Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's 11:25 p.m. in Kuwait. I think that would be 3:25 p.m. CST. So folks here are winding down while y'all are still waiting for Oprah to come on.

I didn't get a visa to enter Iraq today. While I was in the United States, I contacted the American embassy, and the lady I spoke with told me I could enter Iraq through Turkey or Kuwait. De'on, Greg and I decided that Kuwait would be safer than Turkey since the Turks are throwing a few tantrums of their own. The bad thing is that there is no Iraqi embassy here. I was told there was. I guess Kuwait is still a little bit upset with Iraq about that invasion, and there has been little or no diplomatic ties since then. You gotta let go people. Geez. Don't they watch Dr. Phil?

It looks like I might have to go to Bahrain to the Iraqi embassy there. The American embassy was closed today to observe a holiday (I didn't know today was a holiday.) They'll tell me they can't help get an Iraqi visa, but I'm hoping I can be enough of a pest that they will tell me where I can get one quickly.

The people in Kuwait were helpful today. I even had a German helping me to get a visa. I guess they thought the sooner they get me out of the country, the sooner they will have peace ... I won't be hounding everyone about the visa. I even had a guy go with me to this office that was teeming with activity. I haven't seen that kind of bustle since I kicked a fire ant mound and sent the critters scurrying.

This man with limited English ( we used a lot of hand gestures and facial expressions) told me he was sure I could get a visa at this office, and he offered to go with me. Awesome, I thought. We arrived, and he talked to several people. He spoke to a guy dressed in a military uniform who then hollered across the room at a veiled woman. She was at her desk in a room with two other veiled woman, all of them working on their computers. One of the woman told me in English ( why didn't she say she speaks English from the get-go?) that I should go to the United Nations' office in Kuwait and get permission from them to enter Iraq and then go back to her, and she'd give me something that sounds like a "green form." At least that's what I think she called it. I could understand almost everything she said, but her accent mauled a few words, and I could tell she thought I was missing a marble or two for wanting to go to Iraq. She probably thought there is no undrestanding Americans.

I saw something amusing, though, on the way to the airport. These people are serious about jaywalking. There was a sign at an intersection that said in English and Arabic, "Crossing the red signal leads to death or prison."

Prison? Oh my gosh. I can just see it. "What are you in for?" "Oh, I got 30 years for crossing the red signal." There wouldn't be many free Americans if that law were enforced in the United States. I'd be doing life, I know.

I saw another amusing announcement at the airport when I was getting a visa to enter Kuwait. A sign at the counter where visas are issued announced that citizens of countries listed on the sign could get visas at the airport. There were 35 countries listed, and one of them was Hong Kong. Except it was spelled Honk Kong. I like that spelling better.

Another thing: Kuwait has incredible roads. I was all over Kuwait City today trying to track down an Iraqi visa, and I never saw a pothole. Smooth sailing everywhere. It's good to have billions in oil revenue. It's a pretty city if you don't mind the desert.

After I failed to get a visa today, I tried to find the bureaus for some of the American newspapers or the Associated Press. I got information about the bureaus in Baghdad and other cities, but I couldn't find their bureaus here. Surely they would know where I can get the elusive visa. Now if I had family in Iraq, there wouldn't be a problem. I could hop on the next camel caravan out of Kuwait and be on my way to Baghdad. Alas, I have no family in Iraq, although there is reporter in Dumas, Texas, who wrote in a column that Mexicans resemble the terrorists. Well, since my mother was born in Mexico, I'm thinking, according to that reporter's racist thinking, that I should be allowed to go to Iraq based on appearance. Except I don't look like my mother's side of the family. I'd buy some bronzer, though.

I'm going to Iraq, though. Someone is going to issue me a visa whether they like it or not. I mentioned the German who was helping me. He's working here, and he called a Kuwaiti business acquaintance who drove over to talk to me. (I mean, how nice is that?) The German didn't speak much English, but he spoke a little French and Spanish. I'm fluent in Spanish and can speak a little French, so we were able to communicate by combining three languages. The German's wife just smiled.

Anyway, his Kuwaiti friend drove over and joined the parlay. He speaks excellent English, and he told me that I shouldn't have any problem getting a visa. He told me to go to the American embassy tomorrow, and they would help. Uh huh, I thought. Our embassy has explicitly said they won't help obtaining a visa, but this man seems to think otherwise. He also said I could get to Baghdad by hitching a ride with one of the military convoys that leaves Kuwait for Baghdad almost daily.

