

"He always wanted to be in the military," said his mother Cheryl Hunsell. "From the time he was a little boy."

Ron Riley, a family friend and Price's former scoutmaster, said Price was involved in the community and his church. He played baseball in high school and joined the Young Marines. He was also part of the yearbook staff.

"He was outgoing, making friends with anybody," he said. "It would be pretty hard not to like Kyle."

Riley said friends and family had been praying for Price's safe return. The young couple had planned to be married wherever Price landed.

His fiancée, Brea Tate, said Price was excited to come home to her and a new baby.

"He would have made the best father in the world."

Their baby girl is due in March. Her name will be Madison.

God Bless you Dave, and all the folks over there doing the right thing
# posted by Cary Purcell : 3:56 AM

H3’s and the new Enya CD

27 January 2006

I can truly say that the reason I haven’t written in the past two weeks wasn’t because there was nothing to write about. Most of it was sheer laziness because too many things have actually occurred and I’ve been slow to decide how to proceed.

To start with, the military has decided to block all personal online journals and blogs. Unless you have your own domain which isn’t recognized as a journal or such, that means another bump in the road for my blog. Some of it might have begun with that helo crash up north about two weeks ago. One site in particular was basically pulled offline and no comms were allowed in or out. This is the military’s way of insuring that info doesn’t leak out ahead of what they want released. Seems like the days of Geraldo running around and drawing maps in the sand with locations- is over! For criminey sakes, this is a military operation, not the 5 o’clock news!!

So I’m dealing with that blow so far. A week or so ago, I decided to make a move from my trailer to another one with one of my coworkers. We both had Anteon roommates who pulled back to Kuwait, so we knew we were both due for new roomies. We get along fine and are both anticipating (at this point and time) to leave at the end of contract at the end of May. Either way, with each of us taking leave in March, that means we will only be in this trailer together for about another 100 days all total or something like that. Not a whole lot of time. So as I explained to him, I’m figuring it is better to room with the butt hole you know than deal with the butt hole you don’t know…if you know what I mean. Now don’t take it that I’m calling Raymond a butt whole, okay? If anything, I always worry about being the difficult one to live with.

This interpretation of living with me dates back about fifteen years ago when my sister and I co-owned a condo in Naperville. She wasn’t exactly a peach to room with either, but she would holler at me more times than I can count, saying that I was probably the only person alive who could pour Honey Nut Cheerios into a bowl in the morning and make it sound like I was pouring boulders into a big metal bowl at a height of six feet!

Meanwhile, back at the trailer park things were drying out nicely until two days ago. It must have rained for 24 hours straight with only slight pauses. If things weren’t muddy before the removal of the Hesco barriers, it is certainly a pig-sty now. We could probably have some serious WWF women’s mud wrestling out here about now. MWR is never on top of these things, ya know?

Had an interesting encounter with a very loaded Welshman last night…and it wasn’t (whoah, whoah, whoah) Tom Jones either. It was an interesting situation. I was at the other building last night and this guy just wanders in covered in mud … even his hair … and believes he is somewhere else! He’s obviously mistaken because we don’t have proper barware, ice or rocks glassware to partake of rounds of his still-nearly-9/10’s-full-bottle of Crown Royal (smelling like this was the second go-around for him)…not that we couldn’t have maybe been a bit more accommodating, but I think he was a wee-bit over-served at this point of the morning anyway…and NO, liquor is not allowed on base.

Bout all we could get out of him was that he was Welsh and I think I deciphered that his name was Ian. If I ever thought that the Scotts were difficult at times to understand, please forgive my untrained ear; but this guy was more difficult to understand than my old German landlady who spoke German with a hair lip (bless her heart and ^ forgive me for even saying that)!

Well, what does an American unit do with an over-served, self-invited international guest at 4:30 a.m. in our “dry county”? (And yes, “tin roof…rusted”…thank you very much. Please refer to my fav B52’s CD Cosmic Thing for the above references.) My running route used to take me to the other side of the lake where I seemed to remember a building with the flag of The Empire on it and the name below designating it as the “British House.” So, with this info I volunteered to take him there to hopefully deliver him to his countrymen, thus resolving our international quandary. He’d actually said that he lived in a building near the Aussie building which was on the way, so we’d soon see if the lost puppy knew the way home.

Easier said than done with my man Ian. At least he wasn’t in a fighting mood…even though his bottle of spirits was safely confiscated by our CQ desk back at the other building. But he did make sure to explain to us that it wasn’t his bottle. In fact, did you know that it was given to him by his mates and he actually doesn’t drink because he is a Baptist (just a little nip here and there, right?) and he was just given the bottle for safekeeping. I’m not suggesting that he was a Tibetan monk doused in gasoline in disguise, but if you’d a lit a match by this guy, he probably would have spontaneously combusted!

