Alan’s Convoy Attack

****It has been a few weeks since our last chapter, so let’s do a quick recap. I finally quit teaching, and Alan left Tikrit and moved to Ad Dawr.  At this point, we are 6 months into our first deployment, exactly halfway through it. So far, Alan’s unit had suffered 3 casualties. I also came up with this clever list of my expectations as a mil spouse. This is part of my ongoing series of the story of our first deployment, way back in 2002-2004.****

The Convoy Attack True Stories of Real Army Wives Series

There is life after teaching.

With the decision made to not ever, ever be a teacher again, I adjusted quite well to my life of new-found freedom. My house became a hub of activity again. We Army wife buddies were always eating at each other’s houses and watching movies and even planning trips.

We had our own little clique. In fact, we spent so much time together that sometimes we did have jealousy and little gripes spring up, but they were never anything big. Usually, someone simply didn’t like something someone else said, or someone got mad because they weren’t included in a fun trip.

We took day trips to San Antonio to go outlet mall shopping, and one of the girls was pretty mad at us for not inviting her to the first one. That sort of thing happened, but in the end we all knew that we needed each other, and in general, we had a ton of fun.

It was around the day of the San Antonio trip that Alan called me with sad news from war.

On September 26th, Alan and his roommate, 1LT Arizona, worked out together as usual, and Alan went around to every company in his unit putting together enough up-armored humvees to make a safe trip up to Bayji. For some reason, he met with a great deal of resistance in acquiring the heavy-duty humvees, but if you know Alan, you know that persistence is one of his greatest strengths. Therefore, he DID acquire his humvees after all.

You see, that day Alan was the designated Officer in Charge for the 3-truck convoy, and he intended to keep his men safe.

(Now when I say men, I literally mean men. His entire unit was a field artillery unit, which is a combat branch. In those days that meant that the entire unit was male.)

On the way back from Bayji, Alan, who was in the lead vehicle, heard an EXPLOSION, and looking in his rear view mirror, he saw the last vehicle with all the doors open and smoke coming from it.

Alan’s captain yelled over their radios, “Go! Go! Go! Get out of here!”

However, while Alan was outranked, he was still the designated OIC, and he had no intention of leaving his friends behind. So Alan commanded them to turn around, establish a security perimeter, and get the men from the third humvee, which had obviously been hit by an IED.

Thankfully, Alan had insisted upon those up-armored humvees, so everyone lived!!

The four men in that vehicle were all injured, though, of course. They were all friends of Alan’s. One of the injured men was Alan’s battle buddy and roommate, 1LT Arizona.

Shortly thereafter, Alan and his captain butted heads on how to handle this situation. The captain was desperate to get the whole convoy back to the home base in Ad Dawr.

The Convoy Attack True Stories of Real Army Wives Series

The problem was that Alan assessed that the injured men seemed to be in need of more urgent medical attention than the captain did and their unit’s assigned medical officer was back home in the states on leave. Alan did not want to risk making them wait out the long trip back only to have a medic evaluate them, require evacuation by helicopter right back to here…all the while worsening potentially time-sensitive injuries. Alan had to convince the captain to take them to the nearby unit’s medical clinic and get them seen right away.

Again, Alan had to override the captain. “No sir, we’re going to get them care now.”

Done. Don’t worry. This wasn’t insubordination, this was Alan pointing out the hard right because this incurred additional tasks such as them finding a place to sleep the night on the local forward operating base, or “FOB”, send word back to Ad Dawr why the humvees (one of which was damaged) weren’t going to support the next needed mission by being delayed…and other various reasons…but it was the right thing to do based on the situation at the moment.

It was a good thing they did. Lt. Arizona’s ear drum was busted. The men were all in need of medical attention. Two of them had to remain in a field hospital.

Lt. Arizona actually ended up having to go home for a month or so before he returned to the war.

Several of the men, including Alan, received medals for their bravery that day.

The captain actually put Alan in for a much greater reward than he ended up receiving, but either way I was so proud of him.

There’s no such thing as sending your husband to war repeatedly and nothing ever happening. Alan was serving in the hometown of Saddam Hussein. There were plenty of enemies all around, but that was, thankfully, the last time Alan’s own convoy got attacked.

I’d always had this feeling that Alan would come home without a scratch, and he DID, so long as you don’t count the damage the desert did to his eyeglasses! This convoy attack news shook us all up and challenged that assumption of safety quite well. I didn’t even learn about the incident until several days after it happened.

