Tag Archives: Army

To The One, Who Waited For Me

This story is dedicated to The One.

Me up Close

When I signed up for the National Guard, my recruiter showed me a list of occupations and told me to choose one.  The MOS, or Military Occupational Specialty, is the job a soldier performs during time of service.  As I scanned the list, the title 51T, or 51 Tango, was described as something like ‘technical engineer specialist, surveyor’.  I knew absolutely nothing about surveying, but something drew me to the words on that paper.  Although they were as ordinary in appearance as all the other words on the list, it was as though they had been highlighted by some benevolent force.  It would be this MOS and none other for me.  My recruiter advised me that to become a 51T was not easy; I would have to score quite well on my ASVAB, or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a multiple choice test measuring a candidate’s potential to succeed in various military jobs.  Not only did I score high enough to perform many occupations in the Army, I scored high enough to become a surveyor, and so I was on my way!  Advanced Individual Training, known as AIT, where I attended survey school, was located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.  I spent five months there learning the exhaustive methodology behind 51T work ethic.  But that is not what this story is about.  It was at AIT where I met a boy.  He was a boy who became the one I wished for, and the one who waited for me, and well…I don’t want to end the story at the beginning, now do I?

I noticed this boy one day during break time at Brown Hall, our big school for engineers at For Leonard Wood.  When classes let out for short breaks, Tangos would clamor into the Break Room and noisily let off as much steam as possible before the next round of classes were to begin.  We had access to soda and candy machines as well as a traveling concessions cart affectionately coined the Gut Truck, and we were unsupervised during this time, so just about anything could happen.  So on this day, as I was listening to two Marines argue about the theory of relativity (Marines are highly intelligent), I looked over at a table and noticed a boy sitting there quietly reading a newspaper and drinking coffee.  He was wearing glasses and intently scanning the paper, occasionally taking a sip of the coffee, and nothing going on around him invited distraction.  He stood out from everyone else, just like the words 51T, technical engineer specialist, surveyor on my MOS roster.  I thought to myself as I watched him, that looks like the kind of person I would like get to know. 

I did get to know the boy soon after first noticing him, on a weekend break from training.  Male and female trainees were forbidden from fraternizing off post, but it was too difficult to resist.  We were all hardwired to interact and inevitably I found myself in a conversation with this boy about where we were from and where we were going after AIT.  This conversation led to many more: what kind of wild game hunts we had been on, what kind of foods we liked to eat, and what kind of books we liked to read.  We discovered we both had similar tastes in musicians (Led Zeppelin) and authors (Ken Kesey) and the more time we spent together, the more attached we became.  He was in the class ahead of me, which meant he would graduate and leave two weeks before I would.  I dreaded the day.  When it came, I handed him a card with a message inside predicting that we would meet again.  Neither of us knew exactly when or if this would happen, but I never stopped wishing for a miracle.

Over the next three years we cultivated a close long distance friendship.  We chatted on instant message and over the phone.  We called each other after bad dates to make fun of the people we had just gone out with and describe the hilarious debacles.  We discovered that we both hated the smell of vanilla, the taste of water chestnuts, and the sound of Van Halen.  The more I talked to him the more I wished for a miracle.  Then my unit was activated and I broke the news to him.  He told me he would come visit me at Fort Carson.  My heart stopped.  I had just given up on him and had resigned myself to being his friend and secretly pining after him for the rest of my life.  Would it be too much to start hoping again?

My beautiful picture

He visited on a long weekend.  It was just like we had never been separated by distance and time; we picked up right where we had left off.  We squeezed every bit of fun out of every second of that weekend, and we did everything we could possibly think of.  When the time came to say goodbye it was so fitting that rain was pouring down because we were both sad.  He dropped me off in front of my barracks, and I ran through the downpour, grateful for the camouflage to hide the tears running down my cheeks.  I wondered if there were tears running down his cheeks as he drove away.  There were still a couple of weeks of training left before deploying from Fort Carson, and I still had my cell phone, so we called each other constantly when I had free time.  We talked as much as possible, about the San Antonio Spurs’ amazing season, going to Mexico together when I came home, and how much fun we’d had in Colorado Springs.  Then, much too quickly the day arrived when I had to put my phone in a box to send to my folks so they could keep it for me.  I recently found a journal entry from our last conversation before I had to put the phone in the box:

…we were both having a hard time letting go, and thinking of the right words to say to each other was impossible.  An hour later he called back.  “I hang up the phone and think of ten million things I want to say to you” he said.  “Then say it!  Spit it out! Don’t be afraid.  I won’t laugh at you.”  I said.  I already knew what he wanted to say.  “I’m being a wuss.”  was his answer.  He told me how much I mean to him, how wonderful a friend I am, and how he wants a relationship with me when I get home.  He said he had never had such good feelings about a girl before, and he can’t believe how amazing I am!  The whole time I waited for him to say the phrase that had been on his lips since we met again after all these years, and finally he said it, “I love you, girl.”  The world stopped.  Everything faded into the background.  I’d been standing in a line to draw my weapon and when he said that, all the clattering of rifles and chattering of soldiers ceased.  I melted.  “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear those words, ” I said breathlessly, “I love you too!”

