Saturday, April 10, 2004


This is too funny.

A blogging technique that will eventually result in Google returning the John Kerry Campaign website whenever one Googles the word "Waffles".

Go have a visit...and click those waffle links!

Over the last year I've had to re-learn one lesson over and over and over. That lesson is what we see on television and hear on the radio news does not tell the whole story.

The media report that which they deem as newsworthy...and they frequently do so out of context.

Look at it this way...consider the story is in "the touch". The media focus on that touch, without putting it into its appropriate context. In so doing the impression it leaves is that there is nothing but the touch. Certainly there is much more going on on the Sistene Chapel's ceiling than that.

Watch the news today and one is likely to feel as if all of Iraq is in a state of total chaos. So for me it was a wonderful perspective adjustment to read John Galt's view of what is going on in Iraq. He is actually there...and he puts it into much better perspective.
One popular journalistic theme is that the Iraqi security forces are failing. They are fighting and dying beside Coalition forces. Have some of the Iraqi forces broken and ran? Yes. When mobs attack in overwhelming numbers a police outpost, the Iraqi police ran. So would have I. You too. But the Iraqi police returned.

My analysis.

Power Grab. Everyone expected a challenge to the legitimate transfer of authority to the Iraqi government and to the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and its procedures for democratic elections. Al-Sadr is a power grab, plain and simple. He makes his move at a key religious time.

Slow Motion Tet Offensive. Combat has moved from terrorism to an insurgency. The terrorists have changed tactics from attacking soft, civilian targets to hitting the Coalition military. Most Iraqis and Coalition states do not doubt the outcome of the battle.

But the terrorists are buoyed by the successful retrenchment of the Spanish government as a reaction to a single attack in Spain. Terrorist are attacking in force the Ukrainian, Spanish and Polish forces in the Coalition. Like the Tet offensive, al-Sadr does not expect to have a military win but to permanently damage the will of the Iraqis and the Coalition.

Al-Sadr has miscalculated. The Coalition is attacking, not defending. We are killing the terrorists while avoiding collateral damage or indiscriminate attacks.
Be sure you go read his entire piece. You will feel better.

This is day 335.

The mood in our little military community is somber. One sees worry in the eyes of others...and the collective stress levels are incredibly high.

Speculation is that our Soldiers are relocating...and that will take them out of the relative safety and comfort of the camps they've spent the last year fixing up. And most are interpreting the idea of that move as a move toward the messy areas.

Many spouses are leaning toward spending this extension time back home in the states with mom and dad.

And for a number of them Thursday was they day they got mad...Friday was the day to get sad.

Friday, April 09, 2004


Turn your speakers on and watch this.

Smash tells you who's who, and what it takes to win.

When he says "we have the will to win"...he's referring to the forces.

The American public may be another matter.

Do you know The Song That Never Ends?

My buddy CPT Will is living it. If you've been reading here since the Autumn you already know CPT Will. Will was wounded in Baghdad...took some serious burns from a White Phosphorous mortar round and required a skin graft on his leg.

After the surgery and a few weeks convalescence, CPT Will went back to Baghdad. Got his Purple Heart and probably raised the spirits of some of the troops who had seen too many folks for whom combat with the enemy was a one-way trip.

That isn't what this story is about though. This story is about standing tall and determined in the face of adversity.

I first met CPT Will when he moved into the apartment next to ours nearly a couple of years ago. An affable guy, ready with the smile, he's got a few more miles on him than most Captains. He did a good amount of time as an enlisted man before receiving his commission as an officer.

CPT Will came to our neighborhood from elsewhere in Germany. He was sent here because Giessen is home to a unit in which he could become a Company Commander. (Because CPT Will is a Field Artillery Officer, they actually refer to these as "Battery Commands"... hey...what can you expect from folks who refer to themselves as "Redlegs". For our purposes...we'll stick with the term Company Command)

See...that is key. CPT Patti just finished her command...all Captains who aspire to become Majors some day simply MUST be a Company Commander. Wait...make that a successful Company Commander.

And for many officers the rest of the career pales when compared to the eighteen months spent in command of a company. The demands are extreme...but the rewards are greater.

