"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Husker Flag Back in Iraq

You may remember that back in late April/early May, the Husker flag that I brought with me to Iraq that was flying over the JDOC here at Anaconda was stolen right off the flag pole. Bad times. The culprits were never found. However, sometimes good things come from bad. MSG (master sergeant or E8, second highest enlisted rank) Richard Aldag is the NCOIC (nco in charge) of our Intel section. He works for the State Patrol back home, is an Army Ranger, Husker fan, and all around good guy. He noticed that I was severely depressed by this blatant theft, and has been working ever since on getting me a replacement. We were both home on leave at about the same time, and while he was home he was able to get me hooked up with a new flag autographed by this years team. One word: Awesome! Before finding a prominent place to display in our office, we ran it up the flag pole for a few minutes. Here's the pics:

SSG Johnson and I getting ready to fly the flag, Hammer is running the camera.
The flag on the pole getting ready to fly.

Out with the old (temporarily), in with the new. We noticed how faded the current Husker flag is, SGT Hanseling has a new flag on the way to replace mine, at which time it will be retired to a place of honor.

On the way up!


More good news on the Husker front. AFN (Armed Forces Network), our cable system, picked up the Husker vs KU game, so we'll be watching tonight at 0300. We are all pretty pumped, they have 3 channels they devote to football on Sat/Sun, so actually getting our game picked is, in a word, nice. You can see how we roll on game days on SGT Hanseling's Blog and SSG Johnson's Blog. We are giving all the credit to the Hammer, he sent AFN an email on Tuesday before the schedules came out requesting, in fact begging, for the hook up. The next day our dreams were realized. The AFN guy emailed back and said that he was just sitting at his computer surfing the net, trying to decide which game to pick, when he saw the Hammer's email. He was so moved by the Hammer's impassioned plea that he bumped the Michigan vs Minnesota game to, as we say in the Cav, "make it happen." Even in the face of rioutous fans of the matchup for the Brown Jug threating his life and the life of his family, he said he will hold fast for us Husker fans. We are going to send him a Stetson and some spurs for his troubles. Okay, I made that all up (except for the part about Hammer sending the email) because that is what I like to think happened. But, I will tell you that someone from this office will be sending a weekly email to AFN pleading our case. It can't hurt, right?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pictures from Leave - 2

Here are some more pics from my trip home. This is Benjamin at the park. He is getting ready to go down the slide.
This is me and my brother on the deck, drinking a beer. You will probably notice that he has lost like 30 pounds since the last picture I posted from Camp Shelby. I can still kick his butt though. He was able to switch his MOS (military occupation specialty) from Infantryman to Medic, so that is a good thing. Although he won't be in the Cav now which is probably for the best, the medic job will have some more opportunities on the civilian side. We had to retake the picture because I didn't have any shoes on and he had boots on, so in the first one he was about 3 inches taller than me, which is of course not accurate. I simply couldn't have that on film for the record. Here is one that same night of my wife (aka the beautiful girl) and me. We really had a fantastic time on leave. I was lucky enough to be able to spend all of my time with her and Benjamin. Most of the time was spent just hanging out around the house, running errands, pretty much just enjoying out time together. The grandparents were great coming over to babysit as well so that we could have some time for the two of us. I have a new appreciation for what a stay at home mom goes through. Mr. B is pretty demanding as far as his needs and keeps you pretty busy throughout the day. It is really hard to get anything else done because he needs constant attention. I'm pretty sure that the wife has the more difficult job of the two of us on this deployment.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Back In Iraq

Well, I'm back in Iraq. Leave was great. I thoroughly enjoyed my time home and it was great to see everyone. I am going to steal a play from Hammer's playbook and post a couple of pictures from back home for the next few days. Here is one of Benjamin and me hanging out in the kitchen.

Here is one of Benjamin out the patio playing with the hose. He got a little bit wet.

I started compiling a list of the not so obvious things that I enjoyed about being home. Of course you can guess that the best things about being home were spending time with my wife, son, family and friends, eating good food and drinking real beer. Those are the no brainers. But, there were some little things that I really enjoyed and am missing now. In no particular order:
1. Taking off my sunglasses and then leaving them on my head. Not authorized in the Army, in fact you can't have them anywhere visible except for on your face. I have to stick them in my pocket which then they get all dirty, etc, etc. By the way if anyone picked up a pair of Wiley X shades I seem to have misplaced them.

