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Military Biography: March
March was a good month, but it was also a devastating month as well. February ended with the completion of the rooms I had built for myself and my peers. I was running the third shift at work, which our main focus of the day was to fix any vehicles that were broken from the first and second shift. The jobs were not always easy but for the most part they were completed. On rare occasion we found ourselves working until midnight and later when we were supposed to get off work at ten. The building that housed the rooms had two complete rooms and two rooms that were not finished or being worked on.
Now I am not interested in making myself out to be the greatest person in the entire world. Most of you know better than that anyway, but my lord the shop area was a disgrace. Nothing at all was in any kind of organized manner. Parts were coming in and we had nowhere to put them. Parts that were removed from vehicles and needed to be turned in were everywhere. Our on hand parts were in two shelters in no organized fashion and our tools were scattered.
On the third or fourth of March my boss came out of his office to smoke.
“Hey Sergeant, how are you?” I asked
“Starting to get a little pissed. You?” he responded.
“Walk with me around here.”
So I went with my boss around the motor pool. Everything he had to say was done with sweeps of his hands and arms. He was basically bashing the NCO’s for letting this place become a dump. You could visually see steam coming from his ears, maybe it was just cigarette smoke but I think it was anger.
“I actually noticed this last night, and started working out a plan to fix it.” I said
“What have you come up with?”
“Well, we should have enough 4X4’s to build some shelves, plus we got some 2X4’s laying around and plywood. I could build shelves to hold our vehicle parts in this connex.” I pointed to our connex. “I found some chain in the other connex by my room; I am going to get that out and move all the toolboxes up against the building and chain them to the bars on the window. That will suffice until the welders can build the toolbox rack I drew up. Once it is built we’ll put it next to the tool shed.”
“That sounds good. When are we looking to accomplish these tasks?”
“I was going to start at one but I’ll start once we’re finished talking.”
“Do you have any other ideas?”
“Yes Sergeant. If everyone is constantly looking for ways to improve our organization by either straightening something up or keeping trash picked up, or anything that would make the flow of traffic more accessible then we’ll be fine. I would imagine this will be a struggle for a few days but the other two NCO’s need to get off their butts and direct their soldiers.”
“I don’t know about you but I hate disorganization.” He said.
“Yeah, I hate it too.”
With the end of the conversation upon us, I decided to go ahead and get right to work. The first thing I did was build the shelves. I built them in two sections to accommodate lifting and maneuvering them into the connex. By the time I had finished building the two sections of shelves it was dark out. We had a humvee in the motor pool that was being worked on by two soldiers. The task only called for two soldiers but it was nearing time to go home and it looked like we would get to go home on time. I quickly put my other two soldiers on clean up detail for the night and I helped out with the humvee.
We finished the humvee at nine forty and the other two soldiers were complete with clean up by nine fifty. The night NCO showed up at five ‘til and I briefed him on what we did and what first shift needed to do, mainly the shelves needed to be put into the connex and the plywood nailed down. With that I went to my room.
It was cold out in the early part of March, especially at night. After burning up two plugs from the heater I used, I finally figured out how to fix it and did. I had an A/C unit sitting in the corner of my room, just needing to get installed. I decided that night that I would install the A/C in the morning. For the night though, I would check my e-mail, shower, and then read until I passed out or eleven thirty came up. I opened my e-mail, found an e-mail from my dad, none from my wife, and decided to read the one dad sent me.
As I read I became more worried about my grandma. She was not taking to the treatment too well and was extremely weak. She had just gotten back from town after her radiation treatment and was very weak. The other news was acceptable. My wife was up the other day to visit with my grandma. She took my daughters to see her, which was good.
Shortly after reading the e-mail I shut off my computer and went to the showers. It was a long walk, in 40 degree weather. I hate wearing pants to a shower, and I hate wearing tie up shoes to a shower as well so all I had on was my PT shorts, T-shirt, and flip flops. It was so cold, and I knew the hike back would be an even colder one. Someone once said, and I love this saying, “Sometimes you have to do shit you don’t want to.” This was one of those times; I needed to but sure as heck didn’t want to take the trip.
After being nice and warm in the shower I made a quick trip back to my room and squatted over the front of the heater until I was warm again and I stopped shivering. Since it was only ten forty, I decided to grab my latest Dean Koontz book and go for a read. I read for about an hour, got fifty pages, and decided to call it a night. I set my alarm for eight thirty and shut out the light. This was a good night, and I felt good about myself. I was pretty worried though about my wife. Why hadn’t she e-mailed? I then decided that she must have been busy with the kids or something of the sort.