I told him that I didn't think the American embassy would help, but he said he'd go with me tomorrow to the embassy and see to it that they help. Oh? Well go on with your bad self then! So, the Kuwaiti guy and I are going to the embassy tomorrow. I think the German might go just to watch his friend give the Americans what for. I will stand meekly in the background with a sad and beaten expression that should convey my helplessness and my disappointment at not being able to secure a visa to enter a country that has more shootings in an hour than a John Wayne movie.

You know, I could use a beer right now, but good luck with that. I asked a guy if beer can be purchased in a Muslim country. He said "under the table." Well, does an Iraqi visa come with it?


I’ve had a couple of emails from Steve. Here’s one of them:

“I found an office where I can get a visa to enter Iraq. I knew there was a reason I lived in Mexico. Doing business here and getting around reminds me a lot of Mexico, so I'm familiar with the routine. Piece of cake!! I'll e-mail you and tell you how it works out.”

Steve was picking up his satellite phone in Kuwait so that he can submit articles to (get your pen ready) Washington Post, San Diego Tribune, Amarillo Globe News, Albuquerque Journal, and some other paper in St. Petersburg, Florida. I’ll let you know when and where the submissions are picked up when possible.

In the other email, Steve said he shared a room with a soldier back from R&R, that they were both exhausted, and that he believed he was nine hours ahead of me (NM time or TX time? I’m not sure.) The short emails are okay, but I sure miss the lengthy ones and the ease of just picking up my cell phone, scrolling down and selecting “Steve”—but, I’m not complaining (yet). Don’t we have it great today, communications wise? This war is different in so many ways, and communications: it’s a bigee.

Sometimes I wonder how “selected media coverage” has affected us. There is a part of me that yearns for the days of old when neighbors had to get out and talk among themselves and share the news that they had so eagerly sought (mind you, I'm not old enough to have lived it, but I've heard about it, read about it.) True, we’d lose some of the bennies we now have, but back then it was war news based on the war. Now, there is so much news, ratings, sensationalism, all those things that come into play, forcing extremism as the hook. It worries me that the media, in order to compete of course, must focus attention to the extremes of Cindy Sheehan or the whackoes from Kansas. Doug, Aaron’s dad, would have probably made the media if these do-gooders would’ve shown up at Aaron’s funeral. Well, we all would’ve been newsworthy that day in Amarillo, Texas.

But I do wonder if the media, television in particular, isn’t partially responsible for the huge split we have in America today. I wonder if the troops envision most Gold Star Moms as Cindy Sheehans. I hope not, but those of us who support the war or protest the war in a less dramatic sense are not very newsworthy, I guess. The same is true for our troops. Unless we watch “War Stories” or the Military Channel, we’re just not going to get that much news on the good being done in Iraq. We are going to hear over and over about the bad, about the extreme. It’s not going to be broken down into reliable comparisons. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending any wrong doing of the individuals in the military who come up with barbaric missions of their own, but also, I wonder if the rapes or torture that have been in the news so much couldn’t at least be brought into a contrast and compare analogy with the rest of us. They could add something like, “Today, American civilians shot, raped and tortured 500 other Americans. Only 300 involved children.”

Or some number. God only knows what that number would be.

40,000 Americans were killed in car accidents in the U.S. this past year, yet we get that news down on the bottom of our 50” screens. I have to put on glasses, turn off my ears, and fully concentrate on reading the fast flow of news cursing around in a dizzy yellow.

I’m sorry, but I’m tired of being inundated with bad news. But worse, I’m tired of the quick flicks of war footage, followed by arguments and opinions in great length, repeated time and time again. Where’s the good news? Well, that’s no news. Why is it no news you ask? Because it happens far too often to be news. We don’t need to “hear” about that.

Mmmmm, where’s my Zoloft?

When the war first started, I was up at 6:30 A.M. to hear the daily news briefing about the war. The loss had a face and a story to it. There was a sense of reverence in the solemn news. A sense of sadness in our loss. Now, I have to read about the fatality down on the bottom of my TV’s screen. To me, something seems very wrong about the way in which news is presented to us. I don’t worry for me, but I do worry for the troops. They don’t have time to “search-out” the news. They have to go out and perform their daily grind with only what they’ve “heard.” TV goes everywhere, believe me.

