Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Brother Abroad

The bearded Afghan army officer dropped off bundles of pens and notebooks at the school and asked one boy which he preferred: The Americans or the Taliban?
"I don't know," the boy replied. But after a short silence other children in the classroom answered for him: "The Taliban."

Within minutes the discussion was punctuated by an insurgent ambush and the joint U.S.-Afghan patrol became pinned down in this area with forested mountains, caves and ravines that American soldiers call "the Valley of Death."

Heavy machine gun fire blanketed the patrol as troops used smoke grenades and cover fire to escape the ambush. No one in the patrol was killed in the firefight Saturday.

The Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province has a reputation as one of most dangerous areas in the country, where its rugged mountainous terrain makes it a perfect insurgent playground.

The region's infamy for U.S. and Afghan troops dates back to June 2005, when a four-man team of Navy SEALs was caught in a militant ambush. Three were killed and the fourth was rescued days later by a farmer.

A helicopter carrying American special forces sent to rescue the SEALs was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 16 American troops in one of the deadliest single attacks on the U.S. military since the war began here in 2001.

Since then, the insurgents have used the cover of caves and trees to attack small American units patrolling the valley. Despite years of clashes and airstrikes, U.S. and Afghan forces have failed to subdue the Korengal Valley — one of the most staunchly anti-American regions in Afghanistan.

The tribes here speak a distinct language — Korengali — and adhere to the austere Wahabi brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

The Saturday gunbattle erupted following a humanitarian mission to deliver 60 bags of school supplies to the students, aged 5 to 12-years old.

An Associated Press news team embedded with the U.S. troops dashed back to the American military base nearby on dirt trails. It was unclear what happened to the students after the joint patrol retreated.

"Unfortunately the people, the Taliban, they don't like us and the coalition forces to have a good friendship with the local people," Afghan army Capt. Mubarak Shah said. "That's why they started shooting, to make a distance between the Afghan army and the people."

Faced with the growing insurgency, President Barack Obama has ordered another 21,000 troops to join the fight in the hope of reversing the militants' gains over the past few years.

One of the first units to deploy to southern Afghanistan assumed control Saturday of aviation operations at Kandahar Airfield, a statement from the NATO-led force said.
The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was the first to arrive as part of the surge of troops ordered to Afghanistan by Obama earlier this year.
The new troops will bolster the record 38,000 American forces already in the country.

This is Day 110.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Today we found a great surprise in our mailbox: a letter to O and J from their Uncle Paul, from far, far away!

It was the sweetest note, and one of the best additions to Joseph's Memory box (O has a letter from his first deployment).

I cannot wait for Carolina!

This is Day 109.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Brother Abroad

Another late night post, coming in at the eleventh hour.....
This is Day 108.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

American Idol: The Results

An Overview:

1) I tuned in late, but I can say that Kris Allen clearly got the adorable gene from his father; Danny Gokey is probably a friend I wouldn't mond having, and Adam was at his best with the littlest fans.

2) Jordin Sparks' performance was funny. Wow, she should take up acting or something....what intensity.

3) That Glee Club show they keep advertising looks good, but I can't get "Don't Stop Believing" out of my head.

4) I can't decide if I like Katy she entertaining or annoying? It's a fine line, but I do always sing along with her. Hmmm.....jury's out.

5) Danny Gokey is going home and the Maid is feeling some sadness....he is sweetness.

6) If only a million votes separated Kris from Adam, who will the Gokey voters go to? It's the ultimate third party conundrum...who will attract the disenfranchised?

7) From now on, I'll being referring to everything as a big ding dong.

Until next week.....

A Brother Abroad

Since the onset of his deployment, Paul has lost seven pounds.


I kid! I kid!

If you can't laugh at malnourishment and stress, what is left to be funny? Famine? Pestilence? Someone tripping?

All of the above.

This is Day 107.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Watch American Idol: Feel Free to Hate on Me

Danny Gokey's First Song as chosen by Paula: Eh.

Kris Allen's First Song as chosen by Randy/Kara: I loved it...but I also love the song, so I may be bias.

Adam Lambert's First Song as chosen by Simon: I don't know what the judges will say (they clearly favor him), but I know what I thought: AWFUL. And they may because I LOVE that song and he butchered it. Okay, the judges are wrong.

Break to Carrie Underwood Splice: Um, I think it is amazing how much Idol has truly given back, but--- this was just weird. Carrie just asked a woman and her toddler if they've ever had malaria and when the mother sauid no, she actually said, "See, the tents work." No, no, no.

Danny Gokey's Second Song: Soooo much better than the first.

Kris Allen's Second Song: A Kanye revision??? I looooovvvvved it....and I would buy it, which hints at something very important and I'll get to that soon.

Adam Lambert's Third Song: First, why does he always go last? (I smell favoritism). Holy amazing vocals....but what kind of artist will he be? He may have never gotten a negative comment from anyone, but I don't LIKE him as an artist.

HERE IT IS: Adam has the best vocals, Danny is the adorable everyman, and Kris is the commercial package. So, which one do you want?

I want Kris (he he he), and I predicte Adam will go home....Simon jinxed him.

