Tuesday, 3 January 2012


Well I know it may seem as if I disappeared for a while since I remembered that I have a blog that I write every so often. The past few weeks here in Afghanistan have been anything but uneventful or boring compared to some other places like Iraq. Its a proud feeling to know that America was successful in its mission to OIF after almost nine years and over 4000 US Heros later. The colors have been cased to mark a new post war era in American History that has returned thousands of troops to their families right before the Christmas Holiday. I on the other hand was still here in Afghanistan continuing the fight in OEF that never seems to cease, even on a holiday.

The name on my blog this week is called changes. There was no better word that I could think of to summarize the phase in my life that is bringing some new steps for me to take in this deployment. The first change that I came to notice was a sandy Christmas rather than a white one. Yes it was cold and there were decorations all around, but it just didn't have the feel that the spirit was there and for many it showed in demeanor. It was Christmas Eve here in the desert, but I couldn't tell the difference between what day of the week it was. For all I knew it could have been January because every day around these parts just looks the same. I finally made it out of the field a day later to return to our much awaited Christmas party that provided the good ol' holiday eggnog and presents under the tree in the comapny of all my fellow soldiers awaiting to unwrapp them all. After a good shower and better shave, I sat in comfort of my own office chair eating all types of holiday treats and rocking back to simply envision what home would look like right now. It was just a comfort knowing everyone at home was warm in their houses with their loved ones somewhere around a Christmas Tree sharing all the holiday cheer life could offer. I will tell you, we soldiers were doing all the same in a recreation of the holidays away on FOB miles across the world.

Changes in life are welcomed by some people and opposed by others, but no matter what the circumstances change is inevitable. Some of the life changes I've made and that have been made for me were a series of recollections that crossed my mind this new year. Never in my life did I think I would be fighting a war across seas away from my family for a year at a time. All that is occured and all that will occur are the changes in my life that were uncertain and outside my control. On the brightside, I get a change of scenery here very soon as I will be moving to another FOB here in Afghanistan that I couldn't look forward to more. Every close friend I had before I deployed is stationed at this FOB and knowing I will be with them till redeplyment adds a sense of hope to returning home safely. They were always looking out for me and wanted what was best. Somehow I think they realized that what was best was to bringing a fellow soldier into the loop and away from those who care for nothing else but themselves. I am glad that doing the right thing and upholding one's integrity doesn't go unnoticed in this big unit we call: The Army.

When I leave here, I am sure I will feel a sense of relieve and the lump in my throat that I walk with will subdue itself. But for sure, I know that I never forget what happened in this province of Afghanistan and the men I fought beside/served with. They will live on in my thoughts and the images of reality we faced will forever be seen before me. I will also never forget the people who became my friends that watched my back when one of my own would try to dig a knife in simply to advance themselves in dishonest manner. So much has been learned here about my job and the people who served with me. Not all of it being the most positive lessons learned but ones that I know will always serve as experience for me as move from unit to unit.

Now that I can safely say that I am proud to know that I have maintained my composure through all the harsh realities warfare can provide, I know that the challenges I face in days to come will better be met with the haste of my reaction and the diligence I gained from the combat. Hooah!! No place too far!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Finding Beauty in the Ugliest Situations

For a lot of us here in Afghanistan, we often find it quite difficult to look at the bright side of day to find happiness in moments of anguish. Now that the holidays are here and the blues of missing loved ones and being missed have arrived ever so suddenly as the morning chill in the air. The days here have grown shorter.....colder....... and with them soldiers patience as well as their hope as I have seen it as I walk through my office during the day. That one person, no matter what, who you could find in the jovialist of moods during sheer terror is just as glum as the scrooge of them all. It would be a lie if I didn't say it, but I am that person whose smile has dimmed in brightness with every loving holiday memory of home I can recall. Even on days where the sun shines bright the stress of work and not being able to reach out to that one you love builds some of the most negitive perceptions on life and its beauty. However, there comes a point where the thought of missing home and fawning over the short comings of attaining the comfort you once knew gets really old exceptionally fast.

