Posts Tagged 'military'

Coming Up For Air While Little Bird Flies

Has it really been two weeks since I’ve posted?  There was a time (even during tax season) where I managed to post something almost every day.  Either my time management skill have dropped off considerably, or I just don’t have as much to say.  It certainly isn’t that I’ve lost interest.

I’ve been working 6 days a week, which doesn’t leave much time for other things.  But trust me, other things still happen.

One of the big things that happened, quite unexpectedly, was that Oldest Son has just landed a great job.  Today, at 6am, he heads off to Alabama to start his first assignment.  Just like that.

He’s quite the adventurer.  He has a genius IQ, but pretty much just can’t do school.  He had a full scholarship to a great private college, but after the first semester slipped back into his middle school/high school patterns of not doing his school work.

He used to meet people online, and would drive or hop onto planes to meet them in person.  He loves hanging out in big cities and exploring new restaurants and seeing new sights.  He has made friends all over the world.

He joined the military.  While many people struggle through the rigors of basic training, he embraced the challenges.  He grew stronger and more focused.  I sensed a calmness and sense of purpose I hadn’t noticed in him before.  He’d often talked about joining the military when he was younger, but we were skeptical.  He was not the most athletic person, either in interest or ability.  Yet he shined.

His year in Iraq was scarier for us than it was for him.  He’s much stronger than we give him credit for.  He made friends with Iraqi soldiers, enjoyed the local foods, and witnessed first hand that most of the people there were gracious and appreciative.  He has pictures of the Iraqi kids playing just like our kids do.  He gave me another perspective on issues I don’t fully understand.

The military can be frustrating, though.  The bureaucracy drives you nuts.  Getting the things that were promised when enlisting turns out to be a paper chase.  Promises aren’t kept.  When one observant soul learned of Oldest Son’s aptitude, he wanted to send him to the Defense Language Institute.  After getting our hopes up, that didn’t pan out.  After volunteering to deploy to Haiti to help after the earthquake, he was disappointed to learn that they cut back on the troops to be sent.  But…had he been there, he would not have been around to accept this new job.

And being in the military helped him land this job.  He met someone who worked with him in Iraq and knew first-hand how much knowledge Oldest Son has, even without his college degree.  It provided him the security clearances required to get the job.  And although this job may not be for everyone, since it will send him to places all around this great big country, it is a dream job for Mr. Adventurer.  He doesn’t even mind hanging out in airports!

Right now, the house is empty and quiet.  But it’s not lonely.  Big Daddy and I have done our job and we’re happy to see the kids move on to bigger and better things.  It’s the way things are supposed to be.


Big Daddy was watching TV last night when all of a sudden he yelled to us to come in.  “We’re on the news,” he said, as Oldest Son and I ran in.  (This is one time DVR was really handy because we could rewind and see what we missed).

On screen was a portion of the event that we had attended earlier that day.  It was a return home celebration for my son and the other members of his reserve unit that had just returned from Iraq in November.  It was held in the big impressive old building which houses the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh.  Each returning soldier was recognized, we were shown some slides of their time in Iraq, and later treated to a light lunch.  There was also a group of soldiers sitting across the aisle from the new returnees that are scheduled to be deployed soon.  I couldn’t help but glance over at them and think about the year they and their families were in for.  Hopefully, these soldiers will be as adventurous as my son.  Although he had some trying moments over there and missed a lot of the comforts of home, I think for him it was easier than it was on us.

Our soldiers were escorted to the ceremony from their unit headquarters by the Patriot Guard Riders of Pennsylvania and members of the Pittsburgh police, who had also cordoned off some streets to provide free parking for our soldiers near the museum.  It’s so wonderful how supportive people are of our military, but it breaks my heart to think about the young soldiers that did not receive the hero’s welcome they deserved during the Vietnam era.  No matter what people think about the conflicts we’re involved in, where would our country be if everyone decided to run away instead of defending our way of life?

Yesterday could not have been a better day to hold this celebration.  After weeks of dreary cold weather and snow, the sun was shining and the temperature reached the mid-50’s.  The dirty snow was melting away and we could finally see some grass again.

As we drove through the streets of Oakland on our way home, young people were everywhere celebrating the beautiful day.  Oakland is College City.  It’s comprised mostly of University of Pittsburgh campus buildings and student housing.  We also passed Chatham University, and Carnegie Mellon University is nearby.   Groups of students were milling around.  Street vendors were selling their wares.  The youthful energy was invigorating.

I could almost remember how I felt when I first arrived at my college campus years ago.  The possibilities seemed endless.  Young studs strutting the street (Yikes, now they’re my sons’ ages) and young women jogging in shorts (I had my coat on) just let me relive for a moment how it felt when everything was still so new and uncharted.  Now, if only I could go back with all the wisdom and self-confidence that I’ve gained since I was one of them.


