A Soldier’s Silent Night

November 30, 2009

*** as the holiday season arrives i pray that all will remember those

who are not close to their families and those service men far away 

fighting for their country ***

 

 

 

 

A Soldier’s Silent Night

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, HE LIVED ALL ALONE,

IN A ONE BEDROOM HOUSE MADE OF PLASTER AND STONE.

I HAD COME DOWN THE CHIMNEY WITH PRESENTS TO GIVE,

AND TO SEE JUST WHO IN THIS HOME DID LIVE.

I LOOKED ALL ABOUT, A STRANGE SIGHT I DID SEE,

NO TINSEL, NO PRESENTS, NOT EVEN A TREE.

NO STOCKING BY MANTLE, JUST BOOTS FILLED WITH SAND,

ON THE WALL HUNG PICTURES OF FAR DISTANT LANDS.

WITH MEDALS AND BADGES, AWARDS OF ALL KINDS,

A SOBER THOUGHT CAME THROUGH MY MIND.

FOR THIS HOUSE WAS DIFFERENT, IT WAS DARK AND DREARY,

I FOUND THE HOME OF A SOLDIER, ONCE I COULD SEE CLEARLY.

THE SOLDIER LAY SLEEPING, SILENT, ALONE,

CURLED UP ON THE FLOOR IN THIS ONE BEDROOM HOME.

THE FACE WAS SO GENTLE, THE ROOM IN SUCH DISORDER,

NOT HOW I PICTURED A UNITED STATES SOLDIER.

WAS THIS THE HERO OF WHOM I’D JUST READ?

CURLED UP ON A PONCHO, THE FLOOR FOR A BED?

I REALIZED THE FAMILIES THAT I SAW THIS NIGHT,

OWED THEIR LIVES TO THESE SOLDIERS WHO WERE WILLING TO FIGHT.

SOON ROUND THE WORLD, THE CHILDREN WOULD PLAY,

AND GROWNUPS WOULD CELEBRATE A BRIGHT CHRISTMAS DAY.

THEY ALL ENJOYED FREEDOM EACH MONTH OF THE YEAR,

BECAUSE OF THE SOLDIERS, LIKE THE ONE LYING HERE.

I COULDN’T HELP WONDER HOW MANY LAY ALONE,

ON A COLD CHRISTMAS EVE IN A LAND FAR FROM HOME.

THE VERY THOUGHT BROUGHT A TEAR TO MY EYE,

I DROPPED TO MY KNEES AND STARTED TO CRY;

THE SOLDIER AWAKENED AND I HEARD A ROUGH VOICE,

“SANTA DON’T CRY, THIS LIFE IS MY CHOICE;

I FIGHT FOR FREEDOM, I DON’T ASK FOR MORE,

MY LIFE IS MY GOD, MY COUNTRY, MY CORPS.”

THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER AND DRIFTED TO SLEEP,

I COULDN’T CONTROL IT, I CONTINUED TO WEEP.

I KEPT WATCH FOR HOURS, SO SILENT AND STILL

AND WE BOTH SHIVERED FROM THE COLD NIGHT’S CHILL.

I DIDN’T WANT TO LEAVE ON THAT COLD, DARK, NIGHT,

THIS GUARDIAN OF HONOR SO WILLING TO FIGHT.

THEN THE SOLDIER ROLLED OVER, WITH A VOICE SOFT AND PURE,

WHISPERED, “CARRY ON SANTA, IT’S CHRISTMAS DAY, ALL IS SECURE.”

ONE LOOK AT MY WATCH, AND I KNEW HE WAS RIGHT.

“MERRY CHRISTMAS MY FRIEND, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT.”

–       Father Berndt

describe a soldier…

November 30, 2009

–       He’s a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm howitzer He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

–          He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must. He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional. He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

–          He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry. He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you’re thirsty, he’ll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He’ll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

–          He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life – or take it, because that is his job. He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all. He has seen more suffering and death then he should have in his short lifetime. He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.