Just a few days ago I was out driving around on the FOB with my GATOR headed over to the PX to pickup some of the household good and neccesites that had become delinquent. As I got farther along on my travels I began to take a look out along the snowcapped ridgelines and it brought me to a slow down at the next stop sign. Looking at them then brought to mind one the beautiful memories of where I onced lived that has left me with images that warm heart.

You see, before I was ever deployed to Afghainstan....even before I was assigned at Fort Bragg, I was stationed out in Ft. Huachuca located in Sierra Vista, AZ. When I first arrvived I couldn't help but stand there and ask myself...."where the hell am I?" The taxi ride to the base felt like an eternity from the airport in Tucson and I saw nothing but rolling hills and the Sierra Nevada Mountains for miles that seemed to canalize Interstate 10. After arriving and checking into the post with my unit, I was informed that due to the lack of housing on the post, I would be required to move off base and collect BAH. Now, for all us soldiers, that's not the raw end of the deal. But when your orders are void due to change from TDY in route to PCS and you can't collect the housing money until you have the correct orders in hand.....the deal goes from raw to rotten. I remember feeling so frustrated over the situation that the Army had dumped me in and most of all I knew no one there that would let me vent to them.

That next day I drove onto post to survey the area and familiarize myself with the surroundings and location that would be required for me to visit on the regular. I ended up getting lost up some unimproved road that led me into the Huachuca Canyon in the mountains with no other way out but the way in which I came. I decided, "ehhh what the hell...I'll go for a hike" This hike is probably the one moment that I can say that all of my frustration, hurt, stress, and sadness over being there was non-existent. For as far as the sight stretched, I could nothing but beatiful peaks and landscape that made me feel like the heavens had rested on this one little spot of the vast green earth. In that moment, my mind began to change about the situation I was in and started giving me hope in the days that proceeded me. Even though it would be another five months before I would begin my training course, I let optimism fulfill the skepticisms inside me. I watched the sunset from the top of mountain that evening and proceeded down the hill to my vehicle after taking in the monet of landscapes. On my drive back to my apartment I couldn't help but to think the best of days is yet to find me.

Before I knew it, I found myself living in an apartment that overlooked the mountains across the street on base that always helped to being in the sunshine on the most dreary mornings.

I met my best of friends and one of which lived right next door to me at Garden Plaza. I developed an amazing friendship with him and had myself the craziest and memorable times in 2010-2011.

The days and nights I spent in some of the most beautiful and happening spots in AZ leaves me reminiscing back almost to a point where I could relive them. Like the nights at the University of AZ where the Wildcats would suit up for the big game against one of their pac-10 match ups. The nights over drinks and partying in a college town that seemed to have the nost potential to offer in Southern Arizona. All the nights McMath and I would always bring a story to tell on Monday that left everybody on the floor rolling. The nights at Rusty's sports bar watching the UFC matchups with McMath and Nate that had us all up on the tables cheering as if it would be the edge for the victor. The nights at Maloney's where I couldn't help but to dance my ass off and climb the dance poll like the show off that I was trying to be.

While I was there I competed as a member of the AZ running club that helped to build my endurance and be apart of a winning team in all of our races. THE ARMY TEAM HOOAH!!!

Being a hold under for school for six solid months gave me all the opportunity to travel all over the the west and see the places I never thought I find myself standing in. Places like Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sedona and Bisbee, AZ...Las Vegas, NV...Albaquerque, NM ...San Diego and Los Angeles CA...and finally Tacoma and Seattle, Washington. Oh how I miss it!!!!

Most of all the one very existance that made my experience in AZ what truly was, my relationship. Just when it seemed like things couldn't better themselves anymore, there stood the love of my life. For two straight months I found myself loving life in the most undeniable ways. I couldn't help but to feel like all the puzzle pieces came together for all the right reasons leaving me feeling like I never wanted it all to end. I ended leaving AZ two months down the road, but not without knowing that I had made the best out of what have could have been an unpleasent experience. Leaving my girlfriend behind to PCS to Fort Bragg was by far the most unpleasent of it all and to think I walked up that mountain thinking that this would be the longest year of my life.

