Saturday, February 25, 2006

This is it

It has been quite some time since my last post, which I closed with a promise to post more. I've noticed the same problem with other milbloggers as well...especially reservists like me. When I peruse the blogs of others who have journaled from inside the war zone and have recently returned home there seems to be a trend of posts that state "I'm going home...I'll post more soon". But those follow on posts never really seem to materialize. Of course, I can't speak for others but I can definitely share why I went from a dedicated blogger to having nothing more than crickets chirping since I've returned.

Its not that I have stopped caring. To the contrary I think about the war every single day, and I think about the blog almost as often. I think about the troops that are still there and how their story needs to be told, and I think about the loyal readers I had while I was still in Iraq and telling my story. When I think about the latter I actually feel a bit guilty... that I have somehow left people hanging by not continuing to post as I had promised. The reality, however, is that I can't tell that story any more since I'm no longer there. While I was deployed this blog became my outlet and I was passionate about making every single post as compelling as possible. I wanted to tell stories that kept readers interested by revealing people and places they wouldn't see anywhere else. But I don't have those stories to tell anymore. Even more so...those stories have been replaced with just good ole' regular life back in the U.S. After I returned I took the family to Disney, took a few weeks off, and now I'm back to work at my civillian job. I'm not a politician, or an activist. I obviously have my opinions, but at the end of the day I'm just a guy trying to be the best husband and father I can be and who also happens to be a resrvist that got deployed for a year in Iraq. I'm proud of what we accomplished there. In fact, my only regret is that I personally didn't do more...that I didn't try harder to make a difference. There are days when I wish I could go back with the knowledge I have now and do things better (my wife is gonna hurt me when she reads that). But my turn is over, and we still have the best trained, most professional military on the ground, and they will continue to do the stellar job they have always done. They still need your support so keep lifting them in prayer and keep the care packages flowing. Despite our short attention span as Americans, this war is not over nor will it be any time soon. So let's not forget about those who put themsleves in harms way on our behalf.

As for me...I'm going to get on with the business of living. I still have a lot of lost time to make up for and I intend to do so to the best of my ability. I want to thank all those who supported me while I was deployed. Sometimes it was an encouraging email or post, and other times it was a care package that came at just the right time. So many of you I have never even met, which makes it even that much more appreciated.

I will forever be amazed at how this blog became so much more than I ever intended, and I am glad I was able to share my small story with so many people.

The local news did a story on my return which is archived here.

This is Panther 4...out.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Our plane finally touched down at Ft Hood, Texas at approximately 3:30 in the morning on December 4th. This was a full twelve hours later than we were originally scheduled to arrive. The major part of our tardiness was due to the plane out of Kuwait being delayed by nine hours. By the time we actually landed, all 250 soldiers on the plane had been traveling by either bus or plane for over 43 hours. Needless to say we were all a little travel weary by the time we touched down, but it wasn't enough to quell the elated cheers of of every man on the plane as soon as we felt the Texas terra firma beneath the landing gear.

Once we unboarded the plane, we processed in, turned in our weapons and boarded a bus where we waited for what seemed an eternity before being shuttled to the gymnasium where our families were waiting. We formed up and ran in to the sound of loud, patriotic music playing and the ironically appropriate haze of a fog machine. We all stood there in formation and my eyes darted back and forth across the stands as I tried to locate my family. Once I spotted them, an uncontrollable smile broke across my weary face, and I locked eyes with my best friend and my wife, Amy. There was an appropriately short speech from our commanding general, and after the command of "Dismissed!" was given every man burst from the ranks and found their objective as quickly as possible.

At last we were home.

No words can describe

Back together again

Me and my best freind

This is not my final post. I still have more to say.

Until then...


Monday, November 21, 2005

On the way!

This will be my last post from inside the borders of Iraq. Just typing that sentence and reading it back in my mind seems surreal. This place, these people, and this war have been the major part of my existence for the past year of my life. Reaching the end of this journey has been a daily obsession since I set foot into this desert land, and now that the time has finally arrived it is almost catching me by surprise.

I took a final walk through my area today and was amazed at the well of emotions that rose to the surface. It’s hard to believe, but I have actually become attached to this place. I can only think that it is some sort of “Stockholm Syndrome”, which refers to the emotional attachment hostages grow towards their captors. For the past year this place has held me hostage from everything I previously knew, and now by the grace of God I am about to be set free.

I have learned much about myself during this time, and though this experience has been difficult I have no regrets. Being here has changed me, and I know that ultimately it will be for the better. I once read somewhere that, “going into a combat zone is a one way door since the person that leaves is not the same person that returns.” This new person returning is committed to being a better husband, father, and friend. I have felt the pain of leaving all that I hold dear, and I will not take it for granted again.

This is not my final post. I will continue to write once I return home and share the experience of my homecoming. But it will take a while to make my way from here to finally being back in the states.

Until then.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This was probably the last time I will interact with the local Iraqi people. My unit will be going back home soon, and I need to focus all of my efforts on redeployment activities.

Regardless of how many times I go on these types of missions, their impact is always the same. I am continually impressed and frustrated with the local populace, and I am always a sucker for the kids. If there is anything that will be forever impressed upon my memory from my time here it is a profound hope for the future of the Iraqi children.

This particular trip was to a school at a local village not to far from our base camp. We were able to sit down with the headmaster and the village sheik for a brief visit. As usual, the conversation quickly turned to the topic of what the Americans can do for them and poignant questions about particular projects they would like to have done in their village. Our Civil Affairs officer, CPT Sean Walton tired to explain to them that we do not have the liberty to randomly choose what projects are done and which village receives them. He also encouraged them to utilize their newly elected local leaders to lobby for the help they need. The concept is so foreign to them, they just don’t seem to get it, and before Sean could finish explaining what they need to do they were repeating their plea for American help. I could tell he was getting frustrated, but he handled it very professionally, but I’m not confident they got the point.

Afterwards it was outside to hand out some goodies to the kids. I’ve expressed before about how they can be extremely forward and demanding. I tried to instill some order and at one point shut the vehicle cargo hatch and tried to explain to them I wasn’t giving anything else out until they got in line and waited their turn. That lasted all of about a nanosecond and they were back at it again. At the end of it all, however, I’m just a softie and a sucker for kids in general. Besides, how do you say “no” to a kid who has no shoes, rags for clothes, no running water, and intermittent electricity?

You don’t….you just give.

Monday, October 31, 2005

False Alarm

Late last night as I was sleeping I was jolted back to consciousness by the screeching sound of the camp siren. The siren is referred to as the “big voice” and it is used to sound the alarm in the event of enemy attack.

So here I am sound asleep and I hear the unmistakable sound of the sirens blasting in the dead of night. My immediate thought was,” Mortar attack!” and I quickly jumped out of bed and started heading for the bunker. Despite my sleep induced grogginess I quickly realized there was another noise that was noticeably missing…the sound of mortar rounds exploding. (This is an important point since no one would know to sound the alarm until after the first mortar round had impacted).

At about that moment the siren fell silent and was quickly followed by the “all clear” which indicates the danger has passed. As I stood there in nothing but my shorts and flip-flops I was completely befuddled by what had just occurred. “Surely that wasn’t a drill” I thought to myself as I made my way back to bed. It took me a few minutes to get my heart rate back down, but I soon drifted back to sleep.

The next morning I found out the truth. Some klutz in the TOC had bumped into the siren control panel and set it off.

Not cool. Not cool at all.