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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Sending Our Son to War in the Beginning of the War on Terrorism

Army sister, mom, & wife the 1st Christmas Alan was in Iraq, 2003. Our t-shirts have the 4th ID logo and read “Ho Ho Hooah!”

 

*****Alan’s mother, Donna, aka Nonna, is here today to share with us a speech she gave at her church in 2004, when Alan returned from his first deployment to Iraq. This is part of the series, The Real Army Wives, appearing every Monday on storiesofourboys.com.*****

When Alan accepted the ROTC scholarship after his second year in college, we knew that someday he might have to go to war, but war was not in sight at that time and the next war would probably be over fast because of all the technology. His decision to sign up was stressful for all of us, but he had really prayed about it. Alan felt like he owed it to his country, was fit and able to serve, and could use the army as his mission field.

Now how could we argue with all that? We were very proud of him and supported his decision. My husband, David’s, daddy had retired as a Lt. Col. and was gung-ho Army, as well as our nephew who is an Army Major. I had an uncle who had died in Vietnam so our family has always understood how important the military is to us. We have always been patriotic and thankful to God to be Americans.

Alan was a college senior on 9-11 and we all knew what that meant. That’s when we became even more aware of world events.

When Alan was commissioned upon graduation, he promised to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same. He took the obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and would well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which he was about to enter…so help him God.

Now when you hear your son take that oath, it really touches you. We were so proud of him.

Sending our son to war in the beginning of the war on terrorism #armymom

Sending Our Son to War

When he received orders for Iraq, they were for February, 2003.

He and April had only been with the 4th ID at Ft. Hood since the middle of January. Remember all the fuss with Turkey about whether or not our troops could pass through there to enter Iraq? Well, this went on for several weeks so their deployment date kept changing.

saying good-bye to Alan at the airport in Killeen–or was it Austin?–Texas, 2003

We talked on the phone with him several times a week. He was packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. David and I flew out there the end of February for a weekend. Alan’s duffle bags, gas mask, chemical suit, etc. were all in the hall-we just had to walk around them. Alan was ready to go. Like he said, it was like practicing football week after week and waiting for your chance to play and prove what you could do.

He wanted to just go, do it, and come back. It was so hard to leave them at the airport that trip. It helped us so much to know that April was there for him.

I guess the worst part was the waiting for that call to say he was gone.

Our TV pretty much stayed on the news trying to hear something about when they would leave and what they would find when they got there. It was like, well, the sooner they leave, get there, do the job, then the sooner he can come home and things get back to normal.

Then the call came…

Sunday night, March 30. April stayed with him at the gym until early morning, then called us after he left. They had been together for 3 ½ months…that is a short honeymoon. She wanted to stay at Ft. Hood in their house. After all, his deployment was only for 4-6 months.

We anxiously waited for news, phone calls, and/or letters. Letters took 3-4 weeks each way at first.

Alan in Iraq, with the standard camera of the times…

I just kept thinking about what it must have been like for mothers during the previous wars when they did not hear anything for months or even years!

Every time the news said 4th ID was involved in an incident, then we were really glued to the TV and the internet. David found some internet sites with very up-to-date news and he checked them often day and night.

If we heard about a death or injury in the 4th ID, we were quite anxious, especially if the phone rang.

April had told us that she would call immediately if she ever had a report of injury or a condolence call. Now that was nerve-racking.

Then you hear “Three soldiers from the 4th ID were killed this morning in an IED attack near Tikrit.” That was where Alan was. With the news like it is now, we would hear of incidents right away, hours before families had been contacted. We would try to plan so one of us was near the phone until names were released.

David spent many nights sleeping on the floor in the den in front of the TV listening for news updates. There were days when I would leave for school (teaching middle school) and David (self-employed) would stay on the internet, in front of the TV, and by the phone to hear names released. Then he would call me at school to let me know that it was not Alan. Once that sank in, then we mourned for the families of the lost.

This went on for the whole year. Yes, that 4-6 month deployment turned into 12 months.

The first 7 months Alan did not have email or regular phone service. He could only call occasionally on a line relayed through a military station to a stateside military installation and then patched through to us. There was a bad voice delay and service was usually cut off suddenly.

