A Lost People

Posted March 22nd, 2013 by Todd

Afghanistan is a country that has known war for its entire existence. The country as we know it, was founded in 1919. In the century before that, the British fought three separate wars here. The first king of Afghanistan, Amanullah Khan, abdicated only 10 years later in 1929. His successor was assassinated only 4 years after that, in 1933. Muhamed Zahir Shah, ruled as king for 40 years until a coup in 1973.

Five years later, the communists ceased power,and a year after that, the Soviet Union invaded, starting a war that lasted 13 years. When the Soviets withdrew, the country descended into chaos. Multiple factions vied for control of the country and the governmental structure fell completely apart. By 1996, the Taliban has assumed control over most of the country and began to restore order, but the civil war continued as the Northern Alliance tried to oust the Taliban from power.

While in power, the Taliban harbored the world’s most wanted terrorist, which led to the current fighting since the U.S. and its allies launched operations in 2001. With two centuries of nearly constant warfare, the county and its people are living a very hard life. Infrastructure is virtually non-existant. Running water and electricity are scarce outside the major cities.

Poverty is a way of life. Most of the arable land is used to grow opium and the rich natural resources of the country are inaccessible due to the lack of roads and rails. The people of this nation are a proud people, but they have had to endure constant warring, ever-shifting governments, massacres, lack of formal schooling, no electricity and no running water. As a result they need a lot of assistance just to surive.

There is a way that you, too, can help!  Our command is having a shoe drive for the local children.  Our goal is 500 pairs of shoes for the kids here.  Below is an excerpt from an e-mail I received:

Our command recognizes the needs of those around us. We’ve been successful thus far in providing clothing donations to our neighbors in need.

We are sponsoring a Shoe Drive for the Children of Northern Afghanistan. Our goal is to provide 500 children shoes.

 Obtaining the shoes can be brought about in several ways:

 o    You can have family/friends/church groups send in pairs of children shoes (varying sizes) here. The shoes can be sneakers, tennis shoes, rubber boots, etc.

 o    You can go online and order shoes and have them shipped here

 o    You can make a monetary donation so that the shoes can be ordered by a DCMA POC to be shipped here

 Preferably, the shoes would be new but any and all shoes will not be turned away. The plan is to reach out and provide foot protection for the local children of Afghanistan.

If you are interested in sending shoes, please comment here and I will e-mail you the information.  Thanks!!

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Posted March 2nd, 2013 by Todd

As they are starting to draw down in theater and close certain FOBs, they are also looking at ways to cut back and save money. Someone came up with the bright idea of cancelling breakfast. Instead of going to the DFAC, soldiers pick up and MRE the night before. They did it at a few of the outlying FOBs, but mainly ones that are due to close soon.

Since this is a rather large base, they thought they could save a lot of money by cancelling breakfast here, as well. They were set to do it, too, but it caused an uproar as this base is not going to be closing. Apparently some people back home called their congressmen to ask, “Why are you taking breakfast away from my baby?”

Given that congress had recently voted themselves a raise, I guess they could not come up with a good answer. They cancelled the cancellation. Instead, they closed some of the DFACs on base. On the surface, it makes more sense: they can save money on the facilities, on the labor, etc. However, the population of the base has not gone down.  Demand for the meals has not changed.

Today three DFACs were closed down. Unfortunately, one of them was the one that was closest to my shop (and had the best soup!).  The closest DFAC is a 15 minute walk. Since I only get 30 minutes each for lunch and for dinner, it will be interesting to see how that works out. With a fifteen minute walk each way and a longer lines, I will probably see what alternatives I can come up with.

Still, at least the kept breakfast…the most important meal of the day.

The Afghan Crud

Posted February 15th, 2013 by Todd

Warning SignSo this post is a little late…well, it’s a lot late, but in addition to the normal busyness and travelling, my office was hit with the “The Afghan Crud,” a nasty bug in an already nasty flu season.  Last time, I was sick at the three week mark.  This time it took longer, but it was also more intense.

It came on rather suddenly, too.  I woke up with a slight cough, but by the afternoon, I was at death’s door.  Fortunately, I was able to get a lot of sleep the next two days.  That, coupled with some pretty high powered medication, had me back on my feet in just a few days.  The cough hung on for a while, but even that has finally faded.