Steve and I believe that our troops are doing a lot of good in Iraq. Steve is a journalist, so he must write objectively without editorializing in his articles that are submitted (I, on the other hand am not bound by these formal restraints here). Of course, we want it factual, but we want a bit more than we’re getting. You can be sure there are a lot of interesting “facts” to be explored over there right now. Steve told me that as a freelance reporter, he’ll be able to go where the others can’t go. So many reporters, especially if they work for a large newspaper, are restricted to the Green Zone or in some cases, their motel room! Thus, they are forced to hire an Iraqi “stringer” to go out and gather their photos and “our” news.

I’m anxious to hear the rest of our news.

Here are a few links you may be interested in. I can’t add them to our Links on our blog (Steve, I think you have to do that in the “settings” button. I think. I’ve spent a few hours coming to that conclusion), but here they are:

To access, hit the Ctrl. button and click.

I’ll pass the good ones along as I find them. These three have a great many links for news, info, and where to go for other help or answers.


Yesterday I followed my sister’s advice and went to bed. Of course her advice was printed much earlier on our blog than what I actually made it to bed by. So yesterday, what with the off/on coherence of sleep coming 10 cc’s at a time, I was reminded of CQ duty while we were in Panama and how I felt after pulling these all nighters. Needless to say, other memories of Panama followed. Here’s a cute one, at least if your sense of humor is intact.

Doug & I took Aaron to a little church in Balboa, Panama. After a time, Aaron decided that he wanted to be baptized and so went up to the front to tell the preacher of his decision. Aaron was in the third grade, and a little shyer then, so the night before this momentous event, Aaron started getting cold feet. He told Doug, “I don’t think I want to get baptized.” Doug told him that maybe he should pray about it before he went to sleep. The next morning when Aaron got up, he said, “Well, I prayed about it and God told me I shouldn’t do it.”

Long story short, Aaron was baptized in a swimming pool at the motel behind the small church that same day. I guess Aaron had another talk with God.

Aaron did have fear when he was young. I’m sure he did when he was older too, but he either kept it hidden from us, or he just learned to face it head on. I don’t know. Aaron wasn’t one for discussing. He was more for doing. This started about the age of fourteen. I think that was the year he shaved the middle of his eyebrows out for his school picture. Thoughtful of him. We had a few pictures left of him that year.

Have a great weekend and thanks for reading…

Friday, October 06, 2006

YeeHaw! I'm in Kuwait. I'm at the ubiquitous Kinko's using the computer and trying to find a place to sleep for the night. Tomorrow, I go to the Iraqi embassy to get a visa to enter. Obtaining one for Kuwait was easy. Paid the guy $11, and I'm in. Going through customer service at Wal-Mart is a million times more difficult. The folks are friendly, directing me to this place and that. The airport crowd is sprinkled with American military, and we nod at each other in that American way that conveys hi, howdy, good evening ... depending if you're from Texas or NYC.

The airport is crowded with shops and if I had been dropped here and then opened my eyes, I'd swear I was in Kansas. Starbucks, Carabou Cafe, Kentucky Fried Chicken ... they're all here. Uncle Sam has a long reach.

I'm off to find a resting place. Wish me luck as I follow the yellow brick road to Baghdad. Peace

Ramos Flies

From left to right: Steve Ramos, De'on Miller, and her husband, Greg Miller at Lubbock International Airport. Ramos has just checked in for an international flight to Kuwait. After two days there, he will travel to Iraq. Ramos will be working as a freelance reporter.
Steve. What a heart. Sacrifice is the eccentric beauty of war. I see that now.

For this, for the voices, laughter, sympathy, for the time spent of those who come to visit us here, our hearts are open to your voices, your bravery, your stories and work ethic, your right to be recognized, and above all, your resilience in this War on Terror: those who go to the front and those who support them at home and abroad. Your words have paid us well in smiles and tears.

Don’t worry, we like crying.

But we didn’t cry at the airport today. It was great. With all my heart, I believe Steve will return, his mission complete, and like many of us, he’ll be changed forever. We live in a time of great change. We couldn’t contribute to this exploit with anything less than the serenity, the urgency, with which we both feel.

United States Armed Forces: don’t give up on us out here! So many are here for you and it’s one of our missions—to get that word to you out there. I wish for new words to tell you how important you are to us. And when we share the sad moments with you, it is because we want you to know how we share in your sacrifice. And that is the key. That we share in the sacrifice. We need you and need you to know that.

PFC CHRISTOPHER ALDESPERGER, USMC, age 20 of Albuquerque, NM has been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. PFC Aldesperger is pictured here in the center.