So we walked in the direction of the building number he was supposedly from, but he never seemed to recognize any building as being “home.” So I figured we’d walk to the Brit house. Stupid me, I forgot that to get to the Brit House, you have to walk past the General’s Quarters. All I could think about was him getting away and insisting on paying the Base Commander a friendly visit at 5 a.m.! Got most of the way there and he told me to “carry on” to where I was headed. I ran ahead and dialed the phone at the Brit House and told their CQ that I had one of their guys that I’d like to leave with him.

He asked me, “How do you know that he’s one of ours?” Well, he doesn’t speak American, he isn’t speaking Australian and he isn’t a Scott or a Londoner and he claims that he’s Welsh…not Tom Jones, but Welsh all the same. So the CQ guy comes out, but Ian is already flown the coop. As we get further down the road, we’re looking in the lake on one side and in the full ditch of water on the other. Luckily, no Ian.

A car goes by and from his headlights going forward, we see no people in the road. That could only mean one thing; he took the road to the Base Commander’s house. Well, he wasn’t there (Gott sei dank) but where the heck is he? The street empties out at near the Aussie building, so he can’t be too far. Sure enough, he was waking up someone in the corner building. So his British compatriot was able to convince him to come with him back to the Brit House. Although he wasn’t in that particular unit, the CQ guy knew who he was by name and would take care of him until his unit down the road could come and pour him into a container and back to his respective bed and location. That’s my good deed for the day.

Wandering by the PX earlier last night, I saw Enya’s newest is out. Listening to it as I’m writing, it isn’t as good as Shepherd Moons or Watermark, but still very “enya-ee”. You know what I mean? You’d recognize it as distinctly Enya if you heard it on the elevator. And that’s what made me think of H3’s. When I was at Palmer Station in the Antarctic Peninsula, part of my duties was to do the weather observations. Al made sure that I got quite good at identifying all the different cloud types as temps, precip, winds and cloud types and heights were all passed on to our British counterparts at Faraday Station (since abandoned by the Brits and taken over by the Argies. Now that is some turn of events, no?)

H3’s were those high and wispy groups that kind of roll across and punctuate the sky like a string of connected cursive small i’s with wispy little cloud tails dragging behind. Kind of relaxing and angelic like Enya’s music. Looks like no new precip and nice cooler weather seems to be in store today. Time to sleep.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Urbane Developement

17 January 2006

I can't believe how quickly time is passing lately. Lots of stuff going on. As you know, two weeks ago we had a bunch of rain. It was the usual slogging around through knee-deep mud and puddles that resembled chocolate shakes more than standing water. Finally on Wednesday of last week, just as things were starting to dry out some, we got it again.

Thank goodness, I was off on Wed night. So as I'm all curled up in my warm covers, I am hearing the rain pitter pattering off my roof at a steady pace. Then around 7:30, the rain just started to come down in buckets. We even had hail. Any thoughts of putting the boots away definitely faded at that point. I half expected to walk out of the trailer when the rain stopped around 10pm to see another episode of "Baghdad in Venice." It wasn't quite that bad, but it was more of the usual mud and larger deeper chocolate shake puddles.

Going to the showers and even the bathroom trailers was downright dangerous when you start coating muliple layers of mud and water onto the decking type steps leading into the bathrooms. Someone must have fallen and cracked their skull at the entrance to the bathrooms because KBR was putting light bulbs back into the fixtures above all the bathroom and shower trailer doors.

I guess that I should mention that we haven't had lights allowed on base since sometime last year when it was decided that the lighting was making it too easy for the insurgents to aim mortars at the base. Just as they had gotten the street lighting on the base in working order, we took a bunch of mortars and rockets back in April of 2004. Since that time, it has been pretty much been a lights-out dictate at night.

Then the following day, KBR started to create crushed-stone land bridges from the living trailers to the bathroom trailers so that we could get around somewhat above the water. I guess now we know how the woolly mammoths must have felt coming across the Aluetian Island land bridge from Siberia.

Now two days ago, KBR has started some project to remove all the Hassco barriers around the trailers starting with the K-row area. (Yes, that's K-row like the town in southern Illinois next to Metropolis, not to be confused with the city in Egypt spelled the same but always mispronounced as K eye row.) These Hassco barriers were put in place around the trailers to prevent against all the lateral damage from shrapnel when we have taken mortar hits. They are about 4-1/2 feet tall by wide by long with an open top shaped with a smaller gauge wire than a cyclone fence and have a fiber cloth type liner to hold dirt and sand in place.