–          He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed. He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to ‘square-away’ those around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

–          Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years. He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

–          Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood. And now we even have woman over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so. As you go to bed tonight, remember this image…

–            A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets……

austin, tx

November 22, 2009

bri came for the weekend, thus our itenerary: 

                   fri. new moon and JACOB!

                   sat. texas game and partying it on 6th street. 

                   sun.  new moon again  🙂

ftx3

November 20, 2009

determination

November 15, 2009

so this weekend my cousins from outside austin came down to hang out with me.  my cousin Cindy is a huge marathon runner and little did she know but the Rock ‘N Roll San Antonio Marathon was going on downtown today.  we ran into some people at the hotel and decided we would try to look for them at various points of the course….  so at mile 8 we were cheering and supporting for a few hours with coffee and then again at mile 25.5 we cheered and supported for a few hours with mimosas in hand.  having done a half marathon before and watching them all run, i got an itch to want to do it again (having actual proper training this time)! so when i got back to my army room i started looking online at marathons that i could do in germany.  this search led me to start looking at marathons all over europe–i figured why not run a marathon in a place to which i can then travel to… knock out two birds with one stone.  so… i’ve decided to sign up for the Vienna City Marathon on April 18, 2010 and the Frankfurt Marathon in October 2010 to start out.  who knows i might sign up for more during my time in Germany and how cool is it to say that i’ve done marathons all over europe–i mean who can say that? 

so let the training begin  🙂

FTX2 Pictures

November 13, 2009

relaxing in the back of the deuce 1/2waiting... and boredGAS GAS GASlitter obstacle courseConvoy OpsDes exiting the HEAT simulatorTaggart trying to get Des unbuckled!yep... i hit the roofROLLOVERhelping me out :)

FTX2

November 12, 2009

so this past week was our “short” week with only four days out in the field.  it was the most physically draining,  however, it was busy and alot of fun.  on tuesday we did a seventeen task obstacle course in the morning and a litter carry obstacle course in the afternoon.  in the litter obstacle course we had a team of four carring a litter stretcher over a waist high wall, over a head-high wall, through narrow passages, over a bridge with water underneath (one group had to walk through the water cause the “bridge” was out), and we had to crawl under wire while transporting our manican casualty all the while wearing our gas masks cause the instructors called GAS GAS GAS on us.  needless to say, my ACUs no longer look clean, they are filthy and we were covered head to toe with sand, even days later i was finding it in my kevlar and weapon.  wednesday we did the gas chamber all day.  we first had to sit through 2 1/2 hours of briefings on decontamination, how to test the suspected Nuclear, Biological, or Chemical substance, and how to report the hazardous area, etc. im not going to say the gas chamber was easy, however the cadre didn’t have enough capsules to really make it a full-blown gas chamber so it was alot lighter than what they normally would do; yet, i was still gasping for breath and had the burning eyes.  they tell you in the briefing to WALK out of the chamber and flap your arms like a bird so you get the powdered crystals off of you and open up your eyes, dont rub your eyes and to walk towards the voices.  i came out of the chamber and could not open my eyes up for the life of me, but des kept telling me to follow her voice and to continue walking.  everyone tells me that your sinus’ get cleared out and that you feel amazing after, however this was not the case for me.  i didn’t experience the running nose that most people get however i did experience the burning of the eyes….. or as our optomotrists said, “MY CORNEAS ARE ON FIRE”!!!!   the burning lasted about 10 minutes however as i continued opening my eyes it decreased. tears were rolling down my face and im sure there are some not so good pictures to prove that, im still waiting for them to pop up somewhere to show you haha. thursday was a long, busy, yet awesome day that was full of convoy ops. our first task of the day was to do a small convoy operation that involved us locating an IED and receiving small arms fire from the brush.  we then went to the VCCT (vehicle combat convoy training) simulator, which is a 360 degree simulation of a convoy out in the desert.  there are four teams, each team in a truck with weapons that shoot and we went out on a convoy in the middle of the desert.  we came across an IED hidden in a carcass, we shot insurgents and found a bomb in a truck which was blown up.  we made it out of the situation with no casualties 🙂 woo hoo!  after the simulator we did HEAT simulation, which basically means we experienced how it would feel to rollover in a HMMWV.  we were strapped in so they turned us completely over and then made us get out, thereby releasing the seatbelt and catching yourself before you plummet to the hard top.  LT Stiebler almost landed in the gunner hole…. as you are rolling over your supposed to be saying ROLLOVER ROLLOVER ROLLOVER, however us three girls couldn’t get anything out cause we were laughing sooo hard. definetly was a fun way to end our day!