Greg and I had the honor of meeting this outstanding Marine’s dad in Albuquerque at the New Mexico Veteran’s Memorial last year. Such a kind and gentle man. There is an article in the LA Times archives: “His Corps Value Was Bravery” which was published October 3, 2006. Tony Perry wrote the six-page article and when you can, check it out. It’s quite a remarkable story. Perry is an excellent writer (he was in Iraq when Aaron was KIA). Please keep Mr. Aldesperger in your prayers. He’s had a tough time according to the article. He’s very proud of his son and supports the troops and their mission.

They don’t call us survivors for nothing.

Some more on Aaron & Hen...

Aaron named his dog after the cognac that 2-PAC drank. Yes, Aaron was a big 2-PAC fan in his younger and baggier days. We always danced to Dear Mamma when he was home. Aaron called us ghetto. I had told him countless times that we weren’t ghetto, but he was determined that we were. I think Aaron, as a sixteen year old, was deeply disappointed that I wasn’t black. And he was also convinced that 2-PAC was still alive (much like Elvis). I told Kayla (my niece) a few months ago that Aaron was probably surprised when he got to heaven and met 2-PAC.

Hennessy. Which may or may not be spelled that way. I’m sure Aaron put no thought into it as he spelled out Hennessy’s name the first time at the vet’s office. Much like he effortlessly spelled my sister into “Anti.” I’m "Auntie" to Lisa's daughter, Kayla De'on (yes, she gets what she pleases from me!), Aaron called Lisa Auntie as well, but he always spelled it A-N-T-I…thus causing my sister’s name to appear militant. We’ve always been a little horrified of this spelling, but we've put ourselves through a great deal to embrace and preserve all that we still cherish.

It's time to heed "Anti's words of wisdom and get to bed. Hen is snoring, thus lulling me into a dream state, induced a wee bit by sleep deprivation. But I have a bed to go and stretch out in, thanks to all of you who are sleeping out in the dirt.

***If you want to meet Hennessy, (he really is fabulous!) this is a day from 2005.


Spring is near. For sometime now, I’ve walked Aaron’s dog around noon or after, but for the last two days, Hennessy and I’ve gone before lunch, when it’s cooler. Today, I may have waited too long. He’s upchucked twice since we got home. Once in my bedroom, and now, once in here. Just now.
If I’d known you were going to outlive your owner, you wouldn’t be here. I don’t say this out loud, just in case he might understand. I wouldn't ever hurt his feelings.

Hennessy is an autumn color. The color of copper. He’s not one of those black and white winter-looking pit bulls, and at first, I didn’t believe he was full-pit, until I saw a photograph on a calendar. The proud animal sat on all fours, in the sun, eyes turned away, heavy jaw, up,confident, remote. The image of Hennessy. He’s an American Pit Terrier. Beautiful, except for a few battle scars. Much like his previous owner, this bruiser’s never backed down from any physical confrontation.

We spell the w-a-l-k word in front of him now, because he’s learned that word and if we just say it aloud, he starts jumping, going all crazy, never giving me a minute’s peace until the deed is done, and so, it crosses my mind, if we keep spelling walk, well, I think maybe, just maybe, he could learn to spell. Now mind you, this dog doesn’t do one other thing you tell him to do, but it does seem as if he’s teachable or reachable in some way.

Aaron taught him how to sit and how to manipulate. Hennessy has forgotten the former, but has progressed well in the latter. He likes three things: walking, sleeping with people, and eating. And pretty much in that order, unless he’s sleeping with someone special, then he just looks up at us while we’re standing there with leash and harness in hand, saying the walk word, over and over. He yawns, he stretches, he sticks his head back under the covers. In short order, he drools all over the most recent pillow he claims as his own, for his comfort, in his people bed.

He manipulates his way into their bed, provided this arrangement is negotiable in someway. Not everyone likes to spend the night with an eighty-five pound pit under the covers. There remain a few of us who’d rather not sleep next to a coat with the texture of dried winter pine needles. Exactly like that, only shorter. Such a stickery thing when rubbed the wrong way. It’s a coat that lies around outside in the smelly dirt, then here, under my feet. Snoring. Snoring and six years old.

I refuse to sleep with him. I’ve tried. It didn’t work. I already have my husband, then there’s the other dog that would end up with bruised and hurt puppy feelings, then my cat, Sarah, who sleeps where she chooses, and usually it’s my bed. Although lately, her preference has leaned more toward Aaron’s bed.

