Tuesday, August 31, 2010

One Year Home...

Well, it has been exactly one year since we returned from Iraq. I have had a wonderful year.

Firstly, this is the first complete year home since 9-11-01 that I have not been activated by the military for one reason or another. This has been a blessing as I have really enjoyed the time with my family.

Shortly after I returned home last fall, I became involved in our city's theater companies. We have three different theatrical groups, The Red Mask Theater, Danville Light Opera (DLO), and The Lincoln Park Theater Company. In September, I played Mr. Western in the play 'Tom Jones'. It was the first time that I had played the father of an adult child. I guess I am getting the roles appropriate to my age. :0). Then this summer we put on 'The Sound of Music' for our cities annual 'play in the park'. I played Captain Von Trapp and yes I had to sing...I know, I know...for those of you who know me and have heard me sing would think that this was a serious error in casting. But we were able to pull it off and it was a hoot. The entire community comes out because, after all, it is a free production. It was an extremely hot summer and rehearsals killed. But the kids were awesome and the lady who played Maria was fabulous.

Karen and Karis were busy with plays of their own. Karen was the musical director for the Danville Light Opera and Karis played a kookie character in the play, 'Wipeout'. Karis has been in appx. 1-2 plays a year since she was very little, so she is completely comfortable on stage. (I hope you all don't mind if I brag on my girl.)

Karis started 6th grade this year. She is in the MATs program which is an accelerated program for our district. She loves it but the homework is starting to come hot and heavy.

Karen has decided to go back to grad. school. She is going for a Master's in Education specializing in language and reading comprehension. She will be able to receive a certification as a reading specialist when she is done.

I have still been doing my Guard drills every month. It is still nice to get with the boys every now and then. Last month I was able to drill with Mike, Bryan, and Travis. Brandon, who is one of our units Nurse Practitioners was at drill and we found out that he will be deploying soon. We love Brandon, even though he is a Nurse Practitioner, who every PA would tell you, comes from the wrong side of the medical tracks. :0) He will also be going to Haiti for a two week mission in the next day or two. There will be another medical mission to Haiti sometime in the Spring and I am hoping to be on that rotation.

Things in the military are very fluid. Changes in Iraq are happening daily. Rotation schedules are constantly being modified and no rotation is set in stone at this point. Afghanistan is another issue as we will still be active in that region for some time to come.

I have been able to take some breaks this year. In February, I took my family to San Francisco for a short vacation and then last month we flew down to Hilton Head and vacationed in Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA. We actually didn't spend much time at Hilton Head at all as Charleston and Savannah were much more interesting. At the Isle of the Palms beach I was stung by some jellyfish. I couldn't believe how much it hurt. I, of course, whined and moaned and whimpered, and cried, but the locals there had no sympathy. Apparently, this is a common occurrence and all of my theatrics did not impress them in the least. Let's just see how sympathetic I am to one of those beach combers if they ever come to the mid west and get into some kind of farming accident like getting their arm stuck in an auger. "Oh quit your belly aching it's just a small bone sticking through the skin..." :0)

I will be doing two weeks with my Guard unit at the end of September. I will have an office gig. We have soldiers who need to have their medical status reviewed so I will be helping with that. Apparently, Indiana is still conducting medical boards, so we will have to prepare soldiers for that as well if needed.

I did complete and publish 'The Lookout Tree'. I have several other books in the work but time is always difficult to find when writing. Writing is something that requires at least 3-4 hour blocks of time in order to accomplish anything. Our lives are busy and those hours are hard to come by sometimes.

Well, I will close. I wanted to submit a one year update to this blog as I have largely ignored it as I was busy living life. I do want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers when we were gone. I also want to again thank those who took care of my family while I was away and I want to thank my fellow soldiers who deployed with me. Without your friendship and kindness during our year together, I would have certainly gone mad.

God Bless you all and I hope that you will all have an awesome Holiday Season.