My beautiful picture

He waited for me during the deployment.  He was patient, supportive, and kind.  I cannot claim my deployment was all beer and skittles and we had a great long distance relationship and then at the end we reunited happily.  In reality, the pressures of deployment were too overwhelming and I balked at the life that my boy back home was fabricating for us.  I didn’t think I could live up to his ideals and be the perfect Army wife he was envisioning.  With every letter that arrived from him, I felt more convinced that I would hold him back, and if he had to wait for me now, well what if he would spend his whole life waiting for me?  What if I was never going to be available because I was never going to be good enough?  So in order to spare him the embarrassment of having a sub standard partner, I gave him the cold shoulder and broke his heart.  I was such a bitch.  But I wanted to let him go so he could find someone better than me.  He deserved so much more than a train wreck who couldn’t figure out what she wanted in life.  And I think he still waited, because after I had been home for a few months he wanted me to come to Texas for a visit.  As soon as I stepped through the security gate at the airport and took one look at his handsome face and felt his arms around me, I realized what a fool I had been.

Nine years of marriage later, he is still the patient, supportive, and kind man who waits for me when I need him to slow down a little so I can figure things out for myself.  But I finally got over feeling like I was holding him back because he told me that he loves me exactly as I am, the girl from AIT, and Fort Carson, and now.  We take life a day at a time, as a team, moving together, side by side.  Maybe that is part of being in a relationship with someone you are meant to be with, someone who truly complements you and makes you feel like a whole person.  All those years ago when I first noticed him, he stood out to me because he was The One, and no matter how hard I tried to tell myself that I didn’t deserve him or couldn’t have a boy like him, he waited for me, even if he didn’t realize that it was me he was waiting for all along.  Remember the card I mentioned giving to him the day he left AIT?  As he was reading it on the bus ride home, another soldier leaned over and said “You know, you’re going to marry that girl.”  The universe has funny ways of hinting, doesn’t it? — G

My beautiful picture

Soul mates, ten years ago.

A Picture of Life Through Letters

I finally found the letters I had stashed away for all these years.  They were in an ugly little box tucked away in a closet, just as I suspected. After sorting through them, I chose a few of my favorites, and compiled statements for readers to browse through for a taste of life in 2003 and 2004.

home

   From an anonymous student:

April 23, 2004

Dear Soldier,

            Hello, my name is Kay.  We are watching “Saving Private Ryan” in our English class.  As I watch I wonder, is this how it really is or do they show all this violence for the sake of our entertainment?  I’ve got two older brothers that were over there; one is now out of the Marines and the other is going back for the second time.  It’s scary when there are people you love over there and you never really know if they are okay or not.  We only heard from my brothers a few times when they were there.  Because it takes so long for the mail to get back and forth, which I’m sure you already know.  I was just wondering what you do over there and how long you have been there and how much longer you have to stay…wanted to say Thank You for all you have done for the U.S. while you have been over there.

Sabers 001

Part of a letter I did not actually send:

First of all it’s very humid.  I’m never dry…always sweaty.  Don’t worry, but it is still dangerous here.  We have our Engineer Village along the West Wall [of BIAP].  This is a favorite spot for the Fedayeen, the Baath Party, and Iranians to launch mortars…Luckily so far the incidents have been minor.  Nothing more than a mortar here or there and a few quick shots over the wall.  We haven’t been officially attacked…I’ve been doing a lot of foreman and NCO/leader stuff.  I’m coming into my own now, feeling better about my position.  The Iraqi men on the projects will ask me questions about cement, soils, etc. and respect my expertise (if any?).  Some are cautious about talking to me and most do not shake my hand.  I think it is custom…not prejudice…

Today I went to the Gates of Hell in downtown Baghdad for a ceremony practice.  Tomorrow the brigade commander for First Armor Division will relinquish command…I’ll be in another ceremony, this time as the guidon bearer for the company.  The Gates of Hell is a gorgeous monument: arches that look like two arms with crossed sabers.  I got pictures, so you will get to see them.