Sarah and Aaron despised each other. She’d hiss at him, haunch her back, spit. He’d return her gestures and mouth at her in the most phonetic way possible, always loud enough for me to hear, “I hate you, cat.” Only he’d say the sentence in all caps. So now, here she is, stretching out on his bed, lounging a lot, bathing a little, and creating a healthy nest of cat fur. Life is sometimes full of its own little ironies.

According to doggy years and vet reminders, Hennessy is advancing in age. He’s even tagged a senior now, and soon enough, I’ll be forced to provide dental care and other expensive old age benefits. Dental cleanings of his nature require anesthesia. Putting him under, so to speak. Then he’ll be sick and throwing up for the day. While I know some animals manage to escape this nauseous state, I’m certain Hennessy is bound to become ill. Everything upsets him: changes in diet, the weather, his allergies. The list grows. It’ll be a surgery-type charge, and yes, they charge by the pound. On his last visit, the vet told my husband Hennessy borders upon obesity.

Hennessy was eight weeks young when Aaron picked him out. Aaron and his best friend, Jerrod, were both so excited when they picked him up. Aaron assured the breeder of the good life this pick would have. Aaron was a junior in high school then and worked for the vet. Hennessy reaped the benefits from his master’s employment. He fed upon the most scientific of diets and bathed in luxurious shampoos (before his de-lousing); he was brushed and blow-dried as he feasted upon doggie treats (with their own hidden dental care plan), all this, while he indulged in the attention of several barking dogs who waited for some attention of their own from master.

The pit adored his sojourns there with Aaron, and now, he’s still happy to visit the clinic. He presses straight toward the aisle he and Aaron once walked together so proudly. So male and territorial.

And I usually read the dog’s mind at this point.

He belonged to both Aaron and Jerrod because they were always together. Dog is man’s best friend of the best friend. And Jerrod revels in sleeping with Hennessy too, just like Aaron did. It’s a hard act to follow, and yet, I find myself as best friend by proxy.

But yes, spring is about here, there is some burden, gone. It’s like a first glorious release in pressure. Perhaps the most noticed change in altitude. The cold still comes, and the wind blows it away, and after it howls and tangles up everything, then some warmth, some brief exposure to life is merely touched, only glimpsed at, yet vivid. It’s like a promise being kept, and very close.

February is nearly over. Hennessy rests at my feet. He looks as if he thinks I will never walk him again. He forgets we just walked.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Aaron's dog, Hennessey, buries his nose in one of Aaron's duffel bags. We took out the duffel bag to check the date on the airline ticket to see when Aaron was home for the last time. Hennessey walked up to it and began to breathe in deeply the smells of his master.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Aaron's dog, Hennessey, is lying at my feet, his nose buried in one of Aaron's military-issue duffle bags. He breathes deeply, taking in the smells that must be locked in the fibers and that unleash for him memories of his master. With each breath, the truck rides he shared with Aaron must be parading through his mind. With each breath, he must be recalling the security and happiness he felt when snuggled next to Aaron in bed. Hennessey is deep in the past, and I imagine that he is cherishing Aaron's unexpected return in the form of smells we can't detect. How De'on and I envy a dog's nose right now.

The duffel bag is one of two Aaron left the last time he came home. We didn't take out this duffel bag so that Hennessey could use it to recall a master he hasn't seen in 2 1/2 years. We took it out of its storage space to look at the date on the airline's tag so we could verify when Aaron arrived home for the last time. But then Hennessey walked up to it, pushed it against the coffee table and buried his nose in it. It's his now.

The other duffle bag is stuffed with the clothes and equipment I'm taking to Iraq. De'on gave it to me a month ago, and, today, we talked about how two years ago, when the duffel bag was stored in a drawer in Aaron's room, that it wouldn't have crossed anyone's mind that it would journey back to the country where Aaron was killed fighting insurgents. But two years ago, I had no thoughts of going to Iraq, either. It might be strange to some people, but toting the duffel bag over there comforts me. I think of it as a talisman against any injury. It's the tangible evidence that Aaron will be with me. The other duffel bag also is tangible proof to a master's beloved dog that he is still with him. Each deep breath Hennessey takes confirms it.