A Brother Abroad

These letters are part of a collection written by Newton Robert Scott, Private, Company A, of the 36th Infantry, Iowa Volunteers. Most of the letters were written to Scott's neighborhood friend Hannah Cone, in their home town of Albia, Monroe County, Iowa, over the three year period that he served as Company A's clerk. The final letter, describing the long-awaited mustering out in August of 1865, was written to his parents.

Scott's letters to Hannah are filled with rich details of the war and the living conditions in the Union camps in Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa and Arkansas. He tells of the terrible diseases that took a heavier toll than Confederate bullets, and the soldiers' frustration and impatience with the politicians in Washington.

Not only do we get a clerk's detailed account of the activities of Company A and the "boys of Monroe County," we also get a glimpse into the emotions of a 21-year-old farm boy uprooted from his family, friends, and sweetheart. In spite of his obvious education and proper upbringing, his polite prose sometimes gives way to impatience and sarcasm as he acknowledges Hannah's accounts of the many fairs, socials, and weddings taking place at home. Indeed he must endure the most embittering news of all when he is told that his sweetheart, "darling Hattie" has forsaken him to marry another.

Even though Scott & his comrades prayed for a Confederate surrender before their three year enlistment was completed, they were to serve the full term and were sent home five months after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

The story does not end here. A year after returning home Scott married Hannah, his faithful correspondent, with whom he raised nine children. Newton and Hannah lived long, productive lives. Hannah raised her family and died of heart failure at 69. Newton was a mail clerk for the railroad for 41 years. He died a peaceful death at 83.

The first letter:

Dear Miss
I will Inform you that I am well at this time & that our Co. is all well Except two or three Persons our Mess is all well at the Present & I hope that when this Reaches you that it may find you & Friends well. Yours of the 19 inst is Rec. I was Glad to Hear from you & that you was well But I Had about given up getting any answer from you But Better Late than Never for Indeed Miss Han. I do love to get News from Home for it looks as if that is all the consolation that us Soldiers Have for we are away from Home & We Have to do as Best we can it is & Has Bin verry cold & Disagreeable to Day We cook & Eat out Doors & we Run to the Table & Eat But nearly Freeze our Fingers While Eating We Have one Stove in our Barracks Which Does a great Deal of good But one stove is a small make Shift for 80 or 90 men it is verry cold Standing guard Especialy of nights But If we are Spared to get through the war & Return to our Homes all will be well

My Self & H.W.Reitzel & J.M. Osborn will Be on guard Sunday & Sunday night I hope that we will leave for a warmer climate Soon. We Have not recd our clothes yet But our Major tells us that we will get them the first of the next week. I hope that we will get them Soon You stated in your letter that Sister Amanda looked for me Home She was verry much mistaken for Indeed it is verry Doubtful Whether I come Home Before we leave Here: If we should Stay Here 5 or 6 weeks yet I would likely come Home But I think that we will leave Here in 2 or 3 weeks our Major tells us that we will leave in 15 days The 30th Regiment Has 3 days Rations cooked & Every thing Ready & will leave to morrow for St. Louis they Have Recd there guns & Success to them I Hope that we will follow Soon I would Inform you that one of Capt Nobles men Died last night His name is Taylor Four of Nobles men & four of our men Starts Home with his Remains in the morning Indeed Dear Miss there is thousands of Poor Soldiers that will see Home & Friends no more in this World If you was in Keokuk & See the number of Sick & Disabled Soldiers it would make your Heart Ache. they are Dieing *illegible* Every Day. But anough of the Hard Side of a Soldiers Life I would tell you the good Side If I know it But don't think that I am Home Sick or Disheartend for such is not the case for I am only telling you a few simple Facts of a Soldiers campaign Indeed I wish never to Return Home Permantly untill this Wicked & God Forsaken Rebellion is Destroyed-- If we had our choices of course we would Be at Home for we are not in the army for fun nor money & Furthermore we wish never to fill a cowards grave & Dear Miss we Have no Fears But that we will Ever Have the good will of those Kind Friends Left at Home. Success to the union Armys & Ere Long may we all Be permitted to Return to our Homes & Live a quiet & Peaceably Lives
Give my love & Respects to all Friends & Reserve a Share for yourself Please write Soon & tell all to Remember & write to the Soldiers for it gives them great Pleasure to hear from Home

In Friendship Love & Truth I am Truly yours

This is Day 106.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Brother Abroad

My Top Five Mother's Day Moments:

5) Being woken up officially by my three loves, with presents in hand and coffee on the way.

4) Guilt free breakfast at the diner...calories don't count on Mother's Day (or Valentine's, or birthdays, or anniversaries....)

3) Being pushed out the door to enjoy some Mommy solo shopping with gift certificates and no timeline

2) A "Happy Mother's Day" wish from Iraq

1) Olivia saying "Happy Mudda's Day" and Joseph saying, "Yeah" in agreement.

Goodness all around.

This is Day 105.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Brother Abroad

"Patriotism... is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. " ~Adlai Stevenson

This is Day 104.

To My Favorite Woman on Mother's Day

A special dedication to my mother....who deserves this holiday every day.