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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Idea For A Book - Part 4 (Theme)

So, my book had been written and the publishing contract was in the process of being constructed. Going back to the idea of my book, what was my major theme, and what were the underlying themes that fed into it? I had to ask myself, deep down, in all honesty, what was the true burden from this deployment. My personal sacrifice? The separation from my family? The stress of working in a combat zone? The sacrifice of my family? The fear of failure? The fear of death? The fear of never seeing my family again? Well, in many ways it was a combination of all these and more issues. But the root of my belief was that the true burden lied within the loved ones we left behind once we left. The gap we left in their lives, the emptiness that remained while we were gone, and the endless days that rolled by until we were finally reunited.

Hell, I love the Army, I wanted to deploy, and once I got there it was my main focus and my main goal. My family was never far from my thoughts. They were the driving force behind staying safe, focusing on my mission, and eventually making my way home in one piece. I mentioned my family in every journal entry I kept during the 15 months I was away. They were my fuel, even when the tank was running dry, there was enough, with the thought of them, to keep me going. Even to this day, if I am asked to deploy, I will go without hesitation, or asking many questions (there are always questions to ask, especially with the National Guard). It will not be as much a burden on me, although I am the one leaving, going to a foreign land, and possibly risking my life and all I know in this world for whatever it is my country asks of me. Now, my chances of dying during my deployment might have been close to that of me winning the lottery, not sure if that is an accurate statement, but let's face it, this was not Saigon, it certainly wasn't Normandy, and for that matter my position did not place me in the position where I would find myself in a place like Fallujah or Ramadi where major combat action took place in Iraq. It was for all intensive purposes, a very benign mission, with very little risk. But that does not take away from the fact that I was separated from my wife and children, and they were separated for me, this fact alone impacts the complexity of any mission in Iraq, but my chances of catching a bullet were slim, my chances of catching a mortar, well, those were a bit greater. 

So the theme of Combat Support (a term to define my participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and a term I use to define what it is the family is to the service member) was to focus on my main idea, the fundamental thought for me personally, for the true burden of sacrifice as it pertained to my deployment.

I only spent one deployment oversees. I understand this is small in comparison to the multiple deployments many others in the military experienced. I in no way want to sensationalize my experience or deployment, I simply wanted to tell a story about life, not about war. 

An excerpt from Combat Support "The True Burden Of Sacrifice"
The first journal entry

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tears, heartache, and sorrow are the three words that come to mind to describe today. Saying goodbye to the ones I love is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with in my life so far. Although I still feel that, in the end, this will be one of the proudest experiences of my life, I still feel that sinking feeling when reflecting on this morning. I was happy to see some friends, Al and Cindy, with their kids, Matt and Walt, and of course Rod (my co-worker from Tooele and fellow 144th soldier, because he was going, too), Nikki, and their little girl.

0420 hrs

I wake up and the full realization of today’s events begins to unfold. I couldn’t really focus and think about the upcoming goodbye without tears welling in my eyes. For most of the morning I shook them off, but I knew when the moment arrived it would be difficult. All of the kids, Dylan, Destiny, and Dakota, were up and ready to go on time. We left the house, picked up our family and my wife’s friend of many years, Doris, and drove to the Air National Guard Base without any consequence.

0600 hrs

Formation, final accountability for our journey to the unknown. OK, I’m being a little dramatic, but hell, this is a big deal. There are no guarantees when entering a hostile country and situation—but we aren’t there yet. A few words from various high rollers in the Utah Guard, and the waiting began; our flight was scheduled to leave at 0900 hrs. For the next hour-plus we sat and talked, while through our minds ran the constant thoughts of missing each other for this extended period of time. There were pictures, words of comfort and of course, that sinking feeling in my heart.

0800 hrs
We exit the building we’d been waiting in and make our way to a grassy area across the road from the fight line. The waterworks start; Dakota tells me she doesn’t want me to go. Why did she wait until now? Because she’s four years old, of course. I can’t contain the emotions that have been building in me for weeks. I cry, grab my kids, hug them and struggle to say I love them with the strain of emotion coursing from my mouth. I love them more than I probably will ever be able to explain. I tend to avoid emotional issues due to my inability to control emotions at times, and I apologize to my loved ones for that. This buildup to deployment might have been easier had I been talking to my wife and kids, working up to this point, and for that, Shannon, Dylan, Destiny, and Dakota, I apologize from the deepest part of my heart. I love you all beyond any comprehension of the word and will forever.

Final goodbyes are said to Al, Cindy, and Walt. Matt left earlier, probably good due to the condition we’re all in, but these goodbyes are hard. The few friends I have in Utah are all truly caring and sincere; I respect them for that, and hope in the future I can contact them more often than just when we’re planning a party, but I make no guarantees! The kids, Shannon, and Doris accompany me to the flight line and I get one last chance to say goodbye, hugs, kisses, and tears. Then, I step into formation for our walk to the plane and my last glimpse of my loved ones for possibly 545 days. Doris accompanied us through this whole process and I know her being there gave Shannon the support she needed to get through this day, and again for that I am very grateful. She and her husband Rick are irreplaceable and I’m confident that while I’m gone they’ll be the backbone of support for Shannon and the kids, along with the others I mentioned earlier.

The walk to the plane was a difficult one, I turned several times and waved hoping that this moment in time might pause and give me an extended moment to look back at my family, my world, and embed the vision into my mind permanently. As I walked and my family grew smaller in my vision, I thought of the mission my country has placed before me, and I know in my heart this pain I feel today, although I could never forget it, can’t affect me and the goals I need to accomplish to help bring our soldiers and myself home without harm.

As I greet our XO, 1LT Stefl, before boarding the plane, I shake his hand and say, "Let’s do this." Maybe not the greatest quote that has come from my mouth, but a sincere one.

0900 hrs

Our plane begins to move, and as we pull from the flight line it’s doused with water from two tanker fire trucks courtesy of the Utah Air National Guard. We receive a security escort down the runway for our departure. There’s no turning back now, and our plane takes off with our dreams left behind on the ground waving, and our hopes awaiting us in the future.

We arrived at Fort Bliss at 1030 hrs, exited the plane and boarded buses, and after a short wait (as if there are any short waits in the Army), we departed for our billets. On the way we made a quick stop at the dining facility, then after another short wait proceeded to the two large circus tents that will house us for the next coming weeks. I spent most of my time trying to get wireless access to a few networks I found in range, went to dinner, then spent more time trying unsuccessfully to connect to the Internet. After frustration and boredom—and I know it’s just the first day—I decided to go for a run and use the fitness center that is conveniently located next to our tents.

Unfortunately today was one of anguish, especially for the kids. Dakota cried herself to sleep. Dylan and Destiny are old enough to grasp the situation, and Shannon said goodbye to the man she knows will love her for eternity. But I’m content to make the best of this situation I put myself into, and my friends and family know that I love them dearly and not a moment will pass for the next 545 days that my thoughts won’t be of them.

Men sometimes do things for reasons others won’t understand, but the driving force behind what men do in time of need will always be for the greater good of his family, country, and way of life.

God bless you. All that I
hold dear to my heart.

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