pictures to follow in the next blog    🙂

p.s. only one more week of field training left then only 3 1/2 weeks left of classroom work after that. its getting close   🙂

brooke andrea hartman

November 8, 2009

one of my best friends from high school just had her first baby with her husband, so i just wanted to say congratulations to Val (Vander Wal) and Todd Hartman on bringing Brooke Andrea Hartman into the world.  she arrived on November 4 at 331pm.  she was 7 lbs, 3 oz, and 19 1/2 inches long.  she’s adorable on all levels and im sad i wasn’t there for the birth but ill be the proudest extra-aunt from a distance!!! 

Here’s some pictures of the cutest little bundle in the world…..

some pics from FTX1

November 7, 2009

FTX (Field Training) week 1

November 7, 2009

i survived my first week of field training… woo hoo!! it was hard but not as hard as i was expecting.  I didn’t know how 5 days of no showering, 5 days of port-o-pottys for 600 people, and living in a tent with 38 girls would go… but I made it out alive!

Monday: my day started with pt at 0500 then dropping our bags off at 1030 to be loaded on the bus.  we then went to CIF to pick up our weapons.   as platoon 6 (last platoon) we usually get screwed over on a lot of things… and luckily today we weren’t issued weapons because they ran out 🙂 woohoo. which means that we didn’t have to carry and be responsible for a weapon for a good portion of the day.  we loaded the busses and headed off for the 30 minute drive to Camp Bullis or the FOB. 

When we first arrived at the FOB we broke off into our platoons (58 people for platoon 6) and further divided into our squads (15 people for squad 2).  we started our field experience by figuring out our pace count…  my pace is 67 steps for every 100 meters.  the reason behind finding my pace count is because we have to pass on land navigation.  so if I were to be in the middle of nowhere I can figure out where im at and how to get back to a safe point.  for the test im given a map at 1: 50,000 of camp bullis and I have three hours to find four coordinances.  all you are given are the first coordinance and you have to figure out how to get to the next one by figuring out direction, grid azmith convert to magnetic azmith, figure out meters then aim that direction and walk your pace count till you get there. then when you get to that point, there is another coordinance from that point on as to where your next location is… and the cycle continues.   so, because there are 5 of us within our squad who have never done land nav we “walked the dog” which basically means as a group we plotted three points and walked it to figure out the area and become familiarized with it all.  much needed and very helpful.

 when we got back to the FOB, we had chow and were issued our NBC (gas masks) and moved our A bags (green duffel bag) into the tent we were told to go to.  here is where our night got long and frustrating.  just as us girls were getting situated in our tents we were told to move from 7 (a nice tent) to tent 1 (crappy tent).  so… we moved thinking this is where we are to be.   again, just as we get situated, we are told to move back to tent 7.  Now mind you, I don’t particularly care that we were shuffled back and forth, however our A bags are about 40 lbs each with enough clothes to last us a week out in the field.  In addition to this we had our molly gear (vest with ammo packs and canteens), our assault packs (backpack) which has everything that didn’t fit into my A bag, as well as our NBC masks.   to make matters worse, they decided to just move everyone out of the tents and file into formation with all of our stuff so they could figure out the tent/cot situation.  so, again we moved all our bags and equipment out to the middle of the FOB and for 6th platoon its about 100 meters from the tents.  this process of sitting outside started around 7pm.  At first we waited and waited and waited… finally around 8pm our platoon leaders decided to make our time useful and issued out the weapons. we sat outside till 10 in the cold waiting for them to figure out the number of people male/female and from each platoon.  We finally got word around 1015 to move to tent 1. it was funny cause for a good half an hour none of us girls unpacked anything, we were expecting to get booted again ha ha.  Yes, bed came too quickly and up too soon.