By the way, I want to bring a situation to light. There is a young man named SPC Bowe Bergdahl, who was taken as a POW in Afghanistan and he has been held for over a year. The Taliban has made propaganda videos with him and he is still alive. The media has done little to cover this young man's plight. I have contacted our representative's offices and their initial response has been...'Who is Bowe Bergdahl.' I explained his situation to Rep. Mike Pence's office and to Senator Lugar's office. Sen. Lugar actually contacted me and said that he is familiar with his case and that plans to rescue him have been in the works. Locating this young man is difficult as he may be in Pakistan. Please call your State Representatives and keep the pressure on them to help this soldier and his family. We don't leave anyone behind and this young man needs to come home. Please pray for him and his family. Thanks...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Veterans, School Children, and a Trip to the Arch...

Hello Everyone,

Just a quick note to update you all on what has been going on. On my last blog I showed the ceremony that we had for Lt. Hudnell. Mary had called me and asked if I was going to drill this weekend but the truth is that I am not back with Det. 17 yet, plus I am a little worn out of the Army right now and am enjoying the break.

Well, these last two weeks, I have been busy. I had the honor of speaking to veterans at our local war museum. We had 30 or so WWII, Korean, and Vietnam veteran's who came out for coffee and doughnuts. They were extremely interested in not only what we did while deployed but also where I thought our war efforts were leading. I am not sure I had an adequate answer for the latter. They were all most gracious and my kind of guys. One of the leaders of the group is Sparky Songer. He actually had his life saved when a bullet hit a spoon in his shirt pocket and kept the bullet from entering his chest. He was taken POW by the Germans, however. I would love to sit with him and spend a few hours listening to his history.

Then earlier in the week, I was invited to speak to our Jr. High AVID students about what the PA profession is all about. I am not sure how well 7th and 8th grade students actually pay attention to what an adult has to say, but they did have a lot of great questions when I finished. I think they were just glad that I was able to get them out of their 3rd period english class.

Finally, this weekend, we went to St. Louis to meet Karen's sister Brenda. Brenda had two graduate students with her so we got to hang out with them, which was big fun. Below are some photos.

I have been really busy trying to get things done that I neglected over the last year. I have also been serving as the stage manager for the new play that Karis is in. She does three to four plays a year, so I am devoting some time to that project. It allows me time to spend with Karis and I get to yell at kids and tell them to pay attention and to work at their assigned duties. Pretty much what I did when I was in Iraq with our guys. They listen about as well as our soldiers did as well. :0)

Well, I pray that you are all well. Thank you so much for keeping up with this blog. I will update my other blog in the next few days. I have been working every night putting the finishing touches on 'The Lookout Tree'. It has been sent to the publisher but I have been working with them on the cover design and editing. I had some additions and deletions to make and I have to keep going through the text to ensure that any changes I make in one area of the book doesn't conflict with any other area of the book.

Have a great week everyone and here are a couple of pictures from St. Louis.


We met these two guys at Grant's Farm. Check them out, they are Craig Hawes long lost brothers. Who else would have such a stylish haircut.

Our group with Craig's brother. He is a very photogenic young man and only charged us two dollars to allow us to take our photo with him. His normal rate is five dollars but I got a military discount.

Karen and Karis at the arch. I had to lay on my back and shoot upward to get this photo. I didn't get a plug nickle for my effort, although Karis was nice enough to use a stick and brush off some bird poop that was on the back of my shirt.

Pictures above: Picture One: Is Karis and Parahtina (Sp?) at the top of the arch, (on the inside of the arch of course. I was on the outside shooting the photo in through the window :0} ) Parahtina is from Sri Lanka and is getting her MBA.
Picture Two: Is Karis and Ishi. Ishi is from Jordan and is getting her graduate degree in communications and Spanish. Both girls work with Brenda who is a foreign exchange coordinator for Pittsburgh, University. Brenda was a missionary for years, so this job is very fitting for her.

Group photo from inside the arch. After this picture, I had to go back through the window and slide back down from the outside of the arch. Sure, I was just showing off but I do, normally, try to use my super human powers for good and not evil.