Steve will be arriving here in a couple of hours. Tomorrow, he’ll leave for Iraq.
If any of you have visited Aaron’s message board on, then you know my sister and I've asked Steve to bring us back some sand. Though the embedded foreign sand had collected on some of Aaron’s things, his wallet, photos, stuff that sand clings to, the sand was too fine and could only be caressed between my fingers. That’s okay, but I fear I’ve rubbed the grains too much. I wonder what happens to it. Did the sands of the Jolan District disintegrate into the oils of my fingertips? I’m not being dramatic here. I’d really like to know. Is a part of Fallujah within me, or did my body slough it off as waste?

I’ve had a fixation with sand for a while. My sister understands that. Below is an excerpt of some of the manuscript that was edited for “Timeless”:

Imagining a gift for me, one to be treasured, one for the three-month mark of time, my sister/best friend, Lisa, the one who really pays attention to what people are saying, what time it really is here in the world we are supposed to live in today, this moment, what day an appointment is on, what a person talks about, those kind of important details which seem to escape me most of the time, must have listened, I mean really listened to me. She heard my obsession with time and sand (yes, I have one with sand as well) and she bought me the perfect gift. Fashioned from crystal, its body is filled with sixty long minutes of khaki-colored sand. The head and foot of the hourglass are supported by Mahogany; its delicate form protected by three spines of hardwood. Turned and lathed. Three spines. Symmetry without center. On a circle of gold that crowns the head of my hourglass are the words Lisa claimed for me. Psalm 147:3: HE HEALS THE BROKEN HEARTED AND BINDS UP THEIR WOUNDS. I’ve just this moment turned the words upside down. Another hour will go by. The passage of sand will mark it for me.

I have a dirt clot from Aaron’s grave and last week I took a clot of dirt from a square box at a Catholic funeral. This mound sets on Aaron’s dresser and I’ll keep it for a few months before I relinquish it to Maria Moreno, the mother of Mario Moreno. Mario had just returned from Iraq recently and was killed on a motorcycle. At the graveside, I went up to Sgt. Patrick Moreno, one of the Screaming Eagles, and sole brother of Mario, I handed him a small envelope and said, “Here, take some dirt from within your brother’s grave and keep it in this for a while before you give it to your mother. There’ll come a time when she’ll want to be as physically close to your brother as she can be.” Sgt. Moreno looked a little confused, so I brought some home with me just in case he didn’t follow through. He probably thought I was whacked.

I have a half pint-wide-mouth-Kerr-canning jar that sets on my computer desk. Two sticky labels tell its story. One is the Parable of the Soils: “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”

I know. The patience part really gets me too.

The other label:
Our Good Ground
This soil was taken on December 14, 2000 from the very spot that supported the mailbox of MaMa & PaPa in Amherst, Texas

Steve will fly back into Lubbock on December 14th. With patience, I'll wait for the soil Steve rescues for me. Greg and I’ll pick him up at the airport on our anniversary. You should duly note that the sand I captured from my grandparent’s homestead was also on December 14th.

The soil in the Jolan District has what I want. Some of my son. His blood. I know there couldn’t have been much left after that firefight. I’m not counting on the cross Allie gave Aaron or the broken circle Lisa gave me when I went to Panama. The united circle spelled Best Friends. On the back of mine: Love, Lisa. Aaron wore mine both trips to Iraq, while I wore Lisa’s. Well, I still wear hers. Guess it’s mine now.

But the blood. Where does it go? Does it disappear into the depths of the soil? Does the soil hold the DNA? I bet Roger could help. Ask him, please, Aunt Linda.

My questions aren’t rhetorical. I’m really interested and I don’t work well with the math/science side of my brain, though I am intrigued by science. There’s a great deal of research I want to do on the history of Iraq in general, Fallujah in particular, and this infamous district that Aaron was killed in, from its biblical days, from its genesis. This area, as I've mentioned before, is near the bend of the Euphrates. The Euphrates is full of history, I know that. I guess it's this spot in particular. When you look at an aerial map of Fallujah, the Jolan District looks different from the other areas in Fallujah. Perhaps they've created a new map since April and November of 2004.

When you really want to understand something, you’ve got to go to its origin. I'll break-out my old History of Civilization school book, the Internet, that kind of thing. But I think the Weeping Prophet, Jeremiah, will flesh-out some of the gaps in history for me, though it’s easy for me to get lost there, too. Just so much history there in Mesopotamia.

Don’t worry, I’m not intrigued by the macabre, but I am a big CSI & Law & Order freak, though no one can ever touch Quincy for me.