2. Putting my hands in my pockets. You can't do this in the Army, believe it or not, it is considered unprofessional.

3. My bed. I had forgotten how comfortable my bed is. I splurged in college on a really nice King size, and we've since added one of those memory pads that really makes it soft. One word: Awesome. My bed here is a crappy twin that squeaks everytime I so much as cough so that is no fun. Better than a cot, but not as nice as the homefront.

4. Not going outside to go the bathroom in the morning or middle of the night.

5. Not having to use a portajohn in the morning or middle of the night. After sitting out in the sun all day, they don't smell so good, to put it mildly.

6. Driving to the gas station and buying a 6 pack. You don't know how great this is until you can't do it for 8 months. I actually purposely bought small quantities of Blue and Chrome so that I would have to go back more often. I know I already used this word once, but it was Awesome.

7. Walking 10 feet instead of 3/4 of a mile to get something to eat.
7a, Not walking past the pit where they dump the "water" from the portajohns on the way to eat. You can't understand how bad this smell is without experiencing it. Horrible beyond belief, and it never gets any better. We analyze the wind path and do out best to walk around it, but are not always successful. You would think this would be on some little used corner of this base, but you would be wrong.

8. Wearing different clothes everyday. ACUs and PT uniform are the only items authorized for wear. Boooorrriiingg.

9. Being able to go to Scheels to pick out a new pair of running shoes and then actually try them on. The internet is nice but not always the best as you buy stuff sight unseen.

10. Showering with Nebraska water. The water here comes from the canal and although filtered, has a little bit of a stench. I was used to it but after showering with normal water, for 2 weeks, I can definitely smell it again. Luckily we are in a water shortage so we are taking combat showers (get in, get wet, turn off the water, soap up, rinse, get out) so I haven't noticed it as much.

Okay, well that is all for now. I have some more that I will post next time. Take care.

Monday, September 11, 2006

5 Years Later - A Soldier Remembered

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I'm sure everyone remembers what they were doing that day. For me, I had just started at ConAgra about 2 weeks ago. We had our sales managers flying in for a quarterly review. I remember one of them saying there was a problem with the flights because of a fire at the WTC. We watched it on TV down in the Executive Conference Room. I remember watching in horror as the first tower fell and then the second shortly thereafter. My wife was still in Grad school at the time, and we were both in Omaha, and we had plans to meet for lunch at Trinis in the Old Market. We had lunch and talked about the days events in shock. I remember wondering if I would get called up to pull security, which I did a few months later, 30 days at Eppley Airport. We watched Fox News around the clock for the next few weeks it seems like.

For some, the memories are still more powerful and more painful. The family and friends of SFC Jose Orlando Calderon-Olmedo are one of these groups. SFC Calderon died at the Pentagon on 9/11, one of 245 victims of this senseless and cowardly attack. SFC Calderon was 44 at the time of his death and was originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was assigned to the G1 (personnel) staff so he worked in an office with people who do the same jobs as the group of guys I work with here, albeit at a much higher level. SFC Calderon had 19 years in the Army, and was looking forward to getting his 20 years and his retirement.

I was able to get in contact with one of SFC Calderon's co-workers, and she was kind enough to provide me a personal story about Jose. Her name is Sylvia and she had this to say:

I met SFC Calderon when I was assigned to G1 at the Pentagon in March of 2001. As I assumed my duties I learned that he was our Supply Sergeant for the entire directorate. Because most of the senior NCOs were assigned in our office, SFC Calderon would find his way to our area on a daily basis to say hello and we would sit and talk, drink our coffee, and discuss NCO business and also talk about our families and most importantly talk about what we were all going to do after we all reached retirement. You see, SFC Calderon had 19 years and all he ever talked about was retiring the following year.

As we all got to know each other, we started spending at least two days out of the week running out to Fort Meyer and Fort McNair for lunch. It was because of SFC Calderon having a Pentagon parking pass we were able to do this. He would come around and pick us NCOs up and haul us over there to enjoy a good meal at a reasonable price, and of course fellowship with each other. This running to Fort McNair or Fort Meyer on a weekly basis soon became something that we all looked forward to and became apart of our weekly thing to do.

On Sept 11th, 2001, everything changed.

Of the personnel who were unaccounted for on that day, little did I know that there would be no more weekly trips taken or conversations with Jose.

The weeks went by and then the months and still Jose was still listed as missing.