When I did get back to the office, I found that many of my co-workers had the same bug, hence the sign that was put on our door.  Still, an antibiotic, lots of vitamin C, every piece of Halls in the PX and lots and lots of sleep, and things quickly returned to normal.  I was able to make my next trip and pull it off with out a hitch.

My last trip was cancelled, but that is a story for another post.  Still, next winter I plan on buying stock in Halls.

On Second Thought

Posted February 4th, 2013 by Todd

So I had planned on closing down the blog…leaving it up for posterity sake, but not really commenting any more.  Some of my friends decided to contact me (and I know I haven’t been good about responding, I promise I will), one even commented on the blog, to suggest that I keep it going.

Posting will be tough. I travel a good bit and access to the internet is iffy at many places.  However, I have already seen and done more this go round. What I may do is instead of a few short posts a week, save things up and wait for one long post when I can. This one won’t count as a long post, but when I eventually get back to my main hub, I can try to do that.

I really, really appreciate everyone’s support. I appreciate that you all don’t mind if posts are slow in coming. I’ll do my best to keep it interesting and relevant. If you all have any questions, feel free to comment or e-mail me. Thanks!

Closing Time

Posted January 18th, 2013 by Todd

One last call for a post.

I have decided to close down the blog.  I am a lot busier this go round than I thought I would be.  Plus I am travelling, a lot.  I am simply unable to update this blog enough so as to keep it interesting.

I will keep the posts up as a history, but am going to close down registration and commenting, and will not be posting anymore.  I am sorry if anyone is disappointed.  I hope you all will understand, and I do appreciate everyone’s support.

Merry Christmas!

Posted December 25th, 2012 by Todd

“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.”

Merry Christmas from Afghanistan!

Christmas is a little different around here. We had a nice lunch/dinner…turkey, prime rib, mash potatoes, all the fixings, but otherwise it was a normal work day. I did get to leave after only eight hours and I did play some Christmas music at the office.

My somewhat eclectic mix was actually quite the hit. Things were a little more laid back than usual, but all it all, with the exception of the special meal and special music, it was just another day.

In a way, it is fitting. While the birth of our Savior definitely deserves celebration, He is with us each and every day. My prayer is that He will watch over the soldiers who are protecting us, this day, and every day.

 

Back By Popular Demand

Posted December 16th, 2012 by Todd

Ok, maybe not, but I am now on my way back to Afghanistan, this time as a DoD Civilian.  I went through the same SRP and mobilization process as I did before, and now am enjoying short stay in Kuwait before arriving back in Afghanistan.

Some of my friends have encouraged me to keep up the blog this second time around, so I decided that I would.  It won’t be as personal this time.  I will mainly be posting about the goings on here, ie. news, slice of life kind of stuff…keep people up to date on what is going on in Afghanistan.

One of the most frequent comments I received was how I posted things that were not in the news, giving a broader picture of the goings on over here.  I will try and keep that up this time around.

My pastor has asked me to write a short article for the church’s monthly newsletter, so I will probably post those here as well.  I’ll at least share the links. I will likely be seeing more of the country this time around, so I will get a lot more perspective on life here…which means more to write about, more to share.

I have deleted my Facebook account, so please feel free to share any posts that catch your eye.  Thank you, everyone for your support and your prayers…and thanks for reading!

Being Thankful

Posted November 22nd, 2012 by Todd

My family has two big Thanksgiving traditions. The first is to have a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving meal. We are as true to the special as we can be.  The second is go around the table at our second Thanksgiving meal and share what we are thankful for. We do this before saying grace, and then we Thank God for our meal and dig in.

This year I am thankful that I can spend the time with my family. I was supposed to leave only a few weeks after coming home, but now my training and departure has been pushed back. I’m still waiting on a firm report date, but in the mean time I have been spending as much of my time with my kids as I can.

Today is no different. While Stacee prepares our scrumptious meal, I will be hanging with the kids, doing everything we can together in the time we have left. Then, once the food is ready and the table is set, I will let my family know just how thankful I am to spend this day and every day I can with them.

Hello, Goodbye

Posted October 31st, 2012 by Todd

80sI have been home almost three weeks now, minus a few days I had to go to Virginia, but more on that later.  I have been spending as much time as possible with my family and the list of activities is growing.  Every minute that I can spend with one of my family members is a good minute if you ask me.