Everyone say goodbye to Craig's brother. Perhaps that's being a little unkind to the poor creature to associate him with Craig.

Chow for now.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In the Best Interest of the United States...

Just a quick note to let you know the address of my other blog. It is: http://usbestinterest.blogspot.com/

I hope you will follow along.

God Bless,


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Lt. Hudnell's Commissioning Ceremony...

Good evening everyone,
Today, I write this blog for our company so that the soldiers who went to Iraq with us can see David Hudnell receive his commission. David is a soldier who served as our Post Deployment Health Assessment manager while we were in Iraq. While there he was accepted for a direct commission upon return to the States. We were unable to get it accomplished in time for the entire company to be present before we were released, so today in Shelbyville, Indiana, we had the honor of promoting SPC Hudnell to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

As older officer's like myself start to retire, we are acutely aware of the need to bring in quality young men and women to carry on the leadership and traditions of the Army. Today, in front of a small crowd of family and friends, we were able to pin on his bars. We are all very proud to take part in this ceremony as David is truly a man of integrity and represents the best of the best.
Below are some of the photos' from today's ceremony. For our brothers and sisters of the 215th, we hope you enjoy these pictures and we gave David our best from all of you. By the way, all of you Seargents who used to boss David around, be aware, he will be walking by you as often as he can at our next drill just so that you have to salute him and call him, Sir.
Before I show the photos' I would like to give a quick biography of David. He entered the military as a mental health specialist. He has a Master's Degree in Business Administration and will be commissioned into the Military Service Corps. The irony about David's career is that after high school, he was offered a full scholarship to the Citadel Military Academy to play basket ball. He turned the offer down because he did not want to go into the military. It reminds me of an old saying that goes, 'If you want to make the Lord laugh, tell him your plans.'

We are glad that he came around and saw the light and joined our ranks. We are so very proud of David and we love him dearly. In addition to everything else, I have to say that he was a very good friend to me when we were in Iraq and I thank him for that.

Now, on with the ceremony.

Lt. Douglas Latino, in the class A uniform, will pin one of the gold bars on David's shoulder board the other soldier is David recruiter. I apologize because I didn't get his name but he is a very nice man.

The above three pictures, Lt. Ashley Clifton-Mason is administering the Federal Oath of Office.

Here Doug and David's wife is pinning on his gold bars. He is now, Lt. David Hudnall.

Now, it was time for me to provide a brief history of a tradition that is performed with newly commissioned officers. When a soldier recieves his/her commission it is customary for the new lieutenant to 'Coin' the soldier who provideds the officer with his first salute. Today, SPC Wilkey provided that salute. The coin that is given is a silver dollar. The history of this tradition is not completely known. In the Ancient Roman Empire, it was tradition for leaders to give a coin with the emporer's face on it, to soldiers who had performed above and beyond the call of duty. The tradition for a new officer to give a coin to an enlisted soldier may have originated in the 19th century with the British Army. The coin represented a promise that the new officer would buy the first round of drinks on the next pass. Leave it to the Brits to integrate alcohol into fine military traditions. :0)

SPC Wilkey provides the first salute.

Here Lt. Hudnell provides SPC Wilkey with his coin via a handshake.

I was so happy to shake David's hand. He had been working on his commissioning packet for the entire year while in Iraq. It was so nice to see the pay-off.

David and his family. I used to talk to David about the stress of being a young lieutenant in the Army but then I realized that he has a daughter that will one day be a teenager and well, there are no greater stessors than those that he will face when that time comes.

Here Doug presented David with a very nice plaque to commemorate the occasion.

Here SPC Hatfield came to the ceremony. She was our dental tech in Iraq as well as our personnel clerk. She has returned to college and is taking pre-med classes.

One final picture before we rapped things up. From L-R: Doug, Ashley, David, myself, and SPC Wilkey.

Thank you guys for checking in. I hope you enjoyed the pictures. It is a big deal for those of us in the Army when a soldier receives a commission and we look forward to a long and successful career for Lt. Hudnell. Please lift him up in your prayers.

