Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Flicker of Hope is Sometimes Enough

The media doesn't always report all the other things our troops are doing in Iraq. Just the other day, 24 severely malnourished and mistreated boys were rescued from an Iraqi orphanage. I can't completely explain the burden I feel for the men who are seeing these things and somehow having to mentally reconcile with it, nor describe the depth of wondering I do about how these little kids will manage to escape this experience.

Since I was a child, I have had an affliction to over-expose myself to the war-time grief of humanity. I stopped questioning why I felt I needed to force this witness upon others when I realized that the ache inside was really a gentle voice purposed to help others understand.

If I really allowed myself to do it, I could weep for 24 hours extrapolating the rest of the story from these pictures and perhaps even question the existence of God. But do you know what I see? Love, compassion, and strength where it is not supposed to exist, and somehow I feel a flicker of hope. In perhaps the most evil, brutally violent place in the world to be right now, 24 seeds of the next generation who were supposed to die got another chance.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) "U.S. soldiers helped rescue 24 abused and severely malnourished boys this month from a Baghdad orphanage, where they were found in conditions of appalling squalor. The 24 boys, aged 3 to 15 years old, were found naked in a darkened room without any windows. Many of the children were tied to their beds and were too weak to stand once released," In one, a U.S. soldier attended a boy whose body was covered in sores. Another child was tied to a cot and a third picture showed a group of boys lying face down on the floor, in pools of what appeared to be their own excrement. "In a nearby locked room, the soldiers discovered a room full of food and clothing that could have been used to aid the children."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day for a Soldier

Major Ray Kimball, a founding member of the IAVA, shares his poignant thoughts on what Father's Day means to soldiers with children. Ray is just one father of some 700,000 children with a parent deployed today.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sorry I Missed Your Call....

"Sorry I missed your call" How many millions of voicemail greetings use that line? I'm not sure anyone means those words more than a wife when she miss a phone call from her deployed loved one. This is the burden on me today. I missed not one, but three of his attempts to reach me today. I can even tell you the times- 1:50 am, 1:51 am, and 7:12 am.

I swear that I slept with the phone in my ear, but as I fumbled in the dark, the cell phone got tangled in the sheets and so I missed call #2 by one second. Oh, the torture! I don't know when he can call again. There is of course, no way for me to call back, so I settled writing a couple of long emails at 2 am. I think that I will have to sleep on the couch with the lights on and my computer volume all the way up from now on.

Do you know what the hard part is? Not that I didn't talk to him, but that he didn't get to talk to me. What did he go through to get to a phone? Wait in line? Walk across the base? Have to stop what he was doing? What if he needed me or just wanted to hear my voice or ask me something important or if it were even more serious than that?

Sorry I missed your call, honey. I really am.

Monday, June 11, 2007

DHS Offers Sci-Fi Writers $10 Million to Combat Terrorism

The US Department of Homeland Security is offering 1/10th of it's research budget to to science fiction writers to dream up futuristic ideas that might help combat terrorism. Think along the lines of cell phones that detect anthrax spores and encephalography technology being used to "read the minds" of airport security sniffer dogs to understand what type of explosive they smell.

Apparently a select group of these writers, including Jerry Pournelle who advised Reagan on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), have already met with security chiefs in Washington, DC to discuss their ideas. A group of these sci-fi writers have formed Sigma, a group whose aim is to pursue science fiction "in the national interest."

Friday, June 8, 2007

Iraqi Graffiti Wars

Quite strange to me to think of tagging as an insurgency effort destabilization tactic, but I came across this interesting story in the Middle East Times about the military usefulness of graffiti in Iraq through a similar snippet on graffiti at Passport, a blog by the editors of Foreign Policy.

Deployment Dollars

So there's a little bit of a silver lining to this long 15-month deployment and it has to do with money. My husband has been quite excited about it and I've been reluctant (okay, stubborn) to actually admit it, but a wartime deployment offers several extra pay entitlements and legislation that military families can use to advance their financial standing significantly over the duration of the deployment. The caveat to this succeeding of course, is that the military family must already be making it by for the benefits to be realized.

First, deployed service members are eligible for Combat Zone Tax Exclusion (CZTE)which exempts them from paying income tax earned during deployments. They also receive a little extra in the way of Hostile Fire Pay (HFP)/Imminent Danger Pay (IDP)at $225/mo, Family Separation Allowance (FSA) at $250/mo, and the ability to make voluntary contributions to the Savings Deposit Program (SDP), a guaranteed 10% return savings program.

The fact that the wages for a soldier are not particularly lucrative means that nobody is really profiting much. If there are two household incomes, as in my case, then these measures can make a more noticeable difference. However, these in no way compare to sales commissions and corporate bonuses. I mean, if you work out the math, you get $8.33 a day more with FSA for being involuntarily seperated from your family. What is the price of one day to the average person for a missed birthday, anniversary, school program, or birth? Add to this, a whopping $7.25/day in HFP/IDP to work in a war zone and perhaps lose a limb and well, the sense of financial returns diminishes in size. Thankfully for the 99% of us who never put on a uniform, people who serve in the military, clearly, serve for other reasons (and I have a lot to say about this...).

You know, there is also a peice of legislation signed in 2003 that offers military families the chance to significantly reduce debts. Yet, if explained the “Servicemembers Civil Relief Act” (SCRA) to you right now, you might forget to come back! My fifteen month deployment ticker has barely started to tick and I've got many more silver linings to discover with you.

As with all other things in life, this deployment, this war, is a matter of perspective. I can allow myself to be depressed by the relativity of mathematical military pay calculations and all the depressing news reports or I can look through them (not blindly past them - this is impossible and there is a difference) and try to enjoy the bigger and smaller pictures.

For my family, this extra money will help us reach longer term goals because we are not planning on spending it on consumer goods, a new truck, or our cost of living- we're putting it towards the future and we will be together again. We will.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Deployment time...

So my husband has now deployed and the 15 month Army clock has begun to tick. I am not ready to write about it but I think that I do want (and need) to say something. I tend to become emotionally mute about big things, needing to marinate and process the experience in my brain a little before I can talk. So I'll write but I'll just have to do it when the words can come out.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

How Would CNN Report the D-Day Landings?

Today is the anniversary of the epic Normandy invasion. If the D-Day landings at Normandy happened today, how would today's media portray it? The Combat Report's "PNN" news reports:


As a person with a longstanding interest in all things military history, my trip to the Normandy Beaches was a haunting, emotional, absolutely unforgettable experience. As I began my D-Day explorations, I was compelled to drive my tiny little car out into the lush Normandy countryside. Here's is the very first photo I snapped of a monument to the paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division in that field. Little did I know that this little photo would be one of those little coincidences that brought me and my husband together (both he and his father are paratroopers with 82nd Airborne ties).

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