CPT Will came to town...but it is rare that one arrives and waltzes into command just like that. Normally one must pay his dues..."make his bones" I think they call it in the Godfather movies. So CPT Will takes a staff job, works hard...gains the confidence of the Battalion Commander...and is selected to take command.

He was happy. A "line battery" too, meaning his command would include the actual howitzers...doing what Redlegs love to do....reach out and touch someone from thirty miles away.

They selected a date, put it on the unit's Training Calendar. Start the countdown.

And then it came. "Wait. Out." That's old Army radio speak for we'll get back to you.

CPT Will, we've been called up for Operation Iraqi Freedom. We won't execute the Change of Command as we had scheduled. New date? Wait. Out." Meanwhile we want you to stay here while we go to Iraq...and handle all the issues in the rear.

Three bags full, sir is all CPT Will could say. CPT Will is pitching in the minors, wishing and waiting for his call up to the big show.

September 2003...Finally, the call comes.

Baghdad, October 2003. They set a new date. CPT Will is even more ecstatic...taking command...line battery with real artillery pieces...and all manner of bad guys running around begging to be the Target of the Day.

CPT Will "conducts his inventory"...a mind numbing process of accounting for all a unit's equipment...from big guns down to the wrenches in a vehicle's Basic Issue Item set. The inventory is a huge deal...such that Captains are required not only to brief their bosses on every step and result of the process...but also brief their boss's boss.

And then...Incoming! CPT Will gets winged by that Willy Pete round

Medevaced to Landstuhl. As for command...Wait. Out.

Pain, drugs, surgery, therapy and finally a Get Out of Jail Free - if you consider a near death experience and a gimped up leg free card. CPT Will returns to Baghdad.

CPT Will, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is you are going to take command. The bad news is your command will not be a "line battery". It is "Service Battery".

Service Battery is where all the cooks and clerks and wrench-turners work. No shells...hell, no hearing loss potential at all!. This is the command that is universally avoided by self respecting Field Artillery guys all over the Army.

Yes, Sir...three bags full is all CPT Will could say.

And CPT Will conducted his inventory. From a kitchen on wheels down to the tool boxes.

He finishes...its his second far he's touched, smelled, and counted serial numbers on $34 million dollars worth of equipment.

Then, one day in formation, "All captain's who are scheduled to take command of Service Battery...please take two steps forward. Not so fast there, CPT Will!.

What the ?????

CPT Will, seems there is a personnel SNAFU and we need a guy to go back to Giessen and take over the rear again. And well, seeing how you are already trained...and you haven't actually taken get the nod. for taking command of Service will do that as soon as we bring these guys home from Iraq...lets call it early July. OK?

Three bags full, Sir...its all CPT Will can say. And he flies back to Giessen...this time not on a stretcher...just a week or so ahead of the Advanced Echelon of the 1st Brigade.

8 April, 2003: "1st Brigade has been extended in Iraq...guessing we'll be home sometime in August."

I saw CPT Will last night. I asked "given the changes in the schedule, when will you be taking command."

You know what he told me?

"Wait. Out"

Why tell this story? Yesterday we got news here that changed all that we expected and were excited about. We all whined and cried and today we have begun licking our wounds, so to speak.

It might help us to know that change is going to happen in the Army. It is the nature of our business. The truth is a "fluid and dynamic entity"...that is, the truth changes.

Just ask CPT Will.

Another prayer, delivered via the internet. From my cousin.
Breton Fisherman's Prayer

Dear God, be good to me;
The sea is so wide,
And my boat is so small.
Thanks, Deb

I had occasion today to think about good and evil.

I know that some don't believe in these concepts. I do.

And I noticed that good and evil belong to a set of concepts the definitions of which may be that "b" is the absence of "a".

Darkness is the absence of light energy. Cold is the absence of heat energy. (I'm no philosopher, so I can't quite sort out if this equation allows the elements to be properly referred to as opposites.)

And therefore it seems to me that in such cases, proving the existence of one of the concepts serves also to prove the other's.

Remember back in school when doing math problems for homework or a test the teacher would always require one to "show your work"? Well, being a bit distracted as I am today my brain has failed in three separate attempts to "show my work" in arriving at the conclusion in the above paragraph. But, I'm running with it anyway.