God Bless,


Sunday, August 23, 2009


Good afternoon to everyone,

I am entering this as my final Iraq blog. We all made it home and home safely. It was a long and difficult year by any measure, but we are all so thankful that our unit completed our mission and no one man or woman was lost in our company. Unfortunately, this is frequently not the case with most units but the Lord blessed us and I truly believe placed his hands of protection over us.

Before I start, I want to thank my friends, my brothers and sisters in this family that we have in the military. To Mike, Travis, and Bryan, I could not ask for better friends, together we did wonderful things and endured much. I am a much better man because of their influnce in my life. To Ashley, my platoon leader, who really ran the administrative aspect of our clinic. She did the work and I took the credit. She is truly one of the finest people I have ever met. To those that I had the great pleasure of leading, my medics. SGT Easom who was one of our shift leaders and unit photographer, many of the photos on this blog came from her; to her I am tremendously indebted. She was my neighbor in our living area and we spent a great deal of time talking. Her insight and friendship were a blessing. SGT Edwards ran our vaccination section did a tremendous job. She could always be counted on to deal with difficult soldiers and her professionalism never waivered.

To my friends SPC Buchmeier, SPC Ibarra, SPC Hudnall, SGT Wilson, and SFC Hougeson you provided me with friendship and well as an awesome work ethic and I am so glad that we were all in the same boat. SFC Rhiele who was our platoon SGT for our ambulance section, has been in the Indiana Guard as long as I have and we go back 15 years. We did not spend a great deal of time together on this tour as she worked in a different facility, however, we did get time to talk. She has been the one person in my military career who has never been afraid to tell me how things should be. We came up the ranks together and I have always appreciated her guidance and frank discussion. I respect the heck out of her.

Tim Nott was our Nurse while we were here. He went home a little early due to family circumstances but while he was here, he gave me great support and was just fun to be around. Finally, to the medics of our clinic; we, providers, could not be more proud to serve with such fine people. Most of our medics came in with little medical experience, but over the course of the year each soldier learned everything they needed to learn to manage a sick or injured person. Our medics were hard working and a ton of fun to work with. I haven't laughed so much in my life as I did with these guys. So, to all of those who I have been blessed to serve with; thank you for allowing me to have this year's worth of memories. I will cherish them fondly even into my last days.

Finally, I want to thank your neighbors and friends who helped to care for Karen and Karis while I was gone. I want to thank Kim Scott for her friendship with Karen. I would like to thank our neighbors the Hunts, Bowers, Taylors, and to the Hagen's for looking out for our family. We have the most beautiful neighborhood in Danville and we have the most wonderful neighbors.

I would also like to thank the Omarks for sending me your care packages and for your friendship. You are most appreciated and to all of you who followed along on this blog. You guys are awesome.

Now on with the blog...

Well, we arrived back at Camp Atterbury on Wednesday at 1:05 a.m. Wednesday morning the 12th of August. We were able to outprocess in three days and were released to our families on Saturday the 15th. I can tell you that it is quite an adjustment coming from Iraq to sitting at home with your family having dinner four days later.

Below are pictures of our trip home. I hope you will enjoy them.

Before I go, I want to thank our friends and families and those who stepped up and provided us with such wonderful support. Your letters, packages, and encouragement meant more to us than our words can express. I will move forward with this blog and perhaps add some updated information as it pertains to our military functions. Indiana will be gearing up to go to Afghanistan in 18-24 months. Our State will have to shift around our medical assets to provide coverage for upcoming missions. We are stretched so thin. We have troops on their 4th and 5th tours. At some point, the military will have to say, 'enough'. May the Lord direct those who make the decisions to send our young and not so young people into harms way.

