4th of July
4 July 2005,
Monday, Camp Casey Korea
Over my years in the military, I have obviously spent more 4ths overseas than in the US. Duh, say my fellow service members reading this and those of you who know that I have 17/24 years served overseas.
Of those, 1998 was spent in Bosnia at the Blue Factory where we pushed the rules for the day and authorized folks to be in civilian clothes to celebrate. Deployed, the holiday had significant meaning in terms of freedom when serving in the Balkans. We were traveling every day in 2 and 4 vehicle convoys, wearing full battle rattle. Even on post, every one was armed 24/7.
In 2003 & 2004, I was in Kuwait. It was a bit different. We were technically at war, but I felt less on a war footing than in the Balkans because of the all the NTVs and the lack of weapons. I know that I wrote of some of my concerns at that time.
This year, and the third year in a row, I am in yet another foreign country. Korea, as experienced by the military in Area is yet different. The LN workers are going about their regular jobs today, so that the normal businesses are functioning. I was able to exchange out library books and wander through the PX. The Fast Food and their delivery scooters are doing a good business. A few of the units seem to have regular operations running, at others picnics & BBQs are in progress. No one seems to be at the pool in spite of the beautiful weather. There do not seem to be any sports in progress. The computers at both the USO and the library are packed and the waiting lines are 3 deep.
The USO does have a show sponsored this afternoon near the baseball field starting around 1600. There is an open area, rows of folding chairs and a few bleachers facing a portable stage. A number of organizations and fast food places have food and drink. The MPs are very nicely checking all drinks in an effort to keep out the alcohol and all bags to keep out the fireworks. The music is country western, the crowd is tame and rather small (under 300 by my estimation) and I wander back to read another book.
We all watch the fireworks at 2130 from the clinic then I head home.
This is a troubling 4th for me. We are at 1343 directly dead as a result of hostile action. This does not include anyone who died of wounds after leaving Iraq. I love my country. I have always been proud to be serving my country. I am concerned about my countries leadership. I am a member of the Viet Nam Generation. It is my classmates that died, that were lied to, that served and came back changed. It is also my classmates that served honorably and went on with their lives.
But in Viet Nam, we did not have computers, cell phones, and instant communications. It is much tougher now for leaders to make the correct decision. It is easier for all of us to second guess.
Part of being an American is also believing in my freedom of speech, and the freedom of letting others free to choose. And, as we all know with our own children, this many times means that others do not choose what we would prefer.
But, when it is not our land, it really is not our choice. Iraq is not the US, the choices are difficult. As many today try to draw parallels between our revolution in the late 1700s, I will tell you no. There is a difference between a people fighting off a foreign power to become free and being invaded. Be very careful, in our attempt to subdue those who are rebelling, the civilian casualties are mounting. They are costing us at home, they are costing those families in Iraq and they are costing us our reputation in the world.
And, instead of creating freedom, are we creating more freedom fighters.
May there be a future where the only fireworks are those of National Holidays and New Years.
4 July 2004, – Let freedom really be freedom
Sunday, Camp Doha, Kuwait
Last year, Independence Day was a celebration. Fun-Run, Barbeque, program, and a party at Frosty’s in the evening. This year, the day was both pretty much ignored, and grim.
Ignored–it is Sunday, a much more important day for many of my personnel than the 4th, a day on which they worship, and are grateful to be alive. Most here feel like they are serving their G-d/ess/higher power by taking care of those in harm’s way.
Grim. Last year, the war was over, people were starting to redeploy, and it was only 3rd ID that was held over, and going out of their minds.
This year, we have units headed north into death, and units coming south, having traffic accidents and IEDs take members from them only days from flying home. The Navy hospital docs are not experiencing the boredom that was the norm for the 801stCSH; they wish they were. There are few units who have not had a member killed. There are few units that do not have the majority hanging on in desperation; that have no family issues at home.
The cost of freedom has been high this year. As we celebrate the 4th, we have to remember those who died for someone’s freedom, in lands far from home, doing their best because they swore an oath of allegiance to their country. They would put their lives on the line when asked, when ordered, because they believed in their country.
But they expect honesty out of their leadership. They deserve true leadership that understands the cost of that sacrifice, and the cost to the country. They deserve a long-range plan that speaks to exit strategy, and the reality that democracy is not what is wanted by the majority of the people in the area. We are the infidels.
This is not to say that they did not want to be free of Saddam Hussein. It does mean that they want to be free to choose. And that their choice will not necessarily reflect what we want them to choose, as individuals, as military, or as a country.
Young men and women are daily giving up their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. I do what I can for them here, but it feels like too little, and too late. They, daily, are heroes. The truck drivers who are driving north over those roads every day, watching out for IEDs, putting their lives on the line so that troops farther north will have food, bullets, mail and medical supplies.
If you are someone who prays—pray for peace, and rest for our souls.
4 July 03, Friday – 4 of July
Camp Doha, Kuwait
It was an incredibly quiet day, the high point of which was the 0600 5K fun run.
A couple of my night shift had mentioned wanting to compete. When I arrived at 0530 they were still at work. I kicked them out, sending them to the starting point. We run two medical checkpoints and a trail vehicle. The third medical point was yours truly, as the race passes right in front of the clinic. Fun run? Forget that. These runners are taking it seriously.
