Traveling to Iraq

After a week of partying and relaxed dinners in Yuma, we assembled the morning of Feb. 6 in our hanger to board the plane that would take us overseas. It was three hours late.

We were told to surrender our knives and lighters before boarding, but not our M-9 pistols and M-16 machine guns -- which got a good laugh.

At our first stop, in Bangor, Maine, we were greeted by several veterans, who shook our hands and offered free use of cell phones to make last calls home. I passed on the free calls as I had already said my 500th good-bye to my family and friends.

We re-boarded the plane after it had taken on a new crew and fresh bag of gas. As we pushed back from the gate, I worked on a crossword puzzle to divert my attention from the fact I was leaving the U.S.

As we taxied, the pilot came over the intercom "Attendants take your seats for takeoff." As the airplane lurched forward and the wheels broke contact with the runway, the troops onboard broke out in a cheer, or shouted "Good-bye USA." For what seemed like a very extended takeoff, my stomach climbed up my throat. Its going to be a long year.

By Bert Stover |  February 8, 2006; 9:46 AM ET  | Category:  Departure
Previous: A Pen Pal's Questions Before Going to Iraq | Next: Arrival Kuwait 18:30 7FEB06

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Did they check your shoes for bombs? I still can't figure out how one would commandeer a plane via a shoe bomb with the intent of wresting the plane from the crew and then flying the thing into the Library Tower. It's keeping me awake nights.

Posted by: felicity smith | February 13, 2006 01:14 PM

I've thought a lot about what to say to someone going into harm's way. I spent nearly 30 years in the Army and was never tested in combat. I was well trained but could I do the job? I'll never know. I sincerely hope that you are the soldier that most of us old guys wish we could have been (mind you, not a dead hero). By writing this blog you have already shown more courage than most of your detractors could ever imagine. If they want to have an impact on world events they need to do more than hurl political insults at one of America's finest. Go, trust your training, do your job, come home safe.

Posted by: LTC (Ret) J. Wells | February 13, 2006 01:52 PM

"hurl political insults at one of America's finest" Tell me, who are you referering too???

Posted by: phlacerte | February 13, 2006 08:51 PM

Well Said, LTC Wells! Well Said!

Posted by: J | February 13, 2006 11:01 PM

It is sad to know that our intelligent and highly skilled people young people are putting their lives on the line for what is clearly a criminal enterprise, i.e. the unprovoked, unjustified, and illegal invasion and occupation of another country. Knowing that the takeover of Iraq was sold to the American people based on a pack of shameless lies, it is equally distressing to see that many people continue to put their faith in our dishonest and untrustworthy leadership and even feel a sense of duty to obey when they issue their cynical, self-serving orders. Rather than defending us, our misleaders put us in ever greater danger. Don't get killed for a lie and a tragedy.

Posted by: An American | February 14, 2006 07:23 AM

For myself, I have no illusions that we've been sold a lie. But I also have no illusions that a soldier going off to war deserves all my support, respect, and admiration for protecting all the things that make us proud to live here. The value of a life, regardless of intelligence or skill level, is still a life.

He did not place the orders that send him anywhere. To make him feel those orders are unjust or pointless is not only cruel and inconsiderate, it is ineffectual. Use the appropriate forum if you wish to make a difference. Call your political representatives instead.

That said, the best of luck to you, Mr. Stover. Make a difference, and come home safe.

Posted by: kreck | February 14, 2006 09:23 AM

Bert your doing a great job. I agree. Trust in your training, the Lord and you will be fine as will the others. Keep this going and tell us what you guys are doing (as much as you can). Stay safe and tell my Virgil Hi and I love him.

Posted by: Barbi | February 14, 2006 09:50 AM

Bert,
You just went through the hardest part of deployment, finally leaving the mainland. It won't be a long year, time goes fast in this enviroment. Your greatest enemy will be boredom, this blog will help you through this.

Posted by: Matt In Afghanistan | February 14, 2006 10:13 AM

Just to wish you well from another old soldier. Trust your training and the people you deployed with.
Gary Owens

Posted by: Robert | February 14, 2006 12:32 PM

Bless all of you and stay safe. I know it's been a long, drawn out process for everyone. Keep in touch with family and friends and time will pass. Happy Valentine's Day to all! We miss all of you and pray for strength and courage to get through this whole thing.

Posted by: Sgt. Pate's Mom | February 14, 2006 02:06 PM

still reading berto...thanks for sharing.

Posted by: docadam | February 14, 2006 02:26 PM

i hope you keep this up. i just started reading your blog and read through all your previous entries. thanks for giving everyone that wants to see a window into life. obviously this "war" is a well worn topic throughout the country at this point, but knowing something about being one of the men or women that actually "do" what doing over there could certainly inform all sides of the debate. you seem like a good guy, so try to improve what you can whenever you get the chance. stay sharp and hydrated.

