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.