Tuesday: 0430 wake up call for pt.  at 0800 we headed out to zero in at the range with our M16. the first time I went up the instructor came back and asked if I was a nurse, I replied yes…. He goes good… you’ll be a great combat nurse J.  my three shots were all within a dime size area, off to the side but dime sized.  He tried to fix my shooting and then I was all across the board, not within my black silhouette man.    After zeroing we went back to the FOB and had my first MRE Chicken noodles with vegetables—not bad.   

At 1300 we started our classes on warrior tasks.  Basically I learned how to disassemble and reassemble as well as how to do a functions check on both the M9 and M16; I learned how to set up the CINGAR radio (Vietnam era) so really that is pointless but non-the-less important in figuring out how vehicles in a convoy communicate with one another.  and they had a medevac helicopter there with a soldier who just came back from Iraq.  he told us all about the helicopter, what they can do, how they do it, how we should approach the helicopter and what information needs to be said and done in a timely manner.  we also learned how to give out a 9 line over the radio… basically how many injured, what types of injuries, how the landing zone is and where for the medevac, etc.  im beginning to like this combat training… so who knows whats in store for me down the road 🙂

Wednesday: day started at 0700 with breakfast and then off to the qualifying ranges in the morning for familiarization.  we were there from 0830-1500, we were supposed to be there till 1630 and since we got done early they had nothing for us to do when we got back… so we sat around literally playing in the grass.  luckily our squad made use of our time wisely: we got ahold of an M9 so we were able to play around with that and practice functions check, we put together our gas masks, and played around with the CINGAR radio.   

Thursday:  day started again at 0700 with breakfast and then starting our Land Nav test at 0800.  I was buddied up with 1Lt Stutzman who is a nurse and has prior service, but its been since basic that he did land nav so well over 14 years ago.  well to make a long story short, we passed and got all four points (only needed 3 of 4) within the three hours given.  so I was happy with that.  After our wonderful MREs for lunch we had warrior tasks review.  basically our instructors helped us by giving us a “run through” of how we are to be tested on the CINGAR, M9, and M16.  If you can’t tell already… our days seem to be hurry hurry hurry… then wait.  Its kinda relaxing at times, not gonna lie. 

As most of you know, on Thursday afternoon, three gunman went on Ft. Hood and killed 13 and injured 32 (last I heard), haven’t really been updated since our brief; however, about three people in our platoon alone are stationed at fort hood so they were given the time to call home and make sure everything was ok.  the rest of us were given the time to call/text family and let them know that we were ok as well… most often people just hear shooting at a Texas army base aimed at the medical facility and freak out thinking that it was us, so needless to say I had a lot of voicemails and messages when I turned my phone on.    well just to let you know, im okay, I was two hours away from Ft. Hood.

Friday:  day started at 0445 with pt and then from 0800-1100 we had FOB cleanup: sweeping/cleaning of tents, trash cleanup, chow tent cleanup, etc. after a lunch of MREs we started our ruck march of 3.5 miles to the beginning of Camp Bullis on the Air Force side.  We wore our Molly and carried our assault packs.  For walking a company of 600+ personel, we walked the ruck in 1 hour 15 minutes…  man we were sweaty.   And like always…. Hurry hurry hurry then wait became the rest of the days motto.  We sat out in the sun for a good 1 ½ hours waiting for enough busses to come pick us all up.  Because 6th platoon didn’t have to turn in weapons we boarded the first busses so that we could empty out the trucks that were bringing each platoons A bags…. However, in true army fashion, nobody left keys for us to unlock the truck so we sat for 2 hours waiting for the keys to get there… then we unloaded all 400 bags.  this ended my army day around 1830.  After that it was heading up to our rooms. For having no showers, using porto-o-pottys, and the only source of clean came from a baby wipe…. a nice twenty minute shower was due.  then it was off to P.F. Changs with the about 9 other girls for a much needed big hot meal… and at 2300 we were all pretty beat tired and headed home.

… now time for laundry and repacking so that Sunday night our trucks can get loaded for our next week…. thank the lord it’s a short week (only 4 days out in the field) woo hoo!

ill post pics in another blog   🙂