Regardless, the sand will be a treasure.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


We don’t need military secrets to know we’re up against a very passionate enemy. We don’t need to speculate on when we’re going to leave, and we definitely don’t need to air a date for the insurgents’ benefit, or encourage everyone to get cozy over here in our already too-cozy state. We don’t have to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At this point, I’m much happier if we don’t. But we do need to stay long enough to train the Iraqis to take over their country. It’s ludicrous to think that thousands of people who have lived in fear of even making a decision in their own small homes are going to easily step-up to running an entire country. I’ll be honest, I don’t believe there will ever be complete peace over there, but tell me which country enjoys that right now? The world is in a big fat mess, and we’d better understand that and deal with it, collectively stand up to it, or, we can just wish it away so that the children we tuck in tonight can deal with it tomorrow. Anymore, it’s redundant to say that our world has changed. We hear the talk, but are frightened out of our spoiled minds to walk the walk. Not one of us should ever be complacent again; our innocence and naivety should be finished for all time. We underestimated the face of evil before 9/11. We’d better not do it again. We might wish to live in some unrealistic time warp and return to September 10, 2001. I don’t think it’s a big stretch to agree that no one could’ve ever imagined that something of this magnitude would happen to us. Not then. We were cozy. And we want to be again. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it is dangerous to trick or hope ourselves into believing that if we are just a little bit nicer, if everybody sits down and just talks, we’ll all get over our little ruffled feelings, take a time-out and begin again after we've all had a chance to cool our heals. Sometimes I don’t think it’s even apathy on our part as much as denial or the bare basic need of every human, for everything just to be okay. We’re dealing with an enemy that believes he’s doing God’s bidding by torturing and murdering. If I believed the only true way to the Savior and all He had for me was through barbaric, suicidal means, I’d be volunteering for the next belt.


Ready for an important address? It came in my Gold Star Mother newsletter. I’ll quote:

Some of our service members nationwide who are hospitalized at Walter Reed and Bethesda are not receiving visitors or mail. Just how sad is that!! Military members, who supported us when we called them to serve our country, have been put on a ‘back burner’. Please send cards or letters and help our wounded soldiers! Imagine yourself in that situation, far from home. Please consider helping to remedy that problem. The Medical Centers have asked that you do not send flowers, balloons, or gifts, but highly encourage cards or letters:

To Any Soldier or Airman Ward 57, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20307-5001.

To Any Sailor, Marine, or Airman, Ward SE, National Naval Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20889. I am sure a card saying Thanks for your service would be very much appreciated. Take a moment and thank a Vet. It would go a long way in making them all feel better and you too. (End of quote.)

These national level ladies are great (judging from their photographs and the things they write in this newsletter). Most are white-headed; their Blue Stars turned to Gold after their sons left for Vietnam. I noticed a special glint in their eyes, and it encouraged me. I’d expect them to smile; they’re getting their picture made after all, but you can’t imitate a glint. Soon enough, it’ll be time for some of the Gold Star Moms of our war to step-up. I think we will. I really think we will. After a time.

I’m fortunate to live in a patriotic community. Do you guys have that same support? Don’t be shy in mentioning a special need for someone you know who serves, has served or plans on serving our nation.

Our troops are just that. Ours.

When’s the last time you sent your kid out to fight for his life, then stood by as others tried to stop him during the fight. Imagine, listening, while more than a few of his “buddies” gently hinted at possible failure, raised a condescending brow, invited defeat on this child you had mentored?

If they are ours, let’s treat them as such. We understand the principles of human nature enough to know that we don’t send “ours” out and equip them with anything less than the intangible benefits of belief and support, and most certainly the tangible: armor on their vehicles and reliable flak jackets. We can’t agree that our troops’ lives depend on these things and then balk, bicker, and bemoan the financial burden of war. It is what it is. We can’t expect to outfit the world’s mightiest military without great cost. Deal with it.

I’m excited about the comments. Thanks. Really, it encourages me that this entire-whole-big-thing-of-it has already developed into some unity, some passion for all that is known and all that is unknown. My husband noted from one of the comments that Captain Stewart must be in Iraq right now. Thank you, Sir. And wow, Anthony, a gunner during Vietnam, thank you for your interest here and the hard times there. Thank your family for me, too. Marine Moms are always special. Always a bond there. Semper Fidelis. There really are a lot of good people in our world, and it’s great that Steve has a fellow Airman aboard our blog. Something about the Air Force from an Army perspective: they know how to feed and quarter their troops. The chow hall at Howard AFB was as close to culinary delight as anyone on base could get. Ft. Kobbe’s chow hall just stunk. There’s no other word for it.