Mysterious letter dated on my birthday, writer unknown:

October 9, 2003

How are things in Baghdad, Iraq?  Everyday lately on the news we see that our men and women are getting killed.  I trust that you are okay.  I pray that you are…I am glad you like the [care package] items.  I went by the list your CO put out…About the tape — you didn’t mention the kind of tape that works best for you so I sent “Duck” tape.  I’m grateful for the person that invented this product; there are hundreds of uses for this item…

What do you do about the dust problem?  Do they supply you with dust masks?  What can be done about the dust that settles in your lungs each day?  If it stays in there and stacks up won’t that cause problems in the future…health problems?

This one

Survived the Easter Attack, 2004.

Letter from an ex who joined the Air Force:

…just finished my first week of Tech School.  I don’t know if you had them but we got these stupid things called phases where we are limited as to what we can do.  This phase concept blows absolute ass, because seeing how I just got here I am in Phase 1, and in Phase 1 you have to be in your dorm by 2200 every night…Plus you have to be in BDUs all the time except when in your room…not to mention no alcohol until Phase 2.

OKAY TIME OUTIf you are an Army veteran who went to Basic Training and AIT circa 2000 like me you are probably laughing at this joker right now because he is totally whining about PRIVILEGES that we Army grunts NEVER got.  I have no idea about training for the Navy or Marines, but seriously.  The Air Force is spoiled.  Let’s read more, shall we?

So right now I’m pretty disappointed, but at least it isn’t basic training…I’m sorry  I didn’t write to you while I was in BMT (Basic Military Training), I just didn’t have time.  It’s kinda funny.  I was talking to one of my real good friends…and he just couldn’t believe I made it through Basic Training without talking back to anyone…I don’t know how I made it…it really wasn’t that bad, I mean besides the yelling.  I lost 20 pounds, then put on 7 pounds of muscle, so I’m feeling pretty good right now…proud of myself.

The part about BMT that did make me smile was Warrior Week.  If you didn’t know, Warrior Week was a week we spent at a mock forward deployment camp.  Tents, MREs, fake MIGs, the whole nine yards.  We did the confidence course, the tactical assault course, road march, all that war game stuff.  Only thing is we didn’t really do any war games, which is the whole point to the week…I thought the best part was shooting the M16; it was hella fun and I missed getting expert marksman by 2 but I can retest in six months.  But the real reason I kept a smile on my face is because I remembered a certain someone telling me about her National Guard war games experience…I don’t know why, but the second day of Warrior Games I got the thought of you doing your little war games stuff stuck in my head and I couldn’t quit smiling all Warrior Week.  The thought of you runnin’ around in a Kevlar helmet with BDUs or fatigues or whatever you call them made me smile…At the time you told me, I only had a mental picture to go by, couldn’t really put myself in that spot.  And then Bam!  There it was, I was at Warrior Week understanding what you were talking about and being like “Damn, this is what G-money did, well kinda did.”

Yeah, he called me G-money when we were dating.  Okay back to Army stuff.

Rough draft to my father:

My beautiful picture15 October, 2003

Dear Dad,

Hi! How are you?  I am fine…back from a run!  We ran a mile, then turned around and alternated sprinting, walking and jogging on the way back.  After that we lifted weights to work our biceps.  I had a really good time…Today is our phone day, I mean at midnight our phone day begins.  I’ll try to stay awake to call Mom.  Our cell phone was taken away.  And now AT&T is running a monopoly.  The bastards are ripping us off so from now on I’m boycotting AT&T!  The battalion still has four phones, and the company gets them every five days, so I’ll just have to call then.  At least the battalion phones are on a [better] exchange rate, not like AT&T which charges 92 cents per minute.

My beautiful picture

A memo from a constituent services representative from Senator Tom Daschle’s office:

Tuesday, June 15 2004

At the pie and coffee social in Belle Fourche, I met with a woman…She and her husband were helping raise her beautiful grandson…two years old, but his mother hadn’t seen him for either of his birthdays because she was serving in Iraq.  [The] grandparents had placed pictures of [the] mom on the refrigerator, and the little boy would walk up to the pictures and kiss them.  [He] was an absolutely charming little boy; he had bright blue eyes and was wearing a floppy red hat that he refused to take off during the entire social.  He immediately jumped into my arms and gave me a big hug while his grandparents watched and laughed.  Her parents wanted [the boy] to meet Tom and talked about how important it was to watch out for our troops, and make sure they are properly protected and taken care of.

ASIDE: My son did get to meet Senator Daschle, and became a big fan of Tom.  At another pie and coffee social in Belle Fourche during the 2004 campaign my little monster wouldn’t stop yelling “where’s Tom Daschle!?” during Tom’s entire speech, so his wife  Linda gave him a tour of the campaign bus to keep him occupied.  At our redeployment ceremony both Senator Daschle and Governor Rounds were accosted by him because by that time he had developed a fetish for sticking his hand into men’s blazer pockets to find “treasures”. 