On Saturday, we went to Soldier Son’s Reserve unit headquarters for probably our last FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting.  These people have been so supportive to us family members and friends of our deployed soldiers.  They’ve sent us monthly newletters, e-mails, and made monthly phone calls to ask how we’re doing.  They’ve been there to answer questions and had monthly meetings and outings to get us through this deployment.  At the meeting on Saturday, a group of young military wives and girlfriends sat in the first row.  They seem to have benefited a lot from the bonding opportunities provided by the FRG.  Big Daddy and I benefited most from the information made available.

One thing we learned at this meeting was that there will probably be a period of adjustment once our soldiers return home.  We kind of expected that.  But they explained that even though our soldiers are happy to be home, they may still long for the camaraderie they felt with their Army buddies while deployed.  They may have trouble coming down from the heightened sense of alertness and awareness that is so important for survival over there.  They may even want to go back to finish the missions they were achieving.

All of this information still didn’t prepare me for the e-mail I got last night.  Although he is scheduled to come home sometime next month, he sends me this note with the subject line “Back to Iraq!”  that says:

"Hey.  I'm going back to Iraq as a contractor asap.  In five years I'll
be a millionaire.  Probably sooner since i get a vacation every few
months where i cna manage my finances and shit.  fucking woot.

wtf?  He’s a month away from finally coming home, and he’s thinking about going back already.  This is probably the first time I’m kind of happy that he’s committed to serving in the Reserves for a few more years.  I don’t think he can just up and quit to go back to Iraq.  Maybe by the time he’s allowed to make this decision, he’ll be too comfortable back home enjoying mama’s home-cooked meals.

Patriot Day

Thank you to all the brave troops and first responders protecting our freedom and helping to keep the world safe from terrorism.

Mama’s Macho Men

My boys–well, actually, I guess they’re technically men–are wishing for things that this mama would never wish for them.  And some of these wishes are coming true.  And thankfully, some are not.  Right around the time we found out Middle Son J was going to be deployed overseas for a year, my oldest son let us know that he finally will get to do what he was trained to do.  He is currently serving in Iraq, and while this is scary enough, for some reason he has been stuck behind a computer in product development.  This has made Big Daddy and I fairly happy and relieved because while it is still possible for some random projectile to find its way to our son, it is less likely for something awful to happen there than when he’s out roaming the streets.  But he wasn’t happy tucked away in an office.  He wants to be on a tactical team, like he was trained.  He wants to be out there, in harm’s way, doing what he believes in.  And now he’s finally getting his wish.

Middle Son J, while most disturbed by the suddenness of his deployment and the changes he will have to make in his life right now, was also disappointed that he was NOT being sent into an actual combat zone.  Big Daddy and I are heaving huge sighs of relief and  J’s pissed that he won’t be able to earn an “awesome” combat patch.

What’s wrong with these guys?  Is it their youth or is it too much testosterone?  Because as much as I can see myself in my sons, from J’s propensity to road rage to some of Soldier Son’s geeky quirkiness, I always run AWAY from danger. As far away as I can get!  I’m such chicken shit I’ve never even had a broken bone!

Maybe you can shout me a holler when you get where you’re going to, Soldier Son.  I know you’re moving to your new location about now.  I’m going to hate not being able to get in touch with you as often as I used to.  When I don’t hear from you I think the worst.  So try to keep in touch for your chicken shit mama’s sake–and please don’t take any unnecessary chances.   😦

Second Son Deployed

Yesterday, Middle Son J hung around the house with me, helping me out.  Since he bakes way more often than I, I asked him for his advice on greasing the pans for Big Daddy’s birthday cake.  I wasn’t sure if I could just spray the pans with my butter-flavored PAM or if I should butter and flour the pans like my mom taught me to do.  He probably would have just baked the thing for me had I asked, but I wanted to do it myself for Big D’s birthday.  When I asked him if he knew where the mixer was, he didn’t just answer me.  He actually got up to help me look.  That’s the way J is.  He may make the biggest messes, but he always goes out of his way to help out.  He’s surprised me quite a few times by cleaning up the kitchen without anybody asking.  Last time he cut the grass for the old neighbor lady, he wouldn’t take her money.

He didn’t bother looking for a job around here this summer because he is scheduled to leave today for some Army Reserve training.  He’s supposed to be gone for several weeks and the pay he’ll receive would be comparable to having a part-time job all summer.  He was kind of dreading going to this training because it’s supposed to be pretty tough and will take him out of his comfort zone, but it’s something that I think will make him even stronger than he is.  So he was already looking forward to when he’d be back home from this class, and he could just enjoy the rest of his summer hanging out with friends and getting ready to go back to school in August.