It’s a helpless feeling, being the family back home waiting. What could I possibly do to help, way back there in Texas? Nothing– but keep up a positive attitude and do a great deal of trusting. I had to trust God, trust the Army leaders, trust Alan, basically just trust that everything would be okay.

 

Click here to read the next chapter: Fork in the Road

 

 

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The Time of Our Sojourning in Georgia

 

In Georgia, we learned to appreciate the delicacy that is Chick fil a…even with our peanut allergic kiddo. This was his choice of birthday lunch, even though he can’t eat the nuggets. He loves the fries and supporting a Christian company.

 

When Jacob, as in Jacob one of the patriarchs of Israel, moved to Egypt during the famine, his son Joseph introduced him to Pharaoh. Jacob was already ancient, so Pharaoh asked him how old he was.

Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”          Genesis 47:9-10

Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh provided his family a place to settle (Goshen), and Jacob went on about his business.

I read in my ESV Study Bible notes that the Hebrew term that was translated as sojourning indicates that they had no permanent home. This is true of his family. Abraham moved from Mesopotamia, through Haran, down to Israel. He moved many times, as did his grandson Jacob, who died in Egypt.

They were sojourners upon the earth. Land was promised to them, but they didn’t always live in it.

riding the cow train at the Rock Ranch

Of course, that made me think of my own situation, as a military wife.

For us, home is not a building of brick or wood. It’s togetherness. No matter where we are, we are home.

Nothing about this life is permanent anyway. I often hear military families who are retiring say that they have found their “forever home,” or they are moving into their forever home.

What they mean is that they are finally settling down and putting roots down to stay, perhaps until they die.

That sounds so horribly permanent, doesn’t it? Digging your hole and staying there until you die?

And yet, sometimes I long for it. I long for the white picket fence and the sold sign in the yard, to meet people and allow myself to believe that I will still know them in 30 years.

But our lifestyle continually reminds me that I am but a sojourner here upon the earth. I have no forever home here, and even if I do one day, a great many years will already have been spent in too many other homes to count.

That’s not a terrible thing. It’s exciting and promising to know that life is an adventure. What a journey. I may be in the South wishing for snow this winter, but next Christmas I may be whining about the freezing cold, dreaming of moving back to my ancestral land of Alabama.

There might be a chance that we could move somewhere we’ve lived before and meet up with friends we love, friends we don’t have to start at square one, “Hi, my name is April,” with but instead can go straight to, “How’s your dad doing now? Let’s have a barbecue this weekend!”

Nana and JD on Grandparent’s Day

 

 

The time of our sojourning in Georgia draws to a close. We have filled out our preference list, submitted recommendations from Alan’s people, and we await new orders.

Endless possibilities await. Will we stay down here? Will we return to our old Virginia stomping grounds? Or will it be somewhere new altogether? Where does the military need us next?

I have no idea, but I trust it to God’s hands. I sneak in looks at rental houses in areas I’d like to go and balk over the prices. Daydreaming will be done in abundance.

I hope once I near the end of this life I will not say that the days of my sojourning were few or evil, as Jacob said. Okay, well, by Jacob’s standards I can tell you my days will be few. He lived to be 147, but so far I can say with relief that the days of my sojourning have certainly not been evil.

The Lord has always been with me, and I know that he always will be, no matter where the journey leads.

 

6 Ways to Save Your Marriage During Deployment

****This post is part of the series Real Army Wives on storiesofourboys.com. This series chronicles the story of our first deployment, back in 2003.****

Once Alan had been gone for 6 months, and we were finally able to communicate regularly, we found that we began to bicker–even from continents away. We were having newlywed problems, whether we were together or not.

Alan was anxious to move us forward towards our goals in the U.S., yet he was stuck in a combat zone, feeling powerless to affect change. He wanted me to go out and buy a $70,000 house. Plus, he thought I should move us in there by myself so we could start building equity……I was like, “Heck no, I won’t go..”

I wanted him to call more. He gave me the actual reasons he couldn’t.

I was disappointed that he hadn’t had a family member send me an anniversary gift.

Granted, my expectations were HIGH, and he was never one to sugar-coat a single thing…..so we had issues….

an Iraqi flag Alan sent me in a package

On October, 1, 2003, I wrote him out this list, half-joking, half-serious, to lay out all of my expectations and avoid further arguments…

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