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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Kids’ Names, The Cop, & Living a Life that Matters

Real Army Wives Series *******This post is part of the series, The Real Army Wives. For last week’s chapter, click here.*************** Friday, July 8, 2003 Alan, Hey! I’m being bad. I’m in class, and we are watching a truly boring video. So I’ve been brainstorming children’s names for our future children. These are some that I have come up with. Tell me what you think, and try to think of some names to add to the list. 🙂

Girls:

Gracie Elizabeth  (my favorite) Kathryn Jennings (Call her Katie.) Autumn Faith

Boys:

Cody Alan John David David Alan  (but David is such a common name.) 🙂 I know I said we’d wait 5 years, but I hope you don’t really plan on sticking to that… 🙂 I just can’t wait for you to get back! I got a letter from you today. It was written June 23, and the CMIC had been attacked in broad daylight. : ( I’m wondering if you are in Ad Dwar yet and how that is going. I REALLY hope you like your new job. I know you’ll be great at it. You’re great at everything you do. #1 Cadet–RA of the Year–Cum Laude—You are amazing. I love you, April

*******

July was an exciting month.

My house was an active hub where we came together when we were tired of being alone. The house next door was also a hub because it seemed like Katherine and Nick’s (The Beefcake’s) house was always hosting one or several long-term house guests. First, Nick’s cousin Jay moved in. Then there was Phan. Jay stayed the whole year, but Phan was only there for a few months. Later they also introduced us to Tegann and Josh. Between Katherine’s house and my house, our little corner of the street was a regular YMCA for 20-somethings.

Those duplexes were an unbeatable support system.

On the flip side, Shelby, on the other half of my duplex, was not handling the deployment so well. By this point she was having an obvious affair, with her new boyfriend’s car always parked in the driveway. I remember saying, “Well, if it’s any comfort to her husband, she fights with her boyfriends just as much as she ever fought with her husband.” I never got to know Shelby. I did help her out with the cops once.

It was in the middle of the day when a lady cop knocked on my door.

“Do you know the people who live next door? I keep knocking, but no one answers.” “Yes, I know them. She’s at work right now, and the kids are at school.” “We received a complaint, and do you know if these kids spend a lot of time at home alone?” Oh, boy. “Well, usually if they get home and Shelby’s not there, they come over here, and I watch them.” This was true. “Our caller said that there’s a two-year-old and a baby?” “No. no. They are like 10 and 7. There’s no babies, and I would know. You can hear everything through these walls. That is so weird that anyone would say that. It’s not a perfect home, but I don’t believe there’s any neglect, and I know there are no babies. They are home alone sometimes, but not for long, and the oldest is very responsible.” The cop was satisfied and left. Yes, I watched those kids sometimes, but as their neighbor,  I felt like that made me part of their ‘village’, their built-in support system. I wasn’t about to start buddying up to Shelby, but I was happy to help her children. That afternoon, Shelby and her two children knocked on my door. She apologized for the cop showing up and explained that her dad was crazy and was trying to get back at her. He was the one who called the police. I’m sure Shelby knew that I knew what a wreck her life was, but I knew in my bones that for some reason I wasn’t meant to be the person to help her, even though I did want to. I focused more on the children.

*********

I also had my own, much less troubling, problems to sort out. I was talking to Elsie about how I’d missed Granny Mary’s funeral, which kind of put me in the dog house with my family. I was thinking about going down on July 26th weekend for my other Granny’s 90th birthday party.

Elsie thought quickly, “Fly down on the 25th, and we’ll be on the same plane!!”

We got Elsie’s flight numbers and I booked it. Up to that point, I had flown a few times, always by myself, except for our honeymoon. Elsie and I were so excited to get to fly home together! I wrote Alan all about it, and I told him, “How cool is it that there is a girl–my age–across the street–who I like being around–whose from my home town–and whose husband is deployed too????? That does NOT just happen. That’s God working. And you know, during this deployment, I’ve only seen Elsie get teary-eyed once, and that was the day she was here, and you called me while she was here. It wasn’t jealousy or sadness or anger. It was just pure emotion because she was happy for me. It’s so weird when you know EXACTLY what someone else is going through.”

************

Meanwhile, I began interviewing for teaching jobs and continued my teacher classes, and I felt happy. I didn’t need Ambien to go to sleep anymore.

In my letter to Alan, I explained,

“Our relationship has just put my life on such a—an unusual course, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for anything!! Not only do I have a man who I know loves me more than anyone, but I have a life that matters. It matters. It matters to the kids next door. It matters to the kids I will one day teach. It matters to Sarah, and Cloe, and Elsie. And of course, it matters to you. Isn’t that what we all want? To know that we matter? The FRG (Family Readiness Group) people are telling us not to expect y’all home until next March, though nothing is official yet. I’m choosing not to believe it because it is still up in the air. So I’m okay. For now, I’m better than okay. I’m happy. And you are still such a big part of that. Your letters–wow–your letters are a lifeline to me. Keep those bad boys coming.”   Last week’s chapter

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When Alan First Deployed: My New Friends at 9-1-1

******This is the 11th chapter in the series The Real Army Wives, stories from a young military bride from the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.******

I tell you this particular chapter with hesitation and humility. It’s an embarrassing story, but at the time, this was my reality. I hope you can laugh with me now, and rest assured that I am not normally this paranoid. I promise.

When Alan first deployed, it was suddenly like….cue the sound of crickets. » Read more

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