Posted by: carter | February 14, 2006 07:58 PM

God bless you and all the other American soldiers doing your duty in harms way. My family and I will keep you in our prayers, and please know I would be proud of any of my sons who chose to join the American military. I believe it's an honorable and worthy vocation, and I'm grateful to all those who have joined.

Posted by: a mom with 6 kids | February 15, 2006 10:26 AM

Hi Bert,
Reading your blog about leaving the US in uniform for an uncertain future in a war zone, took me back to another time and place when I had the same experience. You have the admiration of this grizzled old vet, who wishes you and all of your fellow war fighters the best of luck. Stay low, and come home safe. Your personal sacrifices and your service to our country are deeply appreciated.

Posted by: John Hermann | February 15, 2006 10:30 AM

Thank you for serving in this attempt to make changes in the Mid-East that are sorely needed. More often than not, combat does make changes that improve life for
the future for many. Mankind seems to better integrate with groups fought than those with whom we don't fight. Bloody way to get to understand each other, isn't it?
Do your best, and take care of yourself and fellow solders.
Your blog is appreciated back here in the U.S.A.
Sincerely,
MAW

Posted by: Madeline A White | February 15, 2006 10:49 AM

There is a general from Saddam's military that is reporting that the WMD were moved to Syria. Is that statement getting much play in the military?

Posted by: Lyn | February 15, 2006 11:42 AM

Thanks from a vietnam vet. My son has been in Iraq for 29 months of the last 3 years and says the people are needing the help. They are also glad we removed Sadam and there to finish the job.

Posted by: WAYNE KLOTZ | February 15, 2006 01:50 PM

Look, since the military is all volunteer now, if you join up, and get blown up, in GB's war, well, I suppose that's just how it goes. What is sad, however, is that while some folks are getting blown up, to protect our freedom, at least according to GB, over here, GB is taking away our freedom, to supposedly protect our freedom. So you end up with dead volunteers, and less freedom. Is this a good idea?

Posted by: immo | February 15, 2006 06:58 PM

i hope your death will be fast and painless... i spend 6 years in tow (theatre of war) in a war which i was thinking justified, today, your war is only exercise in greed

Posted by: | February 16, 2006 03:37 AM

Pay no attention to the jerk (a term too generous but necessary for decorum) wishing ill will, as it's espoused from bitterness at his own failures to effect positive changes. Hopefully a majority here at home will have your sense of duty and do what we need to do to get all of you home safely. You have my support, gratitude and prayers.

Posted by: voter | February 16, 2006 10:28 AM

Thank you all for serving our Country with courage, honor and sacrifice.
My family have a long military history and I am so ever proud of it.

You have support while you are there and when you come home.

God Bless America !!!

Posted by: Bernadette | February 16, 2006 02:35 PM

immo: "..if you join up and get blown up,in GB's war, well I suppose thats just how it goes." ....Let me just say this, you are an AS*!!!!!!!! Please tell me what freedom of yours has been taken away?! Lets say for example you go to work 6 months from now and your place of employment gets blown up by a terrrorist. Should we say "Oh well he went to work and was blown up thats how it goes!"

And as for the other AS* that didn't have the guts to leave a name,I am giving you the name AS*2,you can just sign on as that. You are saying you hope a soldiers death will be fast and painless, I hope yours is not. Why would you wish ill will on a fellow soldier? I have my doubts that you actually served at all. I just cant imagine a former soldier that supposedly spent 6 years in theatre would speak like that to another soldier going into a deployment. Whether you agree with the war or not our soldiers are doing their job, and a dam* good one!!!!

Posted by: military wife | February 16, 2006 10:38 PM

No good deed goes unnoticed. Both good and bad deeds send ripples through time and the universe, and I truly believe that your work there is on the side of Good.

Thanks for your courage, determination and fortitude. Keep writing. I want to know how you (and I hope also to hear about Geoff and the rest) are doing.

Posted by: Mary | February 19, 2006 12:38 AM

I suggest that all that oppose the war go to the Geographic web site and buy "INSIDE 9/11" it will show you very clearly why we are at war whether we like it or not ... I sometime wonder what the people who think it's all was a conspiracy would think if United flight 13 that crashed in Penn. had hit the Capitol Building and collapsed in like the World trade center would be saying today if those brave people aboard Flight 13 hadn't overpowered the Highjackers and keep them from hitting the Capitol.

Posted by: Tom Davis | February 20, 2006 09:04 PM

Immo and the person who is posing as "an American." I don't think theirs an insect or any snake that crawls any lower to the ground than those that wish any kind of death to any True American. especially to any American military personell heading into a war zone.

Posted by: russ | February 21, 2006 11:29 AM

I don't agree with our leaders that sent you to Iraq, but you all are the greatest and you have our admiration and thanks. Godspeed to you and may you return home quickly and safely.

Posted by: PIDnPOTZ | March 17, 2006 02:55 PM

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