I will start to shift my interest over to my other blog which I will post the address on the above blog. I do not have a real My Space page. I started one but, I really don't know how to use it. I started it so that Mike, Bryan, and Travis could hit me over the head and steal my money on Mafia Wars. So, there you have it. So, if you see my 'My Space' page it won't be very organized. At some point, I will try to figure it all out. I am more interested in writing about our political situation and of course I love writing fiction. I will also be starting a web page that will cover my writings and update everyone on the books that I write. I do hope you will check in and follow along.

For the next year, any updates or new projects that I start, I will mention on this blog and direct you to where you can find my stuff. I hope you will check in from time to time.

Well, please enjoy the 'coming home' photos and thank you again for your love and support.

The above picture is of the medical team that replaced us as we left. The first picture is of Hero's Highway where over 10,000 wounded soldiers were triaged and given life saving medical care. The second picture if of our new MRAP ambulance. It can withstand a roadside explosive and keep the occupants safe. Well the vehicle would be shot but the passengers would live. We cared for plenty of soldiers who survived attacks while in these vehicles. Had they been in a different vehicle, they would most certainly have perished. This vehicle is a Godsend.

Here is Bryan, Mike, and Travis as we head to chow. We had moved into transient housing by this point. It is one of the few places on base that actually had trees. Dirty trees but trees nonetheless.

In the middle of the desert, we have an oasis. The military has always ensured that soldiers were fed well and we were no different. This was our dining facility and it was exquisite compared to everything else around us. We were all well fed.

This is a picture of a housing area. These are called 'CHU's' which stands for something like Contained Housing Units or something along those lines. These sand bags are to protect the rooms from rocket and mortar fire. This area was shelled alot over the year.

A parking lot for military vehicles. I have no idea what most of these vehicles are for. But the people who care for them have no sense of humor. Bryan got into trouble when he jumped on top of one of the vehicles with a cowboy hat on and started singing 'It's Raining Men's. A soldier came out with his rifle and told the young captain to step down and ordered him to go to the mental health clinic for an exam. Infantry guys apparently are not a big fan of the song "It's Raining Men."

Here Bryan is in front of a Mosque that was near our gym. It was not used while we were here although it was a haven for Pigeons which meant that Bryan, who is a complete germaphobe would go no closer to the building than in this picture. I think he was afraid he might get histoplasmosis or the bird flu or something.

Here I am in front of our C-RAM. The C-RAM is an anti-mortar weapon that tracks incoming mortars and shoots them down. When it goes off, which it did frequently, it would rock our world. I am thinking about getting one of these for my front yard. Who needs a home security system when you have this baby in your front yard. It shoots over a thousand rounds a second. I think it would come in handy when Karis starts to date and brings her boyfriend over.

The last picture of my room before I left. It is actually neat.

Here is our transient housing building. This was the officer building which means that there was only six of us in here. We played stick ball indoors with a broom stick and a foam Butler basket ball. We hit Travis a few times which ticked him off. He's a giant so whenever we hit him we would shout 'Homerun' and then run for our lives. We lived here for a couple of weeks while we waited for our flight to go to Kuwait.

Here we are on a C-17 heading out to Kuwait City.

We have landed in Kuwait and are exiting the back of the plane. Outside is a hanger that was hit with a missle during the Iraq invasion of 1991, which led to the first Gulf War. Kuwaitis love us as we kicked the Iraqi's out of their country.

Landed in Kuwait. We were glad to get off the plane as most of us had full bladders. ;0)

Here is the Hanger that was hit during the first Gulf War.

Here are Doug, myself, Bryan, Travis (in the back), Mike, Ashley We are at Camp Virginia Kuwait living in tents. It was awesome. We had 130 degree weather and an airconditioning unit that didn't work.

Tent City, Kuwait

Above are poles that have solar panels that help power the base. The entire base is powered by generators and solar power.

Yes, even in the middle of the desert the golden arches can be found. God Bless good old fashion capitalism. You could get a camel burger with fried scorpions and cactus juice for 25 denari.

This is the chapel at Camp Virginia, Kuwait. Bryan and I attended services here. It is a very nice building compared to what is around it.