Now...where were we. Oh...good and evil.

The last 24 hours have been extraordinary. My email shows me that prayers are being said on my behalf...on CPT Patti's behalf, indeed on all our troops behalf by folks whom I've never met. One email contained the actual prayer itself.

Spontaneous hugs and a close, gazing of the eyes accompanied by a sincere " are you doing" from folks whose names I can't quite recall.

My telephone has rung more times in 24 hours than it has in all of 2004. Literally.

I answered my cell phone Thursday morning. "Tim?", the female voice I had never heard asked, "This is Sarah at tryingtogrok."

It was only after reading her account of this call that it dawned on me that some might not quite understand how it is that I'm on a first name basis, and have given my telephone number to a woman I've never met nor spoken to who calls to say she's also grieving over the continued separation of me and CPT Patti.

Such may be the nature of friendships these days.

I remember being a kid and going to the little southern baptist church where daddy was the minister of music. At the end of every service, after the final prayer, we'd all sing together "Blessed Be the Ties that Bind"

Well, chances are if you are reading these words, we are bound by ties to the good that we are trying to accomplish on behalf of, and in some cases, in spite of, the Iraqi people. For many of them have known, it is fair to say, only evil.

Which brings us full circle...

Some do not believe in the concept of evil. But evil might be defined as the absence of good.

Me...well, I've been showered by such amazing levels of good today, good people doing good things for good reasons, that by my logic, evil must exist.

But in the face of all the goodness, it doesn't stand a chance.


Wow...a lot has happened in the last 24 hours...I want to try to catch you up with where we are now.

Yesterday was a tidal wave. It was large, fast, caused an immense amount of disruption...and resulted in a lot of stunned, hurt and angry people.

You see...most of the folks in our community had not even imagined this turn of events was possible. The post here is covered with yellow ribbons and signs announcing "Welcome Home Axe Men" and such. So...while I had my suspicions confirmed and my disappointment unleashed on Wednesday night, there were less than 100 of us affected on that day (those of us expecting our loved ones to return with the ADVON).

Thursday morning when I arrived at work, rumors were circulating...but not being given credence. As the morning drew on word came from our Brigade HQ.

Shock, anger and tears followed.

At the end of our biweekly staff meeting our director asked us all to hold hands and she led us in prayer. There were perhaps 25 in that meeting...more than half of which have a wife or husband in Iraq. We cried together...we hugged one another. And, as I alluded to just below, it felt a lot like the night they left.

And to me, I had this feeling I had seen this all before.

Not much work got done yesterday. Staffers who are mothers left work to go explain their kids (who are out of school for spring break) that Daddy isn't coming home in two weeks as they had been counting on. Those of us who stayed in the office alternated between fits of tears, hugs and rereading the text of the message released by the HQ...looking for loopholes, something they could grasp on to so they didn't have to believe it is true.

A coworker got off the phone, steamed. She said the caller, a friend of hers, had reminded her of GEN Shinseki's warning to beware of a 12 Division strategy with a 10 Division Army.

Early in the afternoon I received a call from my Rear Detachment...the sergeant read the text of the HQs message to me over the phone. I explained before he began that I had my own copy of it (as a result of working in my particular office). "Yes sir," he explained, "but my orders are to read it to every family member, word for word." So I let him. He then told me he was packing his bags...he had returned three weeks ago to fill a requirement in the rear...but he'd be going back. He didn't complain and I sensed he felt that if the others in his unit were going to stay then it is only right that he should be with them.

A town hall meeting for all the family members was hastily organized by the rear detachment commanders. There was a traffic jam at the gate to the Depot where the meeting was held. Hundreds of people, mostly wives, filled the room. An Army Reserve Chaplain opened the meeting with a prayer that the Lord would soothe the anger in each of us. (Side note: Notice that twice on this day large groups on a Government Installation openly prayed to God. Several hundred people felt better for it...that is the America I Live In).

We were briefed on the points laid out in the HQ's memo. Babies cried, so did moms. There were more hugs and pats in that room than at a high school dance.

