The ground is level at the foot of the cross....recovering addict rescued by the saving grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

What It Means to Love a Soldier

Got this from a friend and wanted to share it with everyone. It made me realize just how much my wife does for the family every time that I'm gone. I'm so lucky to have her in my life.

What it Means to Love a Soldier
By Jamie Reese

Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT HOOD, Texas, Oct. 8, 2003 -- She stands in line at the post office waiting to send a package to her husband, a U.S. Army soldier serving in Kuwait. Envelopes, pens, paper, stamps, sunscreen, eye-drops, gum, batteries, powdered Gatorade, baby wipes and Twizzlers. He said he needed the sunscreen and baby wipes. She threw in the Twizzlers.

There's a common bond at the post office in this military town. People aren't just sending letters and packages; they are sending smiles, hope, love and just a touch of home. People look around at the others, sharing their concern, fear and pride. They take comfort knowing they are not alone.

Passing through the gate leaving the Army post, she enters another world. A world filled with pawnshops, surplus stores, barbershops, fast food galore and, of course, "Loans, Loans, Loans."

This is a life that includes grocery shopping at a place called the Commissary. A life that has her venturing to the Post Exchange, referred to as the PX, instead of heading to Wal-Mart. This is where you come to learn, appreciate and respect the ceremonious traditions of Reveille and Retreat, and of course, the National Anthem from a completely different perspective.

At 6 a.m., or as the soldiers call it, 0600 hours, Reveille can be heard across post. The bugle call officially begins the military workday. At 1700 hours Retreat sounds signaling the day's end. Soldiers render salutes, chatter fades and all eyes are drawn to the nearest flag. At 2300 hours, the bugle sounds Taps, denoting not only the "final hour" of the day, but also honoring those we have lost.

When the national anthem plays in a military town, a special aura fills the air. Men, women, and even children stop to pay their respects. Civilians place their hands over their hearts. Soldiers salute. In this world, the anthem isn't just a prequel to the echo of "Play Ball." Since she married her soldier and experienced the Star Spangled Banner from this perspective, she's noticed how people in civilian towns react to the national anthem.

She notices the people who continue to talk, the hats that stay on, the beer that doesn't get put down, and even the jeers at the person singing the anthem. The meaning seems to be lost to a majority of people. But if she looks closely, she can see who has been blessed enough to learn this lesson. Some are grandparents, some are parents, and some are young children.

At first glance, children growing up in this world of artillery, tanks and uniforms are the same as any other kids from any other town. They do the things that kids do. They play sports, go to school, and play with their friends. The difference is that their group of friends may change once a year, or more, due to a change of duty station. They don't have any say in this. They could be two years old and not remember a thing about it, or they may be 16 years old getting ready for prom and having to up-root and move again.

They're known as "military brats," a harsh misnomer for those who learn a lifestyle of sacrifice at such a young age. Yet, it makes them strong. The little boys become the men of the house and the little girls become the ladies. They adapt to these different situations. They live with the reality that one, or even both parents, may not be around to celebrate birthdays and holidays. They know there will be will be times when they will look into the stands during Little League games and see only an empty space in the bleachers.

At the same time, these kids have a sense of overwhelming pride. They brag about their daddies and their mommies being the best of the best. They know their Mom's been through deployments, changes of duty stations, and the ever- changing schedules Army life brings. While Dad is away, she takes care of the house, the bills, the cars, the dogs, and the baby.

To cope with it all, she learns military families communicate via the Internet so he doesn't miss out on what's happening back home. But he does miss out. He won't be there for the baby's first steps, and he may have to hear his son or daughter's first words through a time delay across a static-filled telephone line.

She remembers what it was like before he left, when everything seemed "normal." Normal except for the pressed uniform, the nightly ritual of shining boots, the thunder-like sound of the Apache helicopters flying overhead, and the artillery shells heard off in the distance. OK, relatively normal - when they occasionally went to the park, spent holidays together and even enjoyed four- day weekends when he could get a pass.

But, the real challenge began with the phone call. She relives the moments before she kissed him goodbye. A phone ringing at 0400 hours is enough to make her heart end up in her throat. They've been expecting the call, but they weren't sure when it would come. She waits to hear the words, "Don't worry, it's just a practice run." But instead she hears, "Here we go."

So, off he goes to pack, though most of the packing is finished because as a soldier, he is "always ready to roll." She gets the baby, but leaves his pajamas on because it is just as well that he sleeps. She takes the dogs out, she gets dressed, all the while trying to catch glimpses of her husband. She wants to cherish his presence because she doesn't know when she'll see him again. She knows that in other homes nearby, other families are enacting exactly the same scene.

Within 15 minutes, the family is in the car heading to the "rally point." As they pull up, they see soldiers everywhere, hugging their loved ones. While people love to see tearful, joyous homecomings, fearful, anxious, farewells are another story. Too soon, with his gear over his shoulder, he walks away. She is left behind, straining to keep an eye on her soldier. As the camouflage starts to blend, only his walk distinguishes him from the others. She takes one last look and takes a deep breath. She reminds herself she must stay strong. No tears. Or, as few tears as possible. Just words of encouragement to the children, to her friends and to herself.

Then she turns, walks back to the car, and makes her way home to a house that is now eerily quiet. She mentally prepares for the days, weeks, even months ahead. She needs to focus on taking care of her love while he is overseas. Her main priorities will be the care packages, phone calls, e-mails, and letters sprayed with perfume. And, she can't forget to turn the stamp upside down to say, "I love you."

Taking care of her family, her friends, even strangers - this is her mission as an Army wife to do these things without a second thought. At the ripe old age of 22, she knows the younger wives will turn to her for advice. "How do you balance a checkbook? How do you change a tire? When are they coming home?"