What the Air Force lacked in P.T., they made up for in their murderous Air load Planner’s Course. No doubt, the instruction has changed since I took it and failed it. Ran out of time. Imagine. The test is probably done on computer now. The Internet was just becoming available and the cost unbelievable. Lotus and some totally off the wall word processing program is about all we had available then.


I’m certain I’ve absolutely destroyed the whole concept of blog. This is the first time I’ve been involved in a blog. The most I know about a blog is that the word, blog, creates a red squiggly line until dealt with properly. The word sounds as if it should be something short. I don’t like the sound of it at all. Blog. No. Someone should change it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

October 2, 2006

There’s an old army adage: Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome. Too, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” Steve is prior service, Air Force.(Okay, no chuckles from the Marines.) I don’t know if the Air Force practiced this same verbiage or not, but you can see that Steve incorporated the merits of its thought into the first date recorded on our blog: October 1, 2007. There is a reason for this. We wanted Aaron’s photo to stay on top, along with the intro from Steve. Since the blogs are posted one on top of the other, Steve had to trick the date on it. So, definitely, Steve is our tech side of the partnership. He’s also the traveler and risk-taker, journalist...the list grows. He’s sold most every possession he has to pull this off—(sorry, Steve, dedication like that shouldn’t go unnoticed). At this point, you, the reader, might be asking: “So, what’s your part in all this, De’on?” Don’t feel bad for asking; I can’t count the number of times my husband has said to me, “Oh, no, you don’t do anything; you just sit there and look cute, hon.” MeMa, my maternal grandmother, used to say to my mom, “Virgie Bell, I’m not the ignorant end of the shovel, you know.” As I said, outside of working on a book with Steve, I’m not sure what I’m doing. Geez, I haven’t yet completely decided which end really is the ignorant end of the shovel. So, if there’s anyone out there who wants to lend technical assistance to me while Steve is in Iraq, please jump right in. He might be a little busy.

I like the name Steve lent to our blog: Gunz Up. Guns Up is the title of a book written by Johnnie Clark, an M60 machine gunner during Vietnam. Aaron’s last Christmas home, he had me run him all over Lubbock so he could try and find it. He wanted to read it before he left on his second tour to Iraq. This left an impression on me. My non-reader son was chasing all around looking for a book! This had never happened before, save once.

When Aaron was in his early teens, he and his cousin, Zach, went on a trip with their church to Oklahoma City. The name was Youth for America or something close to that. I guess it must’ve been quite an experience for him. He came back on fire. At the gathering, they’d listened to heavy metal Christian bands, rocked out in mud pits of some kind (their real name escapes me just now, plus I’ve never rocked out in one, in or out of church), but anyway, he arrived home, a bandana covered his head and he sported a T-shirt that said, PRAY NAKED…and, Lord help me, I wish I could remember the verse that related to it, but that large, large, very large command, well, that’s all I can remember about that shirt. But I can remember the fire that burned within Aaron that day. Right away, he wanted to use the money he had left to buy Bibles for everyone he could think of. Dollar stores were new at that time, so I had to drive to Hobbs, twenty miles away, so that he could get the most bang for his buck. He’d heard they sold Bibles for a dollar each.

Later, out in the car, I couldn’t help but notice the disappointment that registered in his face when he tried to read print the size of punctuation. What a lethargic way for someone to make a buck.

Years passed, but not too many, not enough years for me anyway, and his body would once again arrrive in Oklahoma City. This time, in a cargo plane, commercial, out of Dover AFB, his covering, our flag. I have to believe his spirit was there with us as well that day, that day with his dad, his mom, his brother. He had to have known how devastated we would be, taking that final walk with him, that way. That way.

A few days later, I smiled into the eyes of one of his friends as she told me about going to a concert with Aaron. “Since it was a Christian concert, smoking wasn’t allowed, so Aaron jammed out and was sweating so hard that about 5 or 6 nicotine patches came off his back. I freaked out when I saw how many he had on," she said.

Everybody’s got an Aaron story.

Aaron went to a Pentecostal Church for a while in high school. I’ll never forget one lady. She stopped me in the middle of the meat aisle at Bob’s Supermarket and whispered to me, “He’s one of our best dancers!”

I can just picture him.

Gunz up, baby…and keep dancing.