April was great about calling us right after his calls to her. This was so comforting to know that at that moment, at least, he was safe. She would also email us copies of his letters-minus the mushy stuff- as soon as she got them. That was such a comfort for us- she was wonderful.

A family member, Major Jay Nelson, took the time to explain to Nonna how the whole structure of the Army works. 4th Infantry Division is divided into brigades, which are divided into battalions, which are divided into companies, and so on…

The first 6 months were extremely hard, but then David and I talked about our real feelings with each other. We knew God had blessed us with 2 wonderful children and a daughter-in-law who were all strong Christians.

We had reared Alan the best we could. He was doing his duty and what he wanted to do. We were secure in the fact that God could take care of him over there. We couldn’t, and no amount of our worrying could, but God could. And if God saw in His plan for Alan not to come home, Alan would be with Him, we would see him in eternity one day, and God would give us strength to handle it.

That is when we really turned our worrying over to God and really placed Alan in God’s hands.

We were still scared, but God helped us handle it. We could really tell a difference in our stress levels, still high, but lower than before, and easier to function every day.

It meant so much for our church family and friends to express concern for Alan, appreciation for his service for us as Americans, and your prayer support.

So many even sent him cards, letters, and/or packages. These meant as much to us as to him- and that was a lot! Alan really appreciated letters and packages from everyone. He especially appreciated hearing from those that were not family, as he just expected to hear from family.

I remember him mentioning when he called one time about how upsetting the news could be over there. When the troops would hear politicians against the war and saw polls against the war, it really hurt them to think that Americans back home were not behind them. They took it very much to heart.

The news mainly seemed to cover the bad things over there. Alan wished the news would show more of what was really happening. They never showed how much we were improving things for the Iraqi people, nor how appreciative the Iraqis were of our help.

His return was delayed for days too. He could not tell us exactly when he would leave Iraq.

Flights had to be secret for security reasons. It was another exciting time just waiting for him to let April know he was in “the States.” Finally, she called and said he was in Delaware.  Alan would be in Ft. Hood in a few hours.

Was that ever exciting!!!!

April called us when his plane flew over their house and touched down on the runway. Then she talked to us as she was driving to the gym. Then Alan called for just a minute when they walked in the house.

I can’t really describe the relief.

The tears flowed, revealing just how uptight we had been. Just talking to him and knowing that he was in his house, with April, and nobody was shooting at him or trying to blow him up was enough. Lots of people could not believe that we did not fly out there right away. But remember, they had only had 3 ½ months together and we did not want to intrude. We knew she was taking really good care of him for us.

No matter how you feel about the war on terror, please don’t hurt the soldiers and their families, even unintentionally, by what you say. Remember, these men and women volunteered to fight to protect our country. They are willing to give their lives if necessary to protect us.

We are so proud of Alan. They don’t make the decisions about where they are sent. It really hurts them and their families when people say we shouldn’t be there without adding “But I appreciate and support the troops.” Remember, they are fighting to protect us, here in Roanoke, from terrorism.

Fighting over there may prevent fighting in our front yards. Some have even given their lives for us. I appreciate every soldier, both now and in the past, and their families who wait at home.

We are proud of Alan and how he has chosen to live his life.

We will be here to support him and his family through it all. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. As Alan reminds us, please don’t forget to continue praying for those who are still in harm’s way, as well as their families.

To those families who have sacrificed loved ones and to all here today who have served in our Armed Forces, I want to say “Thank you” from the bottom of my heart.

Sending Our Son to War in the Beginning of the War on Terrorism

DaddyO and Nonna are now retired. They spend their time taking care of their puppy, visiting family, working word puzzles, reading, teaching Sunday School, visiting their 6 grandchildren, and all sorts of things. They have now been military parents for 15 years and have sent their son to Iraq twice and Afghanistan once.

Next Chapter: When Alan First Deployed: My New Friends at 911

 

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Nonna! I loved reading the story from a different perspective.

Next week the story continues of handling life alone in Texas, once my husband was gone to Iraq. A new installment of the Real Army Wives series goes up every Monday morning, sometimes even Sunday night! Thanks for following along!

To read last week’s chapter, click here.

 


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