Only when she knows everyone else is OK, the bills are paid, the cars maintained, the lawn cut, the kids asleep, the pets calmed down, and the lights are off, does she take time for her self. Alone at night, she runs the next day's events over in her mind to make sure it will all get finished. She reviews her checklist of things to do, things to buy for his care package. Once again, she checks the calendar to count down the days. Before turning in, she checks to make sure the ringer is on for the late night phone call that might come in from overseas.

Before she falls asleep, a few tears hit the pillow. But even as the tears escape, strength enters her mind, body, spirit and soul. She remembers why she is here. She remembers the pride and the love that brought her here in the first place, and a sense of peace comes over her, replacing, if only for a second, the loneliness, the fear and the lingering heartache she feels while her soul mate is away.

This is what it means to love a soldier.

She wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bad Week for World Cup Picks

All right, let's get the important stuff out of the way first, this week sucked for my World Cup Teams!!!!!

1) Japan got smoked by Brazil with a score of 4-1
2) The US lost because of a poorly called penalty kick to Ghana, 2-1
3) Korea lost to Switzerland after a offsides goal was allowed, 2-0

On the other hand, my friend showed me this wonderful soccer commercial that captures my feelings very well.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Now that my whining is done, the rest of this "weekend" was great. We went home on Wednesday and stayed until Saturday. We didn't do much on Thursday other than watch the US get screwed out of a game (didn't I say I was done whining?). On Friday, we celebrated Phillip and Anna's birthday with the family. I got to meet my new niece and it was good seeing everyone again (it had been about two months since we were last back home with everyone). We made Korean BBQ, Bulgogi and Rice. It was the largest group that we had ever fed. I learned to cook it recently using the ancient Korean method.

Well, that's not exactly how I learned, more of a trial and error style. We weren't sure if everyone would like it, but the feedback was very positive. People liked trying something different. I cooked it on my parents gas grill. When I first started grilling, a decade ago, I used a gas grill. After one of our many PCS moves the grill didn't survive the trip. We started to use a charcoal grill that was leftover from the previous tenants at our new house. When I went to Iraq, Mary bought a full-sized charcoal grill. Although apprehensive at first, I have come to love my charcoal grill. Cooking on the gas grill has reconfirmed my preference for charcoal.

Other than that, the party went great and the kids were very happy that everyone could make it. It's amazing how fast our time here is going. It's also a little sad.

The other thing that we did on Friday was to visit my Grandpa. He has Alzheimer's and doesn't recall a lot of things, but you can still see the spark of what made him so special to all of us. Anna liked him immediately. Especially after he let her play with his stuffed puppy.

Today Mary will check on getting tickets to the Lifest concert, which is a huge Christian music concert that goes from July 05-09. It's very reasonably priced, but feeding the family for 5 straight days would wipe us out so we're probably only going to do two days. I'll let you know what happens later one.

All in all a great weekend. We even left on time!!!!!!! Thanks to everyone who helped out. We really appreciated it.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup Fever

Outside the window of my house are huge crowds of World Cup soccer fans. I can hear the shouting and cheering from people at the bars (there was even a guy passed out in front of the neighbor's house this morning) and the occasional celebratory fire in response to Ghana's victory of the Czech, keeping the true American dream alive!!!! If the US can beat those dirty Italians today and Ghana on Thursday AND Czech and Italy tie then there's a chance that the US could make it into the next round!

Of course, there's no crowds outside my window and the bars are silent, but there was a guy passed out on the neighbor's steps and I'm still rooting for the US and South Korea. The South Korean soccer jersey and "Be the Reds" t-shirts are out in force right now.

Also, I changed my blog layout again for all the nay sayers out there. Eventually, I'll get around to making my own custom layout instead of using pre-made templates, but that'll be another day.

Earlier this week one of our friends had her wallet and phone stolen from her car....WHILE PARKED IN OUR DRIVEWAY!!!!! They found the wallet down the road and the theif made a few phone calls right after stealing the phone. That tears out, I'm buying a watch dog. I'm not sure if it's going to be a weiner dog or a Chihuaha, but either way, it's going to be intense.

Between the thieves and the drunks, World Cup fever just MIGHT be striking.

The US (blue) going for a backwards flip-kick into a goal against the fiendish Czechs last Monday. Final score - 3 (Czech) to ZERO (US)...........

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Silly Faces for Anna's B-Day

We're trying a new layout. Let me know what you think.

Anna was 2 years old yesterday!!!! I can't believe how old she's getting, as well as how bratty! She is certainly entering her terrible two's and her and I occassionally have the non-verbal conversation.

Other than that, we got Phillip and Nicholas' report cards today and both did great in school! Marina just came back from a camping trip and today she went to a babysitting certification class, so she is officially certified! Plus, they added her name to the Fort McCoy babysitter's list so hopefully she'll get a few calls from that too.

We stayed up really late last night watching Zathura and were all dragging ass today. After we went swimming for Anna's Birthday, we all took a good nap, which was sorely needed. The pool in Tomah is really nice, because there's a large wading area for the little kids and then the regular pool has three diving boards and is very large. We bought a family season pass for $39 so now we can go whenever we want, plus it's right behind the house which makes it even easier.

Yesterday we made a backyard soccer field. Used up about 4 cans of spray paint and it'll be gone after I mow the lawn, but we did have the first official game in the "Pavek Cup" tournament. The most important thing that we found out...... Mary and I suck at soccer.

Here's a picture of the kids after I told them to clean their rooms.

Here's Anna with her birthday present from our friend Jennifer.

Also, in honor of South Korea's World Cup win today, here's one from 4 years ago.