The next day I rose at eight thirty ready to attack the world. First though I needed to go shave and brush my teeth. Thirty minutes later I was dressed and ready to start installing the A/C. I ripped off the wall panel in one quick pull, and then I grabbed the sawzall and the drill and started marking off where the A/C would go. Once the holes were drilled I inserted the sawzall blade and started making the cuts. With the hole complete I built the frame for the A/C, nailed it in, then built the supporting frame on the outside of the wall with a simple gusset like structure. The next to final step was to put it in the hole and wire it, but in order to do this I needed some help. So I opened my door and waited for a soldier to come by. The first one I saw I asked, “Can you help me lift this A/C?”
Together we lifted and installed the A/C. It was a perfect fit too. Only a small gap to foam, which I had an extra can. The A/C mounted in the hole securely so I thanked the soldier for helping me, he said, “You’re welcome,” And went on his way. I placed the wire for the A/C along the rafters and secured it with nails bent up to hold. Next I informed everyone that I was shutting down power. I shut it down and wired up the A/C from the source to the A/C. After turning everything back on I wanted desperately to test it. It turned on cold, I turned it to heat, it worked, and then I shut it off. Everything worked great except the knobs wouldn’t stay on, so I went to the PX and bought some superglue. Those knobs would never come off again.
Mail is just about the most important thing to a deployed soldier, whether it be letter mail or e-mail. I, a sergeant, am no different than a soldier when it comes to receiving mail. I want as much of it as I can get as often as I can get. Previously I had received no mail. On the 16th of March I received my first letter. Upon hearing that I had mail, I immediately assumed it was from my wife, it wasn’t. The letter was from her mother. Though I appreciate all mail from all people when I am deployed, I was really hoping it was from her. Oh, well maybe she was busy with the kids or something.
I got three pieces of mail in March, two were birthday cards received on the 27th and one was the letter from my mother in-law. None of them were from my wife. On the 27th I called my wife and we discussed things, she wished me a happy birthday early, and I talked to my daughters for a short time. She said she went out to see my grandma a couple of days ago, and told her that I love her and miss her. Later after exchanging loves and such we hung up. That night after my shower I checked my e-mail and found another e-mail from my dad. As I opened it the worst thing came to mind, but I was pleased to find out that she was still with us, but she was barely hanging on. The good Lord only knows why or how but she was hanging on through probably the worst pain ever.
My thirtieth birthday started out normal, just another year older. I spent that morning reflecting on where my life had gone through my first thirty years, and I questioned what I would do with my next thirty years. Would I finally get a book finished? I vowed that I would at least get going on a new one. I ate lunch that day, the chow hall had Mexican food, my favorite, and I ate enough to feed three people. I ate so much I had to carry my ice cream back with me. When I got back to the room, the soldiers wanted to attack me and tried too. One kid tried to take off my weapon, to which I grabbed his hand and in one swift movement twisted it back. He let go rather quickly, let me tell you. The fun had to end when one soldier grabbed me around my middle and started to squeeze. He was squeezing hard enough to make my lunch come back out.
I called my wife and she wished me a happy birthday and told me she was going back home, she had it with being there and wanted to go home. That night I slept like a baby and the next day went by alright, but that evening I received the e-mail no one in Iraq wants to get. My grandmother had passed on the 29th of March. One day after my birthday. As I opened the e-mail I got through the first line and the tears started to come. I tried like hell to contain the tears but I started remembering all the good times we had, I remembered how strong she was. It took twenty minutes to get through the message, and when I was finished I just sat there, staring blankly as my sorrow and mourning washed down my cheeks. I sat there for about forty minutes when suddenly a knock came to my chamber door, it was a rapping as though someone was gently tapping, tapping at my chamber door. It was the night NCO coming to deliver me my Red Cross message. I quickly wiped away as many of the tears as I could then opened the door.
He looked at me and knew that I already knew what he was about to tell me. He delivered the message anyway with as much compassion as he could muster, which I appreciated, and went on his way.
In the blackness of the night, I strolled to the phones to call my wife, so I could let her know what had happened. That was the hardest phone call I ever had to make, and wished that I wouldn’t ever have to make it again.
The next day the commander, first sergeant, and my motor sergeant all pulled me into the office to talk about the Red Cross message I received the night before. They offered me a chaplain and that was it. I told them that I was fine, but I wasn’t.
It seems that the loss of a loved one is very painful; my grandmother was the first person that I was close to and lost. I was fortunate though, I got a chance to make some great memories with her, memories that will forever be in my mind, memories that will never fade or ever be lost.
The rest of March ended while I was in a state of grief. Hopefully April will be a better month. Join me for the next installment of the Military Biography.
- Military Biography: January
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- Military Biography: February
The end of January brought about some positive changes at the motor pool. Rooms were started for the NCOs to live in, and being the designer, and builder I designed myself the biggest room. At this point...