This is the Mayor's cell at Camp Virginia. The Mayor's cell means that this is the headquarter for the base and the unit in charge at this time was from Hawaii.

This is Hawaii's T-Wall painting. I did not know that Hawaii was once a British Colony. If you look at their flag at the bottom left of the wall you will see that their is a Union Jack in the upper corner of their flag. Learn something new everyday.

These are the tents that we stayed in while transitioning out of Kuwait. We actually had fun here as we were just waiting to go home and everyone was in a good mood.

Here we are in the middle of nowhere. I followed Mike to go to dinner but he got lost and we ended up surviving by eating desert rodents and drinking cactus juice. The entire time he kept saying, "Trust me, I'm not lost, I know where we are." Later I talked to his wife and asked if Mike had problem asking for directions. She just laughed and shook her head and said...'It's just sad...'
In truth, this is near our base. Do you see the tower in the background? It was the only tower providing security for us as far as the eye could see. We felt extremely safe. :0)

Here I am lost and looking for air rescue. The generators in the background are a mirage.

Our bus ride to the Airport to fly home.

Brandon. We offered him a seat in first class but when he found out that that was where the officers were sitting he said he doesn't want to be associated with our kind. I'm not sure what that meant but I think it was a compliment and said with affection.
This is a picture of a Russian aircraft that was taken while we were on the runway in Kuwait City. It turns out that we were not suppose to take this picture so if anyone of you is from the CIA, please know that this picture was taken by Bryan McFarland. I told him not to take it but he said that he's not afraid of the Law.

Upper picture is Travis and Mike on our flight to Germany and the bottom picture is Doug Latino. He is our administrative lieutenant for our company. He looks like he is twelve years old but he starts medical school when he gets home.

Here we are in the airport at Lipzig, Germany. They had a place for military members. Here Mike is playing table tennis with SGT. Sams. Mike won of course but only after he threatened to send SGT Sams to Afghanistan if Mike lost. Anything for a win.

Here is the small store at the Lipzig Airport. A candy bar was 7 dollars and a soda was 3 dollars for a 16 oz bottle. What a deal.
Here we are at Stout Field in Indianapolis. It is almost 2 am and we are beat as you can tell.
Travis gave me an Ambien when we were in Germany and it made me really loopy. I don't remember most of the flight but apparently I was awake and moving around but had no idea what I was doing. I was ridiculed all week for that as the guys kept telling me about the things that went on. I think they were making things up but...

Here we are received by our families. This is an airline hanger and we marched in and was released for an hour to be with our families. Bryan and I did not have our families come down for this as it was 2 am and our families lived so far away. So, Mike took pity on us and had his three girls and one boy give us a hug and welcomed us home. This was exceptionally kind of Mike as he usually likes to pick on us and make fun of our short comings. He did charge us a dollar for each hug, so he was true to form. I bet his kids didn't get a penny of that money.

These are my guys at Camp Atterbury. We are out-processing and eager to go home. I love these guys. They are delinquents one and all and I love em.

Here we are at Atterbury. The officers rented a RV trailer while we were at Atterbury. Here Karen and Karis have stopped by to take me home. This is Saturday.

This is my girl. She is about two inches taller than the last time I saw here and about four years older...if you know what I mean. The other day she was talking to me and she said..."I am worried about what my driver's license picture will look like." How does a dad respond to that? These are deep philosophical questions for which to ponder.

Myself, Mike, Doug, and Bryan. We stayed in the trailer together. Mike and Bryan were a bit gassy and unfortunately the toilet was right next to my bed and...well, that is probably information you don't need to know. :0)

So, there you have it. Our trip home. We are so glad to be back with our families. The air is clean the grass and trees are so green and the weather is cool, can the Lord make anything more beautiful?

Well, thank you all again for your love and support. You have all been such a blessing for us and you are so very appreciated. I thank the Lord for allowing a middle aged man such as myself to have another adventure in life. I pray that you are all well and that the Lord is blessing your family. Please check back from time to time as I will give brief updates on things going forward.

In Christ,