Well, I guess the Army had other plans.  You see, they may be Army s-l-o-w about some things, but when they want YOU for something, you don’t get a lot of warning.  He just found out that almost as soon as he gets back from this training, he is being deployed.  Thank God it won’t be into a combat zone like his brother, but it will be far away from home, on another continent.  He’ll have another year away from school.  He’ll be gone before his older brother comes home on leave.  And even though he won’t be in a high risk area, I know that there are nuts everywhere and I’ll be worried.  I’m going to miss my J.

Army Strong and Army S-L-O-W

This weekend, Soldier Son’s name was in the paper. It said that he was scheduled to be deployed soon to an undisclosed location. It was nice of them to recognize my son’s efforts by sending the news item to our local paper. Thing is, Soldier Son has been overseas almost five months now. However, this is pretty quick response time for the Army. Like all government run operations, the paperwork is overwhelming and the inefficiency is astounding. I am not talking about the soldiers themselves. They are well-trained for battle and most are extremely dedicated. I am talking about the bureaucracy and paper pushing required to do almost anything.

They promise you a lot of perks when you sign up. But they don’t tell you what a battle it will be to try to claim them. Everything requires about a dozen forms with signatures, and there is no definitive place to find out exactly which form you need to request what you need. Then you have to hunt down the right people to sign it. If you’re lucky, you may have access to an admin specialist that can point you in the right direction. But even then, you fill out the paperwork and wait. And wait. And wait.

So one son, who has recruited 3 people and was promised $2000 per recruit, waited over a year to get just one half of just one of the amounts owed. This was after countless calls and e-mails. The other son, who was promised total school loan repayment, has gotten about a fifth of it finally paid after well over a year and a bunch more paperwork. I don’t know when they plan on paying the next chunk, because that paperwork was filed ages ago. They supposedly have a great savings plan for our active duty soldiers to enroll in but then again, it must be really hard to sign up for because Soldier Son gave up and instead is going to try his luck investing online like the rest of us poor civilian schmucks.

Our soldiers work so hard. They should not have to bend over backwards to get what they’ve earned. Especially when you’ve got assholes on Capitol Hill not working at all, but getting handed so much money that they don’t deserve.

Write Letters To Your Soldiers

Wow.  I feel like I missed the boat.  The big boat to Iraq.  I was thinking that since I sent and received e-mails everyday and even got to Instant Message with my Soldier Son, I didn’t really need to write actual letters.  Plus, I kind of try to let him see the same goofy stuff as always is going on at home here through my blog.  So I didn’t really think I’d have that much left to say in a letter.

Then Big Daddy talked to our Family Readiness Group (FRG) contact, and she mentioned how much the soldiers really like getting letters from home.  So he started sending some.  Well, we got an e-mail saying how much he liked getting Big Daddy’s letter.  Then Middle Son J said how much better your day was in Basic Training when you got a letter in the mail.  Well, I used to send them a lot of letters when they were in Basic Training.  I made a point of it.  But you couldn’t communicate any other way with them.  It was like prison.  Like, maybe three brief phone calls in months.  And no electronic communication of any kind.  So I made a point of sending lots of letters.

So, dear son, please be prepared to hear some redundancy.  But it will be in my very own handwriting.

Thanks to Soldiers and Supporters

My middle son J got a free lunch today. Someone generously picked up the tab for him and some other Army Reservists that were out for lunch during their weekend drills. They don’t even know who it was. This isn’t the first time one of my two boys in uniform has been shown appreciation for their military service. When we were in Georgia for J’s basic training graduation, an older gentleman paid for J’s meal at a Mall food court. He was of the age where he could have served in WWII himself, when the country rallied around our first line of defense whether they “liked” war or not. Almost every time my oldest son went out with his friends after drills they had their drinks bought for them. For all the idiocy you read about from the liberal press, it just is so reassuring to know that so many regular American citizens do appreciate and support our troops. It doesn’t matter why our troops are fighting; they do not make the policies. They are far from home and family, risking life and limb to preserve our privileged American way of life. And as much as some of the know-it-all leftist celebrity and media America-bashers think they know why we’re engaged in war, and are SO sure we have no reason to be there, they have absolutely no clue what kinds of things may have lead to the decisions that have been made. How stupid and arrogant are they to think they have more knowledge about things than the people that are privy to top secret intel? And why would the average citizen be given ALL the facts about the decisions that are made? I’m sure there are many things that would endanger our troops, our allies and our way of life if they were routinely reported, just to appease the malcontents that are so sure everything we do is immoral.

Our military is comprised of some of the finest people our country has to offer, as has always been the case. Whatever reason a person initially has to join the service, it takes a special strength and character to be there. Just to make it through basic training and AIT is a huge testament to the commitment of these troops. Whether one is there out of sense of duty, love of country, need for adventure, or help with college tuition, these Americans have not chosen the easy way out. They could be sitting on the couch playing video games at home. But they’re not. They’re planning for their futures, and they’re keeping us safe.

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July 2020

Pittsburgh Bloggers

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