And then came the question and answer session. The first few questions were mostly practical - inquiring whether new orders will be published for all soldiers, or enrolling kids in the2004/5 school year as it appears kids who thought they were leaving this summer will start next school year here.

After a handful of such questions, predictably, the unanswerable questions ensued. Most of these questions begin with "Why". Why our guys? Why not somebody else? Why didn't they see this coming...questions that convey the askers anger more than a coherent inquiry. When the questions were hurled at the speakers from sorrowful, angry wives...often many in the audience would applaud.

Venting. Predictable, normal...but uncomfortable for the couple of Captains and the Sergeant facing an angry crowd.

I left. I'm told there was quite a crowd at the bar at the restaurant in the same building following the town hall meeting.

CPT Patti and I got the chance to "chat" via Instant Messenger again. She told me she had a good cry on Wednesday night...but was comforted by her roommate, another Officer whom CPT Patti describes as a "sweet and loving girl".

CPT Patti says the soldiers are just in shock...but planning has already begun to do what they are being asked to do.

As we typed our notes back and forth...the conversation focused on the need to put this setback behind us. Preparing for the future is more productive at this stage than dwelling on the uncontrollable.

I adopted a tone perhaps a bit more upbeat than I was really feeling...and we turned our view toward tomorrow. "I'm doing pretty well", I said, "But I'm concerned for the house plants...I think they were just hanging on until you get home." She laughed...and told me so.

" can I help you?" I asked.

Well, because she had packed up to come home, she had divested herself of all of the comfort items she had accumulated over the past year. We made a shopping list. And after innumerable assurances that we're still rather fond of one another, she signed off...and I went shopping.

Beef jerky, Gatorade powder, hard Army brown t-shirts, Neosporin, lotion, underwear, vitamins, shampoo, a new toothbrush, sunblock...

You see...there are three things I can do to make life better for the Sweetest Woman on the Planet. I can pray for her...I can shop for her...and I can exchange messages between her and those who love and support her. I was already doing A and C...but B was eliminated when the mailing cutoff date passed in March. So I'm back to doing all that I can do for her. And that is good therapy for me.

As my father taught me when I was 19..."Worry is a poor substitute for work."

Amen, Dad

Change comes fast, often and at the worst possible time in the Army. I've lived that for over 24 years now. As a result I believe I've learned to pass through the five stages of grieving in a hurry when such is required.

This time it is required.

Do I hurt? Yes...hugely. But you know what...I'm not the one in a war zone. Hosting my own pity party does her no good whatsoever...and I am choosing to consider that this change in plans...well, this change in plans isn't about me. It's about her.

I have three boxes to mail to her today. Each packed with love disguised as sunflower seeds and sugarless gum.

And that is the best that I can do.

This is day 334. But in a lot of ways it feels like day 1 all over again.

Thursday, April 08, 2004


We got the official word this morning. Plus, I've been in touch with CPT Patti. But at this point I can only share what has been made public.

The 1st Brigade, 1st Armor Division has been extended for a total of 120 days. Four months. Three months of that will be for the purpose of continuing operations in Iraq. The remaining month is the time to pack stuff up and redeploy to Germany.

As of now we should expect that our folks will be back here in mid August.

And...unfortunately for some readers...the bad part is that those who have already returned home to Giessen and Friedberg from the 1st Brigade...those soldiers will be returned to Iraq to rejoin their units.

Expect that the stop loss, stop movement order that was implemented in January will be extended for the duration of the deployment. That means that 99% of all scheduled moves, unit changes, retirements and just plain old getting out of the Army will not happen for our guys.

The good news? Well, the best I can give you right now is that mail service has been reinstated for the 1st Brigade effective immediately. Just address the stuff the same way you did before and send it on.

It's a helluva shock...but we've got to get back on that horse and ride. May God have mercy on us.

Translation: Putting them on hold indefinitely.
The continuing rotation of forces in Iraq gives American forces an advantage by having about 20,000 more troops than would otherwise be there.

"We're taking advantage of that increase, and we will likely be managing the pace of the redeployments to allow those seasoned troops with experience and relationships with the local populations to see the current situation through," Rumsfeld said.