Off they went, around a few of the warehouses, to and around the track, across the causeway, and up along 22nd. We waved and cheered at the 2 US, one UK, and one Aussie that blasted by about 15 minutes after the start. Since it was already 92°, this did not look like a world record setting day.
Don’t think there was anyone who dropped completely out. Had a couple stop, pick up some water or an ice pack, and then chug along the route. The organizers had made 750 T-shirts, which were all claimed. It looked like a good time was had by all, and my night crew finished the run and had returned well before shift change.
By partway through the day we had decided that no one thought we were open; total sick call was less than 30 soldiers, compared to the usual 120 by noon. From the reports, everyone was headed off to the Marble Palace.
At noon, I took my large, trusty knife over to the Red Cross. One of the workers had brought in a huge, lovely watermelon. After taking a few pictures, everyone indulged in spitting and shooting watermelon seeds before the work bug called us all back.
The 1800 briefing was turned in to a shift change, no briefing required. There were four of us at services. We three regulars were joined by an Army CW2 from one of the ships. The Army has floating reserves, with more ships than the Navy, so it makes perfect sense that there is an Army watercraft maintenance officer out in the Kuwaiti Gulf. He was able to give his team a day off, which they spent at the Marble Palace.
4 Juli – 01 Fach Offiziere
Wednesay, Sanitätsakademie der Bundeswehr, München, Germany
Today was a really, good, true and fun challenge.
Got to the SanAk, buzzed over to where I “thought” my two hours of lecture were supposed to be this morning. Oops, wrong building, wrong floor. Dash across the compound, up stairs and slide down the hall and into the lecture room. The course director is there, and all of the students.
Cool. But, the projector is not.
So there I am with my computer, a bunch of new PPT presentations and no way to do them. Ok, fall back on basic technology. I have blackboard and chalk. We while away time with me drawing diagrams of numbers of people, force structure of the services, and names of all sorts of useful and exciting things. The class director is there – finally – with the beamer about 0815. After happily all messing around, getting it hooked up I can show gory slides of Kosovo for about 45 minutes.
I am never sure if they learn anything, but we all had a good time!
The visitors arriving from the US were met and looked the usual shock weary from the flight. I stopped at the liaison office on the way home, finding one more box from/for them to will drop it off in the morning.
Nope, no fire works or anything else exciting – but then I forget what day it is!
4 July 1999- completely a bummer
Sunday, Würzburg, Germany
Had to get up early. I committed myself to picking up Ben from the airport this morning. George has a meeting with the one investor groups for the Russian technology transfer at 1000, so he drove me in and I will drive us back.
Traffic on A-3 was about what you would expect for this time of the morning. Sunday does not see much traffic. But then there is rain and the flight is late, so what can I say. Hang out, read a book, watch, and Ben finally finds me. We head to Würzburg.
The rest of the day is spent filling him in on information on the hospital, the city.
If you think I am cheerful about this whole day ……
I can feel the wind of the end rushing closer every minute. Am down to getting the desk and the files cleaned out – have all the reference and disciplinary items turned over. Cleaned out the email. Cleaned out the desk top computer, taking off all my files, menus and folders. Packed out one of the closets. Perhaps I should be glad that I never put anything up on the walls.
Got home to kids. Remember them? The eldest at 20, figuring that she might want to stay here for the next year. The next already starting to miss her friends, and school is not yet out. Our son fond of dirt with a newly discovered allergy to soap and water and the youngest who has decided that she really needs another barbie.
Thank goodness the dog has only the demand of “love me,” and feed me of course. But with her ability to help herself on occasion, it is a wonder that she is able to even waddle across the floor.
As I said, three days, but who is counting.
4 July 1998 – fun and games
Saturday, Blue Factory, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Woke up this morning to major thunder and lightening. It made the 5k run a bit on the interesting side. CPT Aune, NorMedCoy, won on the med side in 18:16 (or something like that.) This is not too shabby when one considers the course is a multiple time out and back.
We were supposed to do a formation and awards presentation at 1000. It was still raining. No one was that excited or interested, so I just sort of canceled it. Received that for that decision the rest of the day! All the usual suspects showed up to the providers meeting at 1030, including about 10 extra members of the Bundeswehr. The meeting was just an excuse for the real agenda of volleyball and other games.
It finally quit raining about 1130. The BBQ started at 1200, the volleyball and basketball tournaments continued all day. The SISU pull was at 1300 <10-13 people pulling a 13 ton vehicle> followed by a long session of “dump the chump.” You guessed it – a dunking booth.
At the same time – there were a series of “by country” matches of mudball; excuse me – soccer. At count there were teams from at least
five countries including one group of locals. Since there had been a bit of rain last night and this morning, the soccer field was wet, to put it mildly.
Things seemed to calm down about 1700 when most went back through the dinner line for a second helping of BBQ.
The Blue Factory Garbage Band has come out of hiding and is setting up on the deck of the MWR building – I think they are scheduled for a 2000 concert. We have been after them for the longest time, encouraging the group to come out of hiding and perform. By the time 2000 comes I think I will have heard everything they are going to play; several times as a matter of fact.
Off to change – listen to the concert and crash early.
I did tell you that this is now Operation Joint Forge?