Now I am here in a place that feels like it has no escape and the peril and sadness can only increase as we get closer to Christmas. After reliving all of that I sped a away from that stop sign feeling rejuvinated as if I had gone back in time to visit it all over again. Sitting here after typing all of that, I feel like all the great memories that I hold dear for the most amazing reasons came back to me. It all started by taking the time to appreciate the more enjoyable side of me being here in combat zone. It proved to me as much as I hope to have proved to those reading this, that you truely can find the beauty in the ugliest of situations.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Whether or not you understand the true meaning of thanksgiving, it's still just a holiday to many but one that I give a new meaning to after this one here with my unit in Afghanistan. Before I even left for my deployment, I would often sit back to ponder what the holidays would be like away in combat zone where just about everything American exists within a small radius of everyone. This past holiday answered that question for me and showed many here with me that even though it appears to be simply another day that passes like others, you still feel the need to give thanks for all that you have. I was fortunate to have sat in the company of my soldiers at the DFAC where we were served a traditional thanksgiving day meal.....ARMY STYLE!!! Right there with everyone I looked around the table and as we chowed down, I took a moment to say thanks to everyone in attendance. For that today in this moment we are all family with thanks to give to each other as well as ourselves.

I've come to learn since I've been in country that to be serviceman is no ordianry profession and requires those in society that are broken from an extraordinary mold. Though we all look at each other as people from all over the states that found there place in the military, we all overcame the rigors of our intense training that earned us the right to call each other SOLDIERS. Now that we find ourselves facing the challenge of not only fighting a war and and staying focused on the mission, we struggle to maintain our solumn composure during the holiday season in abscence of our loved ones.

Lately, I  have found it to be significantly more difficult to keep my composure amongst my subordiantes, my peers, and most all my loved ones. After being deployed for two nearly months now I have begun to feel the effects of combat set deep within the very inner core of my mind, heart, and soul. Rather than finding a way to channel all of the stress and frustration that are produced under the conditions in this environment, I find that for myself, it has been more a challenge to admit that these condtions had an effect on me and that it was now overt. I found that lately I was struggling to crawl out of bed in the morning that continously made me almost 15 minutes late to work each day. At conclusion of each day, I would stumble back to my hooch at night lacking the energy I needed to get myself into the gym for some intense PT that was very overdue. Instead, I would just logon to skype with my girlfriend and family for some re-connection time with the world at home that would be proceeded by a lot complacency to move from my bed. For those of you know me well, that is not the person I am whatsoever.

The other morning after once again being late for work, one of my senior NCOs sat me down and asked me if all was well with me. The change in me that he noticed was also being seen by my co-workers who had expressed their concerns to me in an earlier occasion. Being the alpha male-tough guy that I am, I would just denounce the speculations they were making and drive on with my day. However, I found it nearly impossible in front of this Sergeant to deny it all once again, so I let it all loose. Not only to him, but to myself I admitted finally that maybe I wasn't as well off as I presumed. The realization that war truely is hell and that it effects everyone in various ways had rest its head my shoulder. The hard part of being an officer in the military is that under the same stresses that all of your soldiers find incapable of dealing with, it's expected that you mentor them in ways the provide the comfort and guidance that reforms them back into a fighting posture. The real challenge in all this is that you're expected to maintain you presence of leadership and continue to guide the way to victory without letting any of the same stresses and emotional deterrents impair the ability of making sound, combat decisions. However, you also need to realize that your human qualities can take quite the beating under this stress, which requires that extraordinary individual to recognize the signs of fatigue and to treat them.

The past two weeks I've seen myself in my own company crumble in moments of weakness from the stress and fatigue of this deployment. However, I have also seen that I am a remarkable individual like the rest of the soldiers that rose of above what could have cause me to become a casualty of war. But, I can't take all of the credit for this ability to do so. Someone, a very exquisite, remarkable, and most of all beautiful individual in infinate ways with an unconditional and endless love for me did every she could to keep me at bay and safe from the stressors eating me alive.