Sources told CNN that the top U.S. commander for the U.S. Central Command, Gen. John Abizaid, assured President Bush in a video-teleconference that the U.S. plan to aggressively attack anti-U.S. forces will work.

However, while Abizaid had not asked for additional troops to be sent to Iraq, he is planning to delay the departure of units that had been scheduled to leave after one year, according to Pentagon officials.

Those units, officials say, are expected to be elements from the 1st Armored Division.

This is the 333d day of CPT Patti's deployment. It was supposed to be her last.

My morale is low...imagine what hers is.

Please pray for her.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


She just called.

She had made it safely to the airport.

Four hours later...she, and all the others, were recalled back to their camps. She said it is because 1AD anticipates they may get extended.

I don't know anything more.

And forgive while a feel a little sorry for myself. And a whole lot sorry for my darling wife.

Sources said options include repositioning troops within Iraq, moving troops from Kuwait, accelerating the scheduled deployment of replacement troops from the United States, or identifying small additional units that could be moved from the United States or elsewhere.

Another option would be to extend the tour of duty of some troops already in Iraq, a Pentagon official acknowledged Tuesday. But at the same time, officials played down the possibility.

One official said extending the tours of U.S. troops is not a "formal option" and that it is not under "active consideration."

A decision to keep troops in Iraq beyond a one-year tour would break a promise the Pentagon made to bring "predictability" to the stress of overseas deployments.

"Any decision to extend the tours of duty would come at a cost," one official said. "That would have to be taken into consideration."
Of course, I'm hoping this one is correct.

Meanwhile, still no word from CPT Patti...I don't know if the convoy went out or not...usually she is very good about contacting me.

But I'm feeling a bit calmer now...and I think it is thanks to your prayers. So...thank you!

I'm a bit distracted over all this at the moment.
The CENTCOM official also said Monday that 24,000 U.S. troops who were scheduled to leave the country in the next few weeks will stay where they are.

The delay brings the U.S. force level in Iraq up to 135,000 troops, which is “an unusually high level,” Rumsfeld said Tuesday.

He did not respond to a question regarding how long the 24,000 troops due to rotate home might be kept in Iraq.


Day 332.

And I'm just worried sick. She was supposed to convoy today...and I'm thinking this is perhaps not the best day to do that.

Plus...according to reader John, Congressman Hunter, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee appeared on Lou Dobb's show on CNN on Tuesday night. And when asked about troop levels in Iraq Mr. Hunter said off the phone with his colleagues and with Donald Rumsfeld. His belief (shared by others) and recommendation to Rumsfeld and Abbizaid is to stop the rotation of 1AD immediately to "shore up" the troops' strength within the Sunni Triangle, and also "to be ready" for potential increase in Sunni uprising.

Please help pray her home safely.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004


So says this piece...and note the role the media play.
Given the world’s shortage of enlightened despots these days, this fantasy is unlikely to be realized either. No leaders, no goals, no future—what do Sunnis hope to gain from the violence?

Honor. Forget political or social objectives—or even attempts to “drive out” the Coalition. By killing GIs and Iraqi civilians, Sunni terrorists feel they are reclaiming the pride they lost when the U.S. military juggernaut crushed their miserable fiefdom. This explains the sense of desperation one detects in their complaints about the U.S., as well as their lack of interest in ideology, propaganda, leadership or anything that normally characterizes a true “resistance movement.” The goal of these criminals is simply to kill: a non-negotiable position that allow an enemy no chance for accommodation or truce—only withdrawal or death.

Unable to grasp such irrationality, the press insists on bestowing a more acceptable motive to the death squads stalking the Sunni Triangle. They are “guerrillas,” we read, waging a war of “resistance” against Coalition “occupiers”—as if they were an Arab version of the French maquis or the Viet Cong. The gunmen are happy to have an obliging media grant them legitimacy and offer justification for their atrocities. As the Israelis discovered with the PLO—another humiliated bandit-gang transformed into a national liberation movement by the media—even a democracy can lose the moral high ground to corrupt insurgents posing as the representatives of an oppressed people..