So anyway, the front-loaders just came one morning and started to clear these bad-boys away to start replacing them with more permanent 12 foot tall blast walls. Not a bad idea, but when you're a night-shifter, you tend to enjoy sleeping during the daylight hours. To say the least, I didn't get but about three hours of sleep because of all the truck traffic right outside my door...literally. I'd have been road-kill that morning if I got up to take a wiz!

I had front-loaders and cranes and all kinds of noisy highway traffic just feet outside my door. Naturally, to remove the Hassco's outside my trailer, they had to remove all the steps to the doors. After I finally fell asleep, they finished grading the area and placed the steps back in front of the door. What I wasn't expecting is that my steps were sitting just a bit too high and they were blocking the door.

There I am, a prisoner in my own trailer. Couldn't get out. I was able to get the door open two inches and stuck my hand out and started yelling help!!

Finally a couple of KBR guys came over and took the steps away. They had to lower the level of the dirt and then put the steps back. Good thing I woke up when I did, or I would have not been able to get out. And I don't have an Iraqna phone to call anyone either, and my roommate is gone permanently back to Kuwait. It could have been ugly.

I took some pictures today of the new and improved neighborhood. Quite the urban developement project. Then again, I can always remember my friend Rachel's comments about her husband Bob's endeavors in buying crappy little condos and rehabbing them to sell for a sometimes measly profit. She equated his efforts to something up the line of "polishing a turd." I kind of think that is all we are doing here. No matter how pretty you make it look, it will still be a turd.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

It's Raining, It's Pouring...

07 January 2005

The old man is snoring. He went to bed and bumped his head and couldn't get up in the morning.

Happy New Year as this is the first blog for 2006. Good thing I'm not an old man AND I don't get up in the morning. It's been pouring rain the past day or so. Friday night it rained some, but then it dried up enough that we weren't bathing in mud. But today, let's just say that the rainy season is officially here. We must have had about an inch of rain today. I got woken up by the rain pounding on the roof of my tin can and on the a/c cover about 4pm. Nothing like the pitter patter of raindrops to lull you back to sleep for another couple of hours.

Problem is that eventually, you have to get up, wade through the mud and ankle-deep puddles to go to the bathroom and to the shower. With the spartan existance we live here, you'd think that they would have at least spread a good six inches of crushed stone over the mud...especially after last years "Venice in Baghdad" that our trailer areas became in March.

Then the military upper echelon get all bent out of shape when their soldiers are urinating in bottles or urinating off their steps into the flood zone we live in. "It's not sanitary!!" Yep, it's not, but when you treat the soldiers here like animals, they will act accordingly. I say that only because the KBR contracted employees live in a trailer area all fenced in with rock and stepping stones and (get this!) WET TRAILERS. You got it campers...trailers with private bathrooms. They may not pay their employees much, but they take care of them like kings. Don't think that little fact is overlooked by the soldiers or the other contractors here.

However, this time I am prepared. When I was home over Thanksgiving holiday I made a trip over to Blain's Farm and Fleet and picked myself up a pair of Northerner Servus Uninsulated PVC boots (http://www.hanksclothing.com/unlinedservuspvc.htm) to make it through all the mud and water Mother Nature wants to dish out here at Camp Victory! The only thing these babies won't prevent against is me falling in a waist-deep hole and getting wet and muddy up to my waist like last year. So how's that for being prepared?

I've been keeping myself busy watching the first season of Scrubs. I'd never seen the show before now since it came out when I was going through the MBA program while working at Tellabs. So for me, it's like a brand new show. I just saw "Garden State" with Zach Braff and Natalie Portman last Fall, so it is good to see him in a different part. Although, he almost seems to have as much angst in this show as he seems to display in Garden State...he just isn't quite as bizarre in the show as he was in the movie.

But the cast of Scrubs really is fantastic. Becky #2 is much better in this part than she was in Roseanne. And the guy who plays Dr. Cox is a headcase. He cracks me up when he slips girls names in his diatribes with J.D. I was trying to remember where I saw the guy who plays the Head Doctor of the hospital. After going to IMDB.com, I saw that he was Mr. Sloan in one of my other favorite shows that only lasted a couple of seasons in the early 90's; that 1940's-era show by the name of "Homefront" about soldiers returning home after WWII. I was always one that liked off-beat shows.

Finished the latest book I was reading called The Stupidest Angel. Rather entertaining. It's a comical Christmas terror story that all works out in the end. Sounds strange and it is, but kind of a fun read.

Other than that, nothing doing here. As long as the rain is falling, the mortars aren't. You know, the insurgents don't like to get their "do's" wet. All this rain makes for a real bad hair day.

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