 

Today, I went to pay a visit to my job at the VA Hospital. It was good to see most of them again, if only for a short visit. I had to tell my boss that I am going back to Afghanistan. Yes, you read that right…I am going back to Afghanistan. There is a program called the “Civilian Expeditionary Workforce” that takes government employees from different agencies and uses them for hard to fill DoD Civilian positions overseas.

My boss was very gracious and agreed to hold my job for me. Now I need to work out the details with the HR department. I tried talking to them today as well, but that was a bust…so I am back with my family, getting ready to take my kiddos trick or treating. We went to a small Halloween party and the boys were a hit :).

I only have a few weeks home, minus that training I had to go to in Virginia. It was for my new position. So, with the little bit of time I have left, I am maximizing the amount of it that I can spend with my family. Sometimes I take the kids out or my wife out, other times we all sit an home and watch a  movie together. My boys are big fans of “Mythbusters,” so we have been watching quite a bit of it.

After giving it a lot of thought, I decided I will keep the blog going when I return.  I won’t post while I am home, after this one of course, but once I return, I will keep it up as much as I can.

Tashakor

Posted October 7th, 2012 by Todd

I have made it through my first deployment with the army, my first combat tour and the longest period of separation from my family since, well, since we have been a family. I never would have made it through without the support of my friends and family, so I would like to take a moment to say Tashakor (thank you).

First and foremost, I want to thank Stacee and our kids. Recently it has become “in vogue” to thank the families and, in my humble opinion, that thanks is way overdue. My wife has been my emotional bedrock, supporting me through my emotional highs and lows. She kept me well stocked with all the little comforts of home, sending me package after package after package of care items.

When our landlord broke her word and violated our lease, Stacee moved the entire household on her own. She packed up the house loaded the truck and moved the entire family and all our goods. Not only that, but while she was taking such good care of me and moving the household, she was both raising and schooling our children…doing an outstanding job as well. A better mother I have yet to find.

Our finances have never been in better shape thanks to her, and all the little nitnoid items that pop up at the worst possible opportunity were were well taken care of by her. When I say I never would have made it through the deployment without her, that is an understatement. She is truly wonder woman. I am truly blessed to be married to such a wonderful woman.

My kids sent me lots of e-mails throughout the deployment as well. Every time I woke up to an e-mail from one of my kids, I knew it was going to be a great day. It was a great way to follow their adventures from afar. The biggest thanks goes to Stacee, Abbey, Evan and Gabriel for their love and support. I’ll see you guys real soon!!

The level of support my family provided was phenomenal. In addition to them, many of my friends provided a great deal of support as well. Kristy Bloom, a friend of Stacee’s whom I have never met sent me a care package of some much needed items.  In addition, her 4 year old son, Lincoln, sent me plenty of artwork which was great for decorating my otherwise drab, wooden office.

It wasn’t just one package either. More packages, letters and artwork followed, throughout the course of the deployment, containing news, treats and much needed replacement items. So I would like to say thank you to Kristy and her family…even though they never met me, their support was awesome and appreciated!

To my friends and co-workers at the VA, the e-mails and prayers I received from y’all were a tremendous support. The package y’all sent arrived at the perfect time. I still don’t understand what the golf balls were for :), but the rest went a long way to helping the moral of my section and I.

I’d like to thank my section and the rest of the 648th next. First, I would like COL Andy Hall and LTC Daniel Townsend for the opportunity to deploy with y’all. I don’t think anyone could ask for a better group of soldiers to deploy with. When times were good, we celebrated together, when times were not, we commiserated together.

My MSG Toney Pounds and SSG Nayda Ibarra would help me calm down when one of the LSO’s pulled a bone head move and cover me when a migraine knocked me down for the count.  And of course, I’d be remiss if I did not mention the special brand of humor from Ryan and Ivan.  Two of the civilians in our office, both fast became good friends.  I hope the 136 appreciates y’all as much as we did.

Finally a plethora of my friends provided a ton of support through e-mail and facebook: Charles and Beth, Angel and Yilda, Bill and Amanda, Kevin, Vicki, Van and Al, just to name a few, your advice, encouragement and prayers helped carry me through to where I am today. There were many more people who provided a valuable level of support. If I failed to mention you by name, please forgive me and know that I appreciate the support I received from each and every one of you.

I’d like to end by thanking God for a successful and safe deployment. We made it through without losing a single soldier. Finally, I’d like to thank God for bringing me home to my family. Granted, I am not there yet, but I will be soon!!!