Good it all.
Seven American soldiers died in Baghdad on Sunday because we failed to respond to last week's Fallujah attacks. Whatever our motives, we looked weak and indecisive. Additional enemies believed their moment had come.

In the Middle East, appearances are all.

Intelligence personnel are routinely warned to avoid mirror-imaging, assigning our values and psychology to an opponent. Imagining that our enemies think like us has cost us dearly in Iraq. The bill will go still higher...

Americans value compromise; our enemies view it as weakness. We're reluctant to use force. The terrorists and insurgents read that as cowardice...

On Sunday, in Baghdad, Kufa, Najaf and elsewhere, the followers of the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, bolstered by his militia, rioted and killed seven U.S. soldiers and two El Salvadoran peacekeepers. It should never have happened.

Sadr's militia should have been disarmed and disbanded in the earliest days of the occupation. Sadr himself should have been arrrested for his inflammatory preaching. But we were afraid to stir up trouble.

Now we face a much greater threat than we'd have faced had we acted firmly last year. We set a precedent of timidity.

Recently, we summoned the nerve to shut down Sadr's private newspaper for formenting trouble. But our reluctance to face down the man himself has been read locally as cowardice not tolerance.

Make no mistake: Just because we view restraint as a virtue does not mean our enemies share that view. The refusal to use our power in the face of defiance only makes defiance more attractive.

When U.S. forces arrive in a troubled country, they create an initial window of fear. It's essential to act decisively while the local population is still disoriented. Each day of delay makes our power seem more hollow. You have to do the dirty work at the start. The price for postponing it comes due with compound interest.

A 26-year-old Army Ranger never expected an ambush quite like this one while stationed in Iraq and the only warning he got was when fellow soldiers paged him over the 2-way radio.

"Hey, Nick. Your mom's here," they said.
Of course, she was there doing research to write her anti-war book.
Military officials spoke for the first time Monday of possibly increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq in response to the surge in anti-American violence.

While saying he believed the current force level to be adequate, a senior official of the U.S. Central Command acknowledged it was involved in "prudent planning" for sending more troops to Iraq.

"Given the events of this weekend and the obvious potential for more demonstrations or more violence, we have asked the staff to at least take a look and see what forces are available out there in a quick response mode, in the event that they should be needed if there was a widespread move in that direction," the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Pentagon reporters.
When I heard this I had a stomach turning thought.

What if they decide they do need more troops than was planned for? What is the quickest way of expanding the size of the force on the ground? Easy...don't let those go home who haven't left yet.

Please, Lord...let me be wrong about this one.

I've written before about Dave, aka Defense Contractor Guy. We were roommates in college. We prowled the streets of Frankfurt together as lieutenants. He did the photography on the day CPT Patti and I got married.

And for 331 days he and his wonderful wife have provided support to me, CPT Patti and her soldiers from way back in Washington DC. Among their numerous acts of generosity they donated books. I don't know how many...but I know he and his wife are prolific readers...and Dave also enlisted assistance from his coworkers who, in turn, also donated books...and other stuff.

So my buddy Dave gets credit for the establishment of Gator Library, which CPT Patti tells me was hugely popular with her soldiers, as well as the English speaking staff at the Mess Hall.

Dave wrote recently offering more books which we had to refuse due to the pending redeployment of our units.

Last night he wrote to me about what he did with those books instead.

And I just gotta share it.

I went to Walter Reed Army Hospital today.

Wanted to do a good thing ... you know something that made me feel good. Since Patti is coming home and packages can no longer be sent I decided to take the remainder of the books (about 75 books, plus socks, cookies etc) I had collected for the gator library and give them to the Red Cross for patients to read.

Well when I got there I went through security and then parked in a loading zone front of the med facility.

I took the first two boxes of books up to the Red Cross on the 3rd floor. In the lobby I passed a soldier with fresh bandages over a stump on his arm. He had a sheaf of papers in a folder ... off to whatever medical treatment he needed. My first amputee of the day.

I brought in the first two boxes into the Red Cross office - a cramped set of rooms with too much to do and too few supplies. I dropped off the books and some soldiers went quickly in setting out the books out on the existing shelves outside the RC office - a lending library.