His vehicle that he drove weekly to take us back and forth was still where he had left it on that day. His OIC asked for someone to volunteer to drive his vehicle back to his wife, because she did not have a driver's license. I stepped up and volunteered to do that task, because one I felt I owed it to him and two I knew where he parked his car everyday, for he would try to park it in the same area all the time as we returned back from our weekly trips. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do.

His memorial service was one that was coordinated beautifully by the G1 family. Although he was still listed as missing, I knew that soon he would be given the burial service that he so much deserved.

Unfortunately, in December my job required me to be TDY, and it was during this time that I was away; he finally was given the burial service that he earned and so well deserved, so I missed his burial service. Although I missed his burial service, I had him and his family in my thoughts and prayers that day.

Every year as we get closer and closer to Sept 11th, I think of Jose and his family. I pray for him and his family and hope he knows what a great NCO he was.

Jose, it you could hear me now, I would like to thank you for all you did for our country and tell you what a great hero you were and that you are truly missed. I would like to thank you for all those trips to the DFAC you took us on; despite the hectic traffic we faced coming and going. Those trips were memorable to me and became a part of my life back then, something that I looked forward to. I never had a chance to share that with you, how I looked forward to our trips and I never had a chance to thank you. So once again thank you. It's the little things that people do for others that are important and meaningful to some.

Thanks Sylvia for sharing this information about SFC Calderon. I know it has helped me to better understand the tremendousous loss that all American's felt on that fateful day. You can follow the links below to view 2 of the many 9/11 tributes. These particular websites have guest books and I've linked to the entries for SFC Calderon.

Please take some time out of your day to remember the 2996 innocent lives that were lost on this day 5 years ago.

Monday, September 04, 2006

15 Days of Freedom and Fun

This will be my last post for a little while, sometime soon I'll be heading back home for my 15 day leave. Yea! So, I won't be updating the Blog, with the exception of 9/11. As I mentioned before, I am doing a tribute for one of the victims of the attack, so please stop by on the 11th to remember what we all lost on that day. I got a great email this week from a fellow soldier of mine. He is a former Nebraska JAG that now lives down South. He was actually stationed here for a while doing lawyer stuff. The thought of the day he emailed me was:

Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G. I.
One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.

Good stuff. Well, I'll hopefully talk to most of you in person shortly. Have a great labor day.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

DDP In the House

Hammer is doing a pictorial of lovely LSA Anaconda. You can check it out here. Nicely done Hammer.

We had another distinguished visitor this week. None other than Diamond Dallas Page, former 3 time WWF champion. He has a new gig now called Yoga for Real Guys, and he came to Anaconda to sign autographs and actually do his workout. The workout looked much too intense for me, so I skipped that and did the normal workout with the guys. I usually hit the treadmill when I get done while the Hammer and Johnson go back to their room and play NCAA Football 2007. If I only had a Playstation 2.... As I got started on the treadmill, DDP was just finishing up the yoga workout. I got lucky and 4 miles later as I wrapped up my run, the line was down to about 10 people for autographs and pictures. So I took my sweat soaked shirt over and got the picture below. The pose is the infamous "Diamond Cutter" which was DDPs finishing move. I have just one word for you, Awesome! The guy is in phenomenal shape for being 50 years old, so there may be something to this whole yoga thing.

Here is another picture from earlier that night. I guess some Girl Scouts sent us a ton of cookies. We usually get a few boxes here and there but this looked like a truckload. For some reason they put them in the gym for people to take. I thought it slightly ironic but what do I know. I resisted temptation and put the 2 boxes back after posing with them, they were even Thin Mints. Other people may not have been so strict. You can save your comments about how silly the weightlifting gloves luck as I already know. I have been an office guy for the last 5 years and cherish my smooth white collar worker hands. The weight lifting was starting to give me callouses, so I got online and purchased me up some Nike gloves. Much better!

Friday, September 01, 2006

SSG Jeffrey Hansen

Bad news from Iraq. We lost a soldier last week, SSG Jeffrey Hansen. His vehicle rolled into a canal on a combat patrol outside of our base. It is a obviously a tragic situation and everyone here is deeply saddened. You can read more about it at the following links. I did a story sometime back about the Patriot Guard Riders (last link). They will be supporting the family during this difficult time. The memorial service here at Anaconda is scheduled tomorrow, and the funeral service at home is Tuesday in Minden. Please keep SSG Hansen's wife and family in your thoughts and prayers, and also the other 3 soldiers involved in the accident.

Lincoln Journal Star

Patriot Guard