On Veteran’s Day: Soldiers’ stories through blogs

November 11, 2009Jon Brooks Comments Off

Things are tough out here in Recessionland, but let’s take a moment to check in with how things are going in the Armed Forces, through their own words. Assorted posts from American soldiers, found while looking through the Top 100 Favorite Milblogs on Milblogging.com:


From Afghan Quest

Just returned from another wretched trip to Pogadishu, once again challenging my moral endurance. One of the more blatant signs of disconnection from reality; several Soldiers complaining vociferously about Pizza Hut running out of beef while nearby a Soldier who was passing through Bagram to go on leave had come from a FOB where running out of water for days at a time was relatively common, and needed supplies were unable to be delivered due to a lack of airlift capacity. The ridiculousness of the concerns…is highlighted in the presence of those who pass through their midst on their way to and from the real war.

The Soldiers who pass through are subjected to visions of three-story condos, while they (live in) “transient tents.” These hovels house nearly 200 men who share four shower stalls, two urinals and three toilets. Overflow capacity is provided by several porta-johns nearby. I haven’t been to the east side of Bagram in two years, but I hear that conditions over there are even more horrific. How that can be escapes me, but there must be another level of depravity on that side of the runway…

In the transient tents, privacy is a matter of mind over matter. The iPod is a savior. If one puts in the iPod, one can almost forget the man snoring 18 inches from his left ear. As I lay there on my cot, the roar of two F-15’s taking off shattered the near-serenity of Pachelbel’s Canon. I restarted the tune, immersed in the quiet dignity of what is likely my favorite piece of classical music. A bit later, another pair of fighters took off, afterburners punctuating Steppenwolf’s invitation to a young woman to join them on a Magic Carpet Ride. Brilliant. I think that the iPod saved my sanity.

You do not see field grade officers spending the night in those wretched holes called “transient tents.” If a full Colonel ever got stuck in there for a night, lots would be made of the event shortly thereafter. But it is perfectly fine to “house” a young Sergeant with two Purple Hearts, who has lived for days without clean water and who has no electricity on a regular basis, in the slums of Bagram while the full-time denizens of that massive disconnect from reality are housed in apartment complexes formed of stacked shipping containers with cable TV and internet service in their rooms.

The word is disparity…

Bagram really needs to do something about the shameful disease vectors that it calls “transient housing.” There should not be a soul living in pampered condos while the warfighters themselves pass through the scummy misery of those fetid tents. Tons of money is being spent there on construction, and yet a man who lives in crap out on a FOB has to share four shower stalls with over two hundred other men? Bagram is a hub for all who pass in and out of Afghanistan. The notoriously snarled air traffic leaves people hanging for days at a time… to suffer the indignity of an ill-run “transient housing” situation. It is unconscionable.

They didn’t show the celebrities the “transient tents.” Why? Why not show them where the real warriors get stuck when they pass through on leave or rush home in family emergencies? Because they are not idiots. If you chain your child in a closet, you know better than to show anyone. Certainly not anyone with a camera. Not only is Bagram disconnected from the war, but they treat anyone who actually is connected to it like some kind of animal. For anyone going on leave, Bagram is just part of the hellish journey that only becomes any semblance of normal when they reach Atlanta.

It’s a shame. I’ve caught yet another upper respiratory infection in the transient hell of Bagram. If you ever really just have a burning desire to get sick, go to the transient housing office at Bagram and tell them you need a place to stay.

From 365 and a Wakeup

I didn’t grow up planning to join the Army. My father immigrated to the United States so that his children would have the education he was denied in Indonesia. Being the oldest of eight children, my goal was to be the first in my family to graduate college and set the example for my siblings. I studied two years at Cal State Los Angeles and then I decided that to get the full college experience I needed to attend a University with soaring architecture and ivy lined courtyards. I was so fixated on what I thought college was supposed to be like that I chose to give up my grants and scholarships and transfer out of State to the University of Colorado at Boulder. I was so excited at being accepted that I completely overlooked the trifling details… you know little things like tuition and housing.

Needless to say I learned my first and most enduring economic lesson, always plan ahead. Within 3 months I was working double shifts as a gas station attendant to pay for tuition. Another 2 months later I was disenrolled from the University and kicked out of dorms for not paying my tuition in full. I remember the timeline pretty accurately, because the next day I celebrated my 21st birthday by moving into my supervisor’s basement. As I sat there trying to figure out how I could get back into school I heard a commercial on the radio mentioning the GI Bill. And that was how I found my way into the Army.

My first few days as a soldier were bewildering, but I had a distinct advantage over the other privates. You see the first few weeks of basic training consist of grinding tasks meant to strip away the accumulated ego and self importance that build up on a person like old layers of paint. And this is where I had a big advantage, because being kicked out of school, living in a basement and serving as a gas station attendant had long since ground away any sense of entitlement I may have felt.

From One Marine’s View

Try saying goodbye to your loved ones before you deploy. Then try saying good bye 5-6 times after flights get canceled. It’s a gut check from hell. Thinking you are departing then all of a sudden you are not. Departing is hard enough for service members but even harder for families. Its never easy….it never gets easier.