My beautiful picture

Letter from a Vietnam Veteran in Idaho:

Hope this finds you safe and well.  I talked with your dad last Sunday.  He said you were caught up in the 90 day extension.  I know it seems like a dirty trick.  I got caught in one in 1969 while in Korea.  I watch a couple hours of war news every day.  It is hard to believe…we don’t get much feedback on the good things that are going on.  We are well into Spring now; the blue birds are back.  I hope you know and will let your friends know that we support you and pray for your safe and speedy return home.

I heard about the Baghdad Boils, must be sand fleas?  In Nam there were leeches, snakes, and the occasional tiger.  I was planning to go to South Dakota when the school year was over but I think I’ll wait until you come home.  Gas is at $2.00 a gallon.  I am hoping to get caught up this spring.  I haven’t got your letter yet; I keep waiting got your mom to forward it.  I think she may be a little preoccupied, you suppose?  Be well, be safe, keep the faith.

Another friend from the Air Force, this time an Academy graduate:

10 September @ 9:30 p.m.

I found that other letter I wrote on my co-worker’s desk.  I was pleased to see it because I actually wrote down some thoughts I was meditating on, and they were significant to me.  What’s up?  Today I went to talk to some high school kids about the Academy.  I really think that they were bored because the teacher kept steering the subject onto the semantics on it.  You know, what’s the commitment, what exactly do you pay for…  I wanted to talk about the fun parts, challenges, prestige, and benefits of going there (of course I included the service to the nation thing too).  Oh well, we also talked about being a “special agent” but it was hard to gauge their reaction.  I’m sure they enjoyed it…  I kind of like public speaking.  It hasn’t presented any problem as far as nervousness or anxiety.  Only time I felt fidgety was when I was briefing a one star about the status of my squadron.  However, as long as I know the general topic I can usually get by.  Not to say I’m any good at tit.  I just don’t hate it or avoid it…

Giving the flight simulator a spin at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Giving the flight simulator a spin at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Then I went to work out during lunch.  It’s really nice to knock out most if not all my lifting during my 45 minute workout.  Hardly anyone is there and I can really focus on the task.  Except for the occasional girl; that’s a give-me (is that the term or is it “givey”?)  Then in the afternoon (after work) I can run and be out quick to enjoy my night of reading and writing to you and cooking, witch is a learning process for me (very hard to make a good meal).  By the way, if you’re thinking “what guy reads, writes, and cooks at night?  He’s gotta be gay…no man does this for fun.”  Well my DVD player went out and so I have nothing but the radio and SNL and Family Guy on my computer.  That only lasts so long before picking up some books.  Currently I’m trying to improve my memory with a memory techniques book.  You reading anything over there?

Getting back to my day, after lunch I came back to work in my gym clothes.  I started washing cars and did about six cars.  Fun, right?  After 3-4 hours of that I noticed how much time people take out of their day with smoke breaks.  I have the occasional cig on a weekend, but even that is bad.  If I were General of the Military I would not allow smoking in uniform or on base.  What do you think?  Am I way off here?  Honestly, I don’t mind washing cars and putting my back into it.  You know what I hate is the 200 jackass/smartass comments as [people] walk by.  Here are some of my favorites: “you washing cars, huh?” (No, I’m massaging the car’s wax coat you stupid fuck!)  “You going to do mine next?” (Yeah, El Fucko, just as soon as I’m done using your office for a shitter!”) and last but not least, “you missed a spot…” (Holy shit!  Why did you open your mouth?!  You’re a freakin’ moron.  Lay down and put your head under the tire so I can release the parking brake and put you to use!)

Allright, that was pretty much my Wednesday.  Still looking for a letter, but no worries.  You just relax and try to keep healthy and strong.  Hmmm, I wonder if/when we’ll ever see each other again?

Your Friend on the Same Continent

Quick note from my Battle Buddy from Advanced Individual Training:

SGT Battle,

Wanted to add this quick letter to your package.  Hope it gets to you near the holidays.  I’m certainly not expectin’ miracles though…My boys are doing well, the third boy on the way.  After that I will find out my plan for duty…Our unit left on the 10th of December for Fort Sill…they will train up for three months roughly, then head out…I really admire your strength Battle.  I can just see that big white smile through all that beige and brown out there.  I have you all in my heart.  You just hold a special spot.  Love you and Happy Holidays!

Love,

Your Battle

My beautiful picture

A Baghdad sunset.