Thursday, January 27, 2011

All packed up and nowhere to go...

Thursday has quickly become one of my favorite two days of the week; the other being Sunday. The reason is because those are the days that Daniel and I have for our half-days here in Afghanistan. Upon our arrival in country we were not given any time off and worked 12-15 hours per day. After the first few months were complete and we had a new commander he reinstated the half-day policy, which was an excellent idea. Twelve months without any time off will drive a man crazy!

Truly there is nothing spectacular about my half-day, but I have my little rituals that have become quite important to me. We leave work around 2:00 p.m. and I typically am able to come to my room and watch a movie or take a nap or something to just relax. My favorite thing about these days is the fact that I can Skype with my wife and see my kids running around in the background. It's a time when this war removes itself to the far fetches of my mind and some sense of normalcy reappears when I see their wonderful faces. It's tough watching the kids grow up online, but it sure beats not seeing them at all.

On another much lighter note, Daniel and I packed our shipping container today for movement back to the States. We are 100% packed up with nowhere to go! All that's left to pack is our clothes, battle rattle and maybe some personal gear. If someone told me I could leave in an hour as long as I could make the plane I now know that it could easily be if someone would just give me that opportunity!

According to our 'Circle of Freedom' we have completed 90.7% of our deployment and all we have left is 9.3% more. Five years from now I'll look back at Afghanistan in much the same way that I currently look on my time in Iraq. Funny how memories have a way of removing the less than desirable times and clean up everything so that we look with rose-colored glasses. Those memories are five years away for now I'm ready to be in my bed in my house with my wonderful wife and a consistently warm shower would be great!

So, for those of you out there in cyberspace keeping up with the days we're down to 30. The tracker says only 4.28 weeks left...I can do it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's 3:15 in the morning...let me sleep!

So, I've heard from fairly credible sources that for every hour you gain or lose in transit from one time zone to another it will take that many days to be completely over your jetlag. I'm beginning to think those guys were right! For the past six days I have woke up between 3:13 a.m. and 3:17 a.m. This would be normal had I gone to bed at 8:00 p.m., but I'm not even going to bed until midnight...enough is enough. I don't have to be at work until 9:00 a.m., but these days I am wide awake at 6:00 a.m. so why just lay there?

The Team is down to 44 days on the 'Circle of Freedom' that we are maintaining. In case I haven't mentioned it, the Circle is an Excel spreadsheet that keeps up with the exact amount of days/months/hours/minutes/meals/etc. that have passed and those that we must still suffer through. Most of the guys have personalized our own countdown with a picture of our kids or spouse and I must say that it is finally not depressing to open the spreadsheet and see how much time is left. We currently sit at 13.7% left on the countdown...not too bad if I may say so.

The three of us that went on R&R during Christmas have finally gotten back into some semblance of a routine. It's sad to say this, but my motivation in on the floor. Needless to say, it is very hard to get right back to work after spending two weeks at home with family and friends. I'm a little jealous of all the snow my friends back home are getting; being snowed in sounds like fun right now. There is plenty of snow on the mountains surrounding us and it has finally reached our base as I can hear the snow/sleet hitting the tin roof.

Since the last time I wrote it seems the Auburn Tigers have won the national championship. As an alumni of The University of Alabama I proudly cheered for the Oregon Ducks; if any Auburn fan is upset or thinks 'how dare you' then I'll gladly remind you all of the "Hook 'em Horns" and burnt orange Texas shirts that you all proudly adorned last year when the Tide brought home #13 to the trophy cabinet. Congrats to AU on the win, but just remember 13 > 2 !!! Also, Daniel and I have decided that we can not deploy again in the seems that Auburn is undefeated while we are deployed, 27-0 (13-0 in 2004, 14-0 in 2010). I'd almost volunteer if that were the case for Alabama, but during those same two seasons it seems that the Tide is a mere 16-9 and 0-2 against Alabama Polytechnic (Auburn). Oh well, we now go into the 8 month drough with NCAA least there are spring games in April!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Can you count to 50?

