Things Forgotten

The other night I was doing my job, as we do 24 hours a day, seven days a week, when it hit me: Memories of home were eluding me. I could no longer recall details I once took for granted, such as the subtlety of a scent. The sensation blindsided me and the rest of the crew as we flew over Iraq. We all reflected on what we've forgotten for having been away so long.

I was doing some paperwork and checking the systems and external lighting, while our crew chiefs were loading bags and passengers for the next portion of our flight. All of a sudden my nose sensed a familiar odor that reminded me of the U.S. I could not place it, but it was 180 degrees from the usual whiffs we get in the cockpit -- of exhaust or the musty smell of the dust stirred up by the large fan turning over our heads. We also endure the ever-present smell of Army equipment. If you've ever been in the service, you know what I'm talking about. It smells like old canvas stored for a decade in a hot, dirty, wet storage bin with no air circulation.

As I caught the soft sweet scent again, I started to think about the norm here, which, by contrast, made this particular smell so inviting. There is the occasional sharp body odor of some of the locals we encounter. There is the smell of burning trash at every installation, marked by the pungency of smoldering plastic. Even recent Al Asad visits, though only 15-minute passings-through, reveal the smell of sulphur from the natural spring there. After the biting "clean" laundry to the rancid port-o-johns and trailer bathrooms, where the urinals are freshened with moth balls because the plumbing lacks traps, we sniff out with keen awareness things that remind us of home.

The smells I miss most? Those of freshly cut grass, burning leaves of fall, fresh laundry and rain. But the one that night was better even than those. I could not see her, for the darkness of the moonless night and the seating arrangement, but for the ride from TQ to Fallujah, I inhaled deeply. Oh the simple things ...

By Bert Stover |  October 12, 2006; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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glad to have you back writing again. I check everyday and do miss when you have been gone. odors are a strong influence on our memories and I hope that you will be back here to smell the things that you miss

Posted by: tikka | October 12, 2006 12:08 PM

Bert -
thanks for this dose of perspective...

it's so easy to take things for granted and obsess about small upsets, and forget how good I really have it.

godspeed to you as always...

Posted by: maj t | October 13, 2006 12:00 PM

Bert-
My office has been keeping up with your blogs on a regular basis and I recently had a thought that you might be able to help us get the word out about our annual SemperComm Award that we present to worthy service members every year.

The SemperComm Award is given out by the SemperComm Foundation, a charitable non-profit organization that was founded with the mission to boost the morale of U.S. service members stationed at overseas remote bases by providing them with the means to communicate with loved ones back home and access to a variety of entertainment equipment. While we hope to eventually reach out to all isolated bases, the SemperComm Award is designed to recognize and honor those service members who are making personal contributions to boost the morale of their fellow men and women.

Service personnel from each military branch are asked to nominate individuals whom they deem worthy of this award. SemperComm will choose up to three awardees to be honored at the 2007 SemperComm Gala, held in May 2007. The winners will be determined based on three criteria: their actions taken to boost the morale of fellow service members, the remoteness of the base where they are stationed, and their desire to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Anyone interested in nominating themselves or someone worthy of the award is welcome to visit the SemperComm website (www.sempercomm.org) for more information and a nomination form. Nominations open October 30th.

Anyone with any questions can also contact us directly at ahornig@sempercomm.org.

Please help SemperComm to honor all those service members that are worthy of being recognized by passing this information along!

Posted by: Alix Hornig, SemperComm Foundation | October 13, 2006 01:26 PM

CWO II Stover;
Your post brings back memories...when I was in Vietnam, 1st Cav grunt 68-69, I would occasionally get "care" packages from home. That first whiff of odor when I opened the package always smelled like my mom's kitchen and I would always savor it for a few seconds before going for the goodies inside. It's always the little things...

Posted by: Kim Maynard | October 13, 2006 02:51 PM

Things forgotten must make life in Iraq difficult. There are those among you with children not yet held or hugged...I imagine this would drive one to the brink of craziness.
Take care and get through the next months in safety so you can come home to remember the old and meet the new.

Posted by: Bill | October 15, 2006 08:58 AM

I would like to know how it feels to be serving in a war that has actually done the opposite of what it was intenede to do. The invasion of Iraq, a complete mistake by any standard, has made this country and the rest of the world LESS SAFE. So I would like to know how this soldier feels, serving in Iraq, knowing that every day he is there he is making America and the rest of the world LESS SAFE?

More than a year ago this person and this blog reviewed an antiwar protest with not the most favorable words - Think it is time for this guy, this blogger, to admit that he was WRONG, that it was the ANTI-WAR protesters that were correct - and to retract his words.

We were right he was wrong. By being in Iraq this man makes the world less safe. Is he man enough to admit it?

Posted by: Question | October 15, 2006 06:28 PM

By the way Bert, my email address is nyrunner10@AOL.COM. Since you now know that your service in Iraq actually makes the world less safe why not email me your thoughts? And I do expect an apology. I was one of the first anti war protesters = It is time that we were acknowledged as being right because damnit WE WERE RIGTH.

Posted by: email me | October 15, 2006 06:32 PM

Regarding the last two posts, I will be happy to respond.
1. Bert is a soldier, not a policy maker. Why would he admit wrongdoing for meerly being a soldier for his country. If you want an apology, ask someone else.
2. He is man enough to fly combat missions over Iraq, day and night. He, nor anyone like him, has a single DAMN THING TO PROVE TO YOU! You are not fit to carry his flight gear across the ramp.
3. To conclude, saying it has not made America safer is supposition and opinion. Why would a soldier give you an apology based on that? Do soldiers make forign policy decisions these days? Moron !
You are an angry, alarmist, insulting fool nyrunner. He, or anyone like him, owes you nothing. You have earned my contempt, I give you that freely. You, like your hippie bretheren before you, feel the need to hurt a soldier doing his job. There will be no lack of them. You want to make a difference? Just vote for the anti-war candidate in November. Regarding slamming a good soldier and officer doing his duty, you need to shut your hole.