From One Marine’s View, what you can send to soldiers in Afghanistan

The best advice I give to people that want to send things to servicemembers is first, stay within a budget. The last thing we want is you to be between a rock and a hard spot, especially now.
Send when you can and send the items that matter the most…

Below are items I have found to be most beneficial:

-Wetwipes (have you ever used toilet paper that has sat on the port a john floor? OR been without TP?)
-Body soap (when we do get showers-for all that is holy use liquid soap)
-Lotion (it’s a harsh environment – give your skin some love)
-Neosporin (cuts are continuous-need to treat as soon as you get em-lots of nasty germs there)
-AA Batteries (ONE Million uses)
-Nail clippers (It’s the basic things that make you happy)
-Socks (http://www.moabsports.com/web-pid-CS502-Footguard-Copper-Sole-Over-the-Calf-Health–Crew-With-Natural-Foot-item.htm)
-1” Small paint brushes (to brush flour, like dirt off of weapons)
Coffee & coffee filters (need more coffee) AND you can go to any Starbucks, buy the stuff & they will donate to the cause!
-Shaving cream (do you see any of the news pics? It’s not like Iraq, there are no stores in the crappy areas or really at all)
-Razors i.e. Mach 3 & razor blades (disposable razors are bad)
-Electric Razors are the bomb because, you don’t need blades and they can be recharged without batteries AND you don’t have to use water when its 32 degrees. Here are some good ones: http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10652013
-Peak 1 squad stoves to heat water (hello coffee)
-Adaptors to make British (big three pronged ones) plugs turn into US plugs
-Chef Boyardee in a can (MREs get old after the 1st one & are hell on your gut)
-”Foam in a can” stuff to plug any water leaks in our makeshift roof
-Hand warmer things (lets face it, its gonna be freezing pretty much all the time)

These are a few items that will give us the biggest bang for the buck vis sending this and that. I can tell you from receiving all kinds of things, its better you know WHAT we really need instead of sending things that may seem good to have vis need to have.

From Blackfive

…not all sacrifices are made on the field of battle. While infantry, armor and artillery are the combat arms – the tip of the spear – they, better than anyone, know how important the team that makes up the rest of the spear are to their success on the battlefield…

Veterans are the guys like the cook who gets up every morning at 3:30 am and begins to prepare breakfast for his guys and gals. The young man below deck on an aircraft carrier who makes sure the F/A 18 he’s responsible for maintaining is in perfect shape and ready to fly. The nurse who holds a dying soldier’s hand as he takes his last breath, wipes away the tears, straightens her uniform and heads out to do it again.

He’s the kid in the fuel soaked coveralls who hasn’t slept in 2 days gassing up another Bradley from his fuel tanker before they roll to the final objective. The company clerk who makes sure all of the promotion orders are correct and in on time, or the instructor in basic training who ensures those he trains get his full attention and who puts his all into helping them learn important lessons that will save their lives. He’s the recruiter who’d rather be where the action is, but does what is necessary to make sure he gets the best and brightest available for his branch of service. Or the MP at the gate who shows up every day, does her job to the very best of her ability and never complains.

Most vets have never seen combat in the sense we think of it. But every single solitary one of them has contributed in vital ways to the success of our combat efforts and making this the finest military ever. Without those who support the combat troops, success would impossible. Without the wrench turners, truck drivers, fuel handlers, cooks, clerks and all those like them, the greatest military the world has ever seen is an “also ran.”

It doesn’t matter what a vet did during his or her service, it matters that he or she chose to serve and do whatever vital job they were assigned to the best of their ability.

From One Marine’s View

I was having a formal conversation today with a fellow officer when he was recently injected into a high tempo billet out of his normal command and on short notice, yes our unit. He hadn’t been to a deployment yet but that doesn’t matter to us. He is young, he is knowledgeable, he will do great things.

I quickly diverted the conversation to lighten him up a bit to one of looking at him and saying, funny, the American people have no idea what we really do and/or sacrifices. Yes, they know we volunteered etc etc. But keep in mind the amount of birthdays, Christmas mornings, anniversaries, first borns we miss. It’s a bit more than a volunteer force.

My fellow warrior quickly realized what exactly he got into and agreed; yes the American people don’t really have the concept of burning human poop, wearing the same clothes for a month, living in total scum on their minds.

We are Americans. We have the best accommodations on this planet. Running water, heat, A/C parasite free meat to eat etc. I think those simple things, no, I know those simple things are often taken for granted ..until you don’t have them anymore.

Do you like to go camping ( I already hear those saying ewe, no, bugs, yuk). Sweetheart, bugs are the last of your concerns over in some war torn country. The parasitical things that like to eat you from the inside out, the hazards of poisonous critters and let alone the fact that someone is trying to kill you kinda put a different perspective on “camping” in a foreign country. If you don’t like camping, you probably won’t ever really even begin to understand the torments your service members go through. Hell some of you can’t even go poop outside your palace crapper in your home. I went into a port-a- john the other day, hell it was the cleanest crapper I’ve ever seen. I was trying to figure out how we could take it with

Do this; plan a nice cruise for next year. Save up for it, pinch your pennies, buy the airline tickets, schedule a house sitter and all the other shit for it and two days before it is suppose to go down, have your boss tell you, nope you need to get on this here plane and go to this crap hole and help these people out. By the way do it with a smile on your face will ya! Take your shittiest day, multiply it by 10 then add in the factor that you can’t see any of your family for let’s say 7 months. When you get to “your shittiest day” part, remember you get to go home and see your family and most of the times; no one is trying to kill your ass.

From Sorority Soldier

I can’t describe the happiness that’s overtaking me. I’m in Kuwait. Away from Iraq forever. Elation.

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