Sunday, July 26, 2009

Sand Storms and Generals and a Final Note...

Good Evening Everyone,
Well the day is finally here. I am making my last entry into this blog for this deployment. We are moving out of our rooms tomorrow and we will spend the next two weeks moving from place to place in transition. We will move down to transition housing here at Balad and then we will fly to Camp Virginia in Kuwait. From Kuwait we will head back to Camp Atterbury. We should be back in Indiana on the 13th or 14th of August.

This year has been long and difficult for all of us. We came here as a small medical company not really looking to change the world but to simply do our part in this war effort for the small period of time that we were here.

Along the way, we lost a significant part of our company do to injury and emergencies. We had some of our medics sent to other places in theater to perform a variety of missions and the remainder of us dedicated ourselves to the task at hand.

As a company of soldiers, we struggled as we adapted to our environment. We fought to find our battle space and we established a standard of care that we could all be proud to be a part.

Personally, we have developed bonds of friendship that only people in these types of situations could understand. I will forever be grateful to my medics who gave me the wonderful blessing of being their clinical leader. I never once forgot that our medics were the backbone of our mission and I am so proud and honored to have shared this year of my life with them.

As an officer, we have certain limitations. There is a certain amount of distance that we have to keep with our enlisted soldiers. Because there are always more enlisted troops than officers in any military company, the officers have to band together if we want to develop personal friendships. I want to share with you how important Mike, Bryan, Travis, and Tim have been to me during this year. It truly is amazing the personal and professional bond that we developed while we were here. As medical providers, we complemented each other very well. Where one was weak, the other was strong, when one was down, another would encourage, when one needed help, the other provided. The bond that we developed and the respect that we have for each other goes beyond anything that I have ever experienced. It has simply been a blessing having these guys in my life.
As a side bar, I would like to thank Bryan for his friendship. I cannot imagine what this tour would have been like without his friendship. He held me accountable in all things and he was especially annoying when it came to exercising. He would not let me off the hook when it came time to go to the gym. I hope that I will be able to keep up the habit of working out when I get home.
As far as our personal lives, I think we all faced a challenge. This has been a year of learning and coping. Being absent from our families has been, perhaps our most difficult obstacle. At some level, we can't help but to have some guilt over not being home and taking care of our loved ones.
Emotionally, we all had some struggles. I was surprised how many of us experienced home sickness. I think being in such a strange place made home so much more cherished. Over the year, some of our soldiers had relationship issues. It is difficult to try and sustain a relationship with someone back home when you are so far away. Some of our guys had girlfriends and wives terminate their relationships. This is not a new phenomenon in the military, but the pain that such an event has is still very real. It is difficult to try and counsel a soldier who goes through such a situation but I think that eventually one comes to the point where a broken relationship just isn't worth the immense emotional investment.
For our part in this military mission, I believe that we did a great job in taking care of the troops. We were seeing 2,500-3,000 patients a month. We took anything and everything that came through our doors. We took ownership of this clinic in October of last year and I believe that we are handing it off in much better shape then how we received it. For that I am most proud.

Over the year, we received so much encouragement from family, friends, and strangers, back home. The packages and letters that we received, especially around the holidays, really did lift our spirits and made this tour much more tolerable. We befriended elementary school children and developed pen pals with these kids. Their questions and insights would make us laugh and at times tugged at our hearts.
Finally, I would like to make comment about the overall purpose of our mission. As soldiers, we serve our country and at the pleasure of our Commander-in-Chief. Like the rest of Americans, we, in the military, all have a variety of political opinions and beliefs. Weather we agree with this conflict or not, we all understand that we have a job to do and that job is to care for the soldier. I would like to share with you that our company did our very best to ensure that our brothers and sisters returned home safely. For me, I must say, that it has been a long time since I felt such a sense of purpose and I am so glad that the Lord gave me this opportunity and these friends to bless my life.

I want to thank you all so much for following along. I will continue to update this after I get home. But eventually, I will shift my entries to my other blog title 'In the Best Interest of the United States. The address is Some of you have already been following along. I will add an entry to this blog when we arrive at Atterbury. I look forward to getting home and getting together with you. I will be taking some time off when I get home and I will visit family and friends. I can't wait.

So, with all of this said, I will say good night. Below I have some pictures of a visit that we had from General Umbarger. He is the senior officer in the State of Indiana. He has been around for years and we really do respect him as our commander. The other pictures below is of our last sand storm. When a sand storm moves in, it steals the day. The sun mixes with the fine dust and creates an orange glow that permeates everything. When it passes, we are left with a thick coating of sand everywhere. I will be so happy to be back home where I can live in a sand free environment.

I pray that you are all well and I will see you very soon.

Here is Bryan with General Umbarger

Here is Mike and I talking with our State's SGT Major. I worked with him the year before this deployment as we prepared to mobilize Indiana's Brigade. It was nice to see him again.
Here we are in our Lab. SPC Troxel, Myself, and General Umbarger goofing around and sharing a laugh. Troxel actually volunteered to go to Afghanistan when we are finished here.

Mike and General Umbarger. The conversation started of innocently enough, but before long Mike started lecturing the General on the importance of good colon health. The General actually fell into an unconscious sleep. Mike didn't let that stop him. He continued his lecture until long after the General left.

Here the General is with Cpt. Ha and SSG K. Cpt. Ha is our optometrist and SSG K is his optician. SSG K is from Saipan.

As the General is distracted, I decided to display my mature and disciplined, military bearing.
O.K. it is very juvenile, but there you have it.
Here we are with the General under the Indiana and U.S. Flag.

Here is where the sandstorm starts to move into our area.

Within twenty minutes our world changed colors.

This is a view from inside our clinic looking out.

Eventually, the sand drowns out our view.

O.k. everyone. Have a great week and I will see you soon.



Pam said...

I enjoyed each & every word! You helped keep me close to the Unit in addition to Mike's phone calls. Thank you so much for your thoughts, pictures, kindness & most of all your humor in such a difficult situation. I also want to thank you personally & publically for all that you did for Mike. You are a wonderful person & I am a better person for knowing you. Thank you!!!

rmcbeath said...

Jeff, I'm so looking forward to seeing you when you come back. I've thought of you often and can't thank you and your comrades enough for the incredible sacrifice you've made for all of us here.
Thanks for keeping us all posted on the events as well as the many other ways you've touched us through this blog.
You're truly a blessing and can feel proud of a tough job done well!