This person, for as long as I have known her, has done everything that she can plus more to express how much I mean to her and that under no circumstances will that ever change. Saying this now it occured to me the past few days that all of the stress I've endured caused me to become quite dilerious at times bringing some peculiur thoughts to my mind. It somehow let me forget about many of the wonderful things my girlfriend is to me and had me questioning myself with my path I'm on with her. I can't tell her enough how sorry I am that it has even made me question myself and the person I have been to her. I spent most of our relationship to this point looking at her constituents rather than than giving the whole person concept any merit. Most scary of it all, even scarier than the realities of of what could lost in combat, losing her over this would have killed me before anything else did. So with all of this I brought myself to understand that you should never considering folding a near royal flush when you've got a queen of hearts and a future that's an ace in the hole.

So in giving thanks to all the progress I've made with the life I live here as well as thanking all my loved ones....especially you Melissa that have helped me to stay above water. Most of I give thanks to all of you that I am still hear to write this message to all of you.



Monday, 21 November 2011

The Good, The Bad , and the Ugly!

Blog 2

This week just about exhausted me in every way possible from the terror I faced it seemed like each day to dealing with military political non-sense. One thing I have learned here in the military is that the job you do really can't be taught it has to be assumed to learn as you go. Each situation calls for a differnet approach to resolving the issue that will eventually build continuity in the boots you wear. The frustrating part is that the time needed to learn and become competent in my job field is non existant in a combat zone. I realize that the US Army might tell you what to do, but they're not always going to tell you how to do it. I felt like I needed to take a step back and look at the situation from far away to see what was really wrong with the picture. After seeing the whole thing I taught myself a few things:

1.  There was so much that I had learned already, I just had to be more confident in the skills I already possesed.

2. Just when you think you have prepared yourself, tell yourself that there is always one more thing you can do to better your work.

3. Take a step back to let the picture develop before you go painting a birmingham. You learn so much more from the shadows than you do waving a flashlight.

4. NCOs are truly the subject matter experts that build officers to become the subject matter experts in title.

5. The military truly is a business and you have to learn to work with everyone regardless of whatever personal opinions you may hold of them.

6. Fianlly, pick your battles wisely. Engage when you have a killshot in the crosshairs rather than ripping off a belt of rounds that only wastes your ammo and makes you that much more ineffective. (Metaphor)

For as much as this week was a tough pill to swallow, I developed a lot more as a leader and have witnessed how much more of veteran I am becoming. This job is just like any other job you'll find in the real world. You make some of your best friends that will take the round or pull you to cover when you're under fire. You'll also make some of your worst enemies that will put a K-Bar in your back if it means they gain some kind of accolade or advance by throwing you under the wheels of the bus. Either way its reality and you have to adjust to each situation because each one will always be unique and require you to accomplish a differnet task.

This week had a lot of ups and downs, but I made it through just fine because I took the time to adjust fire so I can continue to help the team succeed. Even though I found myself in a moment where I thought I couldn't find cover.....I dug myself a foxhole and returned fire like a true soldier.

Some of you are reading this right now and sking yourself: "What the hell is he talking about"? What I mean is that there is always an answer to you questions and solutions to your problems. Sometimes you just have to dig deeper to find what you're really looking for as opposed to an answer that partially satisfies the question. Don't get me wrong AFG is no moonwalk and it will get you if you're not watching your six. However, don't let the thought of what you can't control let you miss out on where you can make the biggest impact.

An NCO this week told me that even though I claim he has taught me everything, I have made an impact that will last him the rest of his career. He told me that any officer who can sit down next him and learn from his guidance has a wirlpool of success waiting for him. It shows confidence in his subordinates that he can make a decision and call on his soldiers to execute.

Mom, Dad, and Mike: I'm alive and well. I really wish I could be there for the holidays. The Christmas Tree is up in my office and has brought a smile to everyones face. I love you all.