I left and went for the second load of books. Walking through Walter Reed is a really interesting time. Hundreds of people there for their medical support. Mostly these are retired soldiers and their dependents in the lobby ...waiting for Rx and such. But you go up the upper floors and you begin to see some of the recently injured soldiers. The two that stick in my mind are two young men wearing pajama tops, knee length shorts, and bath robes. Moving down the hall next to each other, on crutches, one had a left leg missing and the other had a right leg
missing. As they moved down the hall toward me they were strangely symmetrical. The soldier on the right with his left leg gone and the soldier on the left with his right leg gone. They moved down the hall in unison ... almost in formation, talking to each other ... friends ... their own support group. But they were still soldiers - they walked with confidence and with heads up and just a touch of arrogance. Walking with crutches they took up most of the hall way - I moved to the side to let them pass. Even on crutches they moved like they were on a mission and I did not want to get in their way. I tried to catch their eye and say hello - but they did not acknowledge my presence.

I thought about the Red Cross tax deduction form I had filled out and felt guilty. I left thinking - there should be more that I can do.

I was thinking that you could add the Walter Reed web page as a link on your Blog -there is a button at the top for donations.

And so I have. Through that link one can donate to various organizations that support soldiers and their families such as the American Red Cross and Fisher House.

And now all the readers have a real good idea why I hold on to a friend like Dave.

Something special happend on Monday.

While taking out the recyclables to the collection bins near our apartment, I passed a woman in our stairwell whom I didn't recognize. She was clearly coming from the exercise class being held in the building.

Upon seeing me she asked "Are you Tim?" After I confirmed my identity she gave me her name as if I would recognize it. Seeing that I didn't she said that I would have read some of her emails.

And then it dawned on me...this is a woman I've "known" only through CPT Patti's website and the emails generated by its readers.

I was quick to apologize for my absence the last four days (which she said she had noted!)...explaining that i was feeling a bit poorly on Monday.

After enquiring about the projected dates of return of each's spouse, we were saying our goodbyes.

It was then that the something special happened. On her way out the door this twenty-something woman paused, turned back to me and said "keep up the good work".

"Keep up the good work".

Now she would have no way of knowing until she reads this just how that one remark completely lifted my spirits on what had been for me a rather gloomy day. By her words, my heart soared. It was a spontaneous affirmation...five words on her part but what an awesome effect on me.

And so I am reminded of the power of a kind word.

And I'm given hope that civility isn't actually obsolete.

I won't use her name here...but ma' know who you are. Thanks for touching my spirit with your goodness.

Time has slowed to a crawl for me.

You see...according to the schedule, CPT Patti, the sweetest woman on the planet, is to return home this weekend. As a result, the days have transformed themselves into vast, seemingly endless stretches of time.

And I feel as if I know the sentiment behind the phrase "waiting to exhale".

In these circumstances words like "soon" and "near" and "close" have no meaning. They will have no meaning until the event they describe, her homecoming, is in the past tense.

"Soon" means nothing if "never" is still a possibility.

You see...the flag in front of our brigade HQ building flies at half staff today. We lost one of our own on Sunday. Doubtless somewhere there are loved ones who only Saturday were hearing well wishers use words like "soon".

"Soon" means nothing if "never" is still on the table.

It is like this...for me anyway. The last 331 days were, at the beginning, an ocean. Each day of the deployment is a quantity of water. And the ocean is full of mortal danger...which we will represent with salt. As every day has passed, one day's worth of the water has evaporated. The salt does not evaporate is left in the remaining water. So today, there is only a handful of water remaining...but it is packed with an entire ocean's worth of salt.

The danger has not decreased. We see that clearly on the flagpole.

And just as the salt is thick, so too is the stress I'm feeling. I don't mean to be selfish...I don't mean to be negative. I'm simply being honest.

"Soon" is a concept that doesn't work here.

This is day 331.

I am sorry for being away...I am still not feeling well...the first cold I've had in two years has me moving fairly slowly.

Monday, April 05, 2004


Day 330 of CPT Patti's deployment.

She called yesterday to tell me they've added at least one more day to her Baghdad visit.

Me...a bit under the weather today...