So, if you can count to 50 then you can officially count higher than the amount of days that I have left in sunny and scenic Afghanistan!

The last time I posted I was only a few weeks from heading home on my two-week R&R. I'm not quite sure if I feel rested and recuperated, but I am back. I've learned that it is a basic instinctive response to say "glad to be back" when someone says "hey man, glad you're back." I've caught myself responding as such and know that it is a total lie! I'm not unhappy to be back, obviously I would rather be home though.

One thing I am very happy about is that I am no longer in transit. The trip began in Huntsville at the airport and ended in Afghanistan approximately 50 hours later. Most people can sleep with no problems on an airplane, however I know that I am not most people. If I do happen to fall asleep on the plane it's only for 5-10 minutes at a whack and very unrestful. Also, should the crew choose to play a video then I am hooked if it is anything worth watching...we watched 4 full length films between Germany and Kuwait.

Upon our arrival back in Atlanta we learned that our flight wasn't for another 13 hours; when we realized we couldn't get an earlier seat we went and rented a car for the 3 hour drive home. Loni picked me up and was even more beautiful than I remember! My kids were great when we went to pick them up; both have grown considerably. My daughter has really gotten taller and slimmed down, while my son is now walking/running around trying to keep up with his sister. It was wonderful getting to see them again, literally unexplainable, even though my daughter put me in tears within the first 15 seconds when she grabs my face and very seriously states, "Daddy, I missed you...I needed you."

We made it back in time for church on the 19th, it was great getting to see everyone there. The prayers and support shown by them has made this deployment bearable. My father and brother planned a frosty motorcycle ride my first week home. The weather forecast had previously stated approximately 60* but when the time came a cold front came with it and we rode in cool 42* weather. Normally we would all say "no thanks" to riding in such weather, but we just had to ride once while I was home! We stayed on the run from the 23rd through the 27th from one Christmas gathering to another.

Loni and I took a much needed date night late in the R&R to Fleming's in Nashville. If you have never been there I highly recommend steak I've ever had, they also had wonderful service! I won't mention any names, but our night at Fleming's was free thanks to some great people for which I am forever grateful.

Two other gatherings that we attended during the latter half of R&R were our church Sunday school party and a get together with some friends. The church party was a blast at the home of Jeremy & Jodi Hopper...we played a game on their Wii called Just Dance and had a great time. I found out the next morning that it was as much a workout as it was fun! Loni contacted a few friends and we went to the Cheesecake Factory down in Birmingham; I'm not sure I have laughed that much in years.

There is a great deal of stuff that I haven't mentioned and won't due to this becoming a long post...either way, the time was spent with great family and great friends.

Also, for the first time since weather records have been kept beginning way back in 1880 our little town had a white Christmas! Most of you know the area, but for anyone not from Cullman you should understand that it snows there 1-2 times per year and very seldom sticks for more than a few hours. The reason I tell you this is because in a place like Cullman you have no real need for winter weather clothes. My children resembled Ralphie from A Christmas Story when they went outside; I'm pretty sure they each had on 3 sets of clothes. We built a huge snowman (relative to Cullman) with the help of my parents, which eventually fell under its own weight. We did make some really good pictures before it fell though...good times!

My time at home was as you might expect, an absolute whirlwind of running from place to place trying to see everyone during Christmas...I wouldn't trade it for anything.

So, to my family and friends...thanks so much for making my time at home special. Less than 50 days and I'll be beginning my trek back home for good.

I'll leave you with a good word from my friend and teammate Rich...
"Time! So elusive – I hate you and love you! What a relationship! Please make the days pass at lightning speed until I once again return. Slow down those days spent loving my sacred time with my friends and family. Watch over me, watch over my family and friends, keep their spirits high, their goals focused and their purpose meaningful."

Until next time...