Melissa: I love you so much and there never goes a minute without me wondering what you're doing. Don't worry, in every gust of wind that blows I feel you next me. Just know that when the sun shines thats me smiling at you!! I love you truly, madly, deeply.

Family: I hope the holidays treat you well. Thanksgiving won't be the same without you but next year will have so much more meaning to giving thanks......that I'm home and all.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Good Morning AFG!!!

I never thought one day I would find myself in the place that I currently sit in typing this blog to document my time away from home. Well,as you can probably tell.....I am soldier, and here I am serving our country like the many men that came before us to preserve the rights and freedoms of Americans. For as much as I thought I knew about the War on Terrorism I have come to find that the war I fight is as actually just dot a of activity on this vast green earth. I am from a the lower Hudson Valley of NY in a place called Orange County. I've been serving in the Army for about 2 years now, and I am stationed with the 82nd ABN DIV out of Ft.Bragg, NC. Ahhh yes....the South. Hot and muggy during the summer and you can't sit down in a restaurant without them slapping grits on your plate. But now that I am here I find myself missing the cool summer breeze and the sweet tea glass after glass on a beautiful weekend in Fayetteville. While I serve out my time here, at home sits my beloved family of great Americans who support me each day like the wonderful people they are. But they're not the only ones that miss me 10,000 miles away from home. My girlfriend, who in this lifetime I never thought would find me, awaits my return safe and sound to one day live on together. It's funny, because she is the one who introduced me to this blog site. To call her my love would only be scathing the iceberg tip of what she means to me More like my life and hope to keep it all together and make it just one more day to the next. I've been in country roughly 40 days now and for each moment of sheer terror that I find, a new friend or experience finds me. Most days its very difficult because they're isnt a routine to follow when it comes to communicating with you're loved ones. Communication is key when it comes to the military whether its your orders to your soldiers or the words "I love you" to the woman in your life. Somehow lately I found that I am human and that with all the times I thought I couldn't be touched, AFG is just trying to prove me wrong. Deep down I know that after all of this distance and strive is complete that I will have proved so much to myself and to the men and women I serve with. My buddies and I are like the Band of Brothers and we never let each other go a moment to find that we are alone. Not here and not ever. 

As my girlfriend dedicates this year to loving herself, I dedicate my service here to my loved ones and to all the great Americans that serve and have served. I want all of you to know that you are never forgotten no matter what direction we look and what actions we take. There is a saying that: Its not where a man sits in times comfort, but instead how he stands in times of adversity and hardship. I stand tall and proud even on days where it seems like the world stops turning until the sun comes up. 

At home in a zoo in AZ, sits our puppy Raleigh and our Cat named......uhh well.....Sessa. Yeah not a name you hear quite often but somehow its the name my girlfriend gave her as a kitten. The thought of them all together at home with Melissa is the image I hold in my mind when times are trying the strength of my soul. The pictures in on my desk never let me forget that I am loved by not only the most wonderful girl, but the loving furry friends of the Sunrise Clan. 

As I move forward so does the world and everyone in it. As much as it seems to be hardship to many, I am just fine even in a place like this sand box. For those who wonder what were doing here and if its making a difference in the world. I should ask you: How are you helping us to make a difference. If you haven't done already, please thank a veteran and tell them that they are appreciated for what they do or have done. I promise, now that I know how it feels to be a veteran set of gratitude goes a long way and makes the impossible seem achievable. 

As I leave you all to the next blog, I would like my wonderful girlfriend to know that I love her dearly and that the time we spend apart is only doubling the amount of time we'll spend together when I get home. I hope she never forgets that I care for her more than a person is granted to love someone in this lifetime. "Just hang in there with me hunny and it will be like I was never a place too far. 

To my parents and family, I appreciate all the support and the love you send me in boxes that all open with a smile on my face. All of you make me proud and without you the strength I have wouldn't replenish next day to stand me on my feet. I hope you remember that I serve you. Sleep warmly under that blanket of freedom and know that your son/grandson/nephew is a fighting man and ensures that when you wake up, the sun will shine and freedom will be at your doorstep.