Posted by: CW2 Hill | October 15, 2006 07:54 PM

Why does Bert owe you an apology? He has done nothing to apologize for. Like the very first soldier in this country, and the many that has followed, he took an oath to protect and defend his country and to follow the orders of those above him. I understand that you do not like this war, but you are venting to the wrong person. Vent to your congressman or your senator that voted to go to Iraq to begin with. Write to your president and tell him how you feel. Bert and any other soldier is not the one you want an apology from. They are just following orders and doing what they swore to do. Go to your leaders and ask for the apology. Be glad that you have the right to voice your opinion and be glad for the past and present soldiers that have fought so that you can have that right. You have the right to be angry, but make sure you get angry at the appropriate person. And if you don't understand how to do that, just put on your little sign and go sleep in front of the White House. That is very simple to do. And if you don't understand how to do that, then you just don't understand the concept period.

Posted by: barbi baby | October 15, 2006 08:08 PM

Bert, I know exactly what you are talking about. When I was in Korea I remember missing the smells of my grandmothers cooking, of the woodstove in the winter, the sound of a creek with cool clear running water. Keep your thoughts and your memories because those are part of the things that will bring all of home safely. Remember that all of you are never forgotten. Just today as Thumper and I were riding, we talked of how it didn't seem right looking at the beautiful countryside, when you guys were way "over there". We think and talk of you all constantly and we pray that you are safe, we pray that God will be with you on every mission that you carry out, and we so believe in what you are doing. Keep the pictures and thoughts active and come home. We miss you guys. Be safe.

Posted by: barbi baby | October 15, 2006 08:15 PM

Bert, reading your post made me want to respond with a smell that I miss. My husband! He is deployed with you in the 224th. Even though we at home are surrounded by the sounds and smells that you all miss, we are missing something too. The sound and smell of our soldier.I sleep holding his pillow that is still scented faintly with his cologne and shampoo. I dont want to wash his smell off of it. Sometimes I pull a t-shirt out of his dresser and just breathe it in, and even though it has been washed it still reminds me of the way he smells. I miss the sound of his laugh when he has just made a sarcastic comment or joke that he has just found so hilarious, and even though it may have been at my expense, I cant help but laugh also. I miss the sound of him playing with our boys. Believe it or not, I even cant wait to welcome back the snore!! I guess that shows how much I miss him! :-)

However, we are on the downside of the deployment now and can almost see a little light at the end of the tunnel! Then we will all be surrounded by what we miss most!

You all stay safe and keep up the great work!

Posted by: military wife | October 16, 2006 10:47 AM

nyrunner10@AOL.COM,

Since you were one of the first anti-war protesters, I assume you've had time to polish and edit your remarks, since the war is several years old now. If you care so deeply, at least spell check your comments. Otherwise we might mistake you for a fool instead of a true pioneer of the anti-war movement.

"It is time that we were acknowledged as being right because damnit WE WERE RIGTH."

It also appears is if the apology for which you are begging, serves no other pupose than an ego boost, because damnit you truly do think you are RIGTH and you want the wolrd to know it.

Posted by: Bill | October 16, 2006 04:01 PM

nyrunner10@AOL.COM,

Since you were one of the first anti-war protesters, I assume you've had time to polish and edit your remarks, since the war is several years old now. If you care so deeply, at least spell check your comments. Otherwise we might mistake you for a fool instead of a true pioneer of the anti-war movement.

"It is time that we were acknowledged as being right because damnit WE WERE RIGTH."

It also appears is if the apology for which you are begging serves no other pupose than an ego boost. Because damnit you truly do think you are RIGTH and you want the wolrd to know it. Once the world knows it, you will surely feel better about yourself and your righteousness.

Posted by: Bill | October 16, 2006 04:03 PM

Sorry for posting that twice...Technical difficulties

Posted by: Bill | October 16, 2006 04:04 PM

Bert,

Thanks for continuing to write, I can't imagine what it is like for you to endure the comments that are posted.....it makes me very angry!! My son just came home from Al Asad and he talked about what you just mentioned...missing the smells that we take for granted in this country...maybe some day those who are writing "mean" comments here will find themselves in a place that is far removed from the comforts and conveniences of HOME!! It is only then that we appreciate what we have in this country!! I can't understand why they feel the NEED to write "mean" things to someone who is tired, missing home, not sure what tomorrow brings.....guess that tells us everything we need to know about them, doesn't it??!! I continue to pray for you Bert....stay focused on your work, your time to return will come and you will "see everything through new eyes!"....My son certainly does, he is 23 and had a new found appreciation for this Country and his family!! I thank God for his safe return and ask HIM to keep you safe as well!!

Posted by: Mechanic's Mom | October 17, 2006 04:01 PM

Mechanic's Mom, How so right you are. When one is in another country, such as the middle east, you realize just how important the "little things" are. The smells of the kitchen, the morning dew on the grass, the beauty of the mountains, and on and on. When you come home, you "really do" see things through new eyes. 224th, it is just awesome the people that are praying for you. From little children in kindergarden to a grandmother who has no military affiliation, but who knows the sacrifice that you make everyday for us. Please continue to talk of your thoughts and feelings and the things you see and do. Maybe just one nonsupporter, will begin to see and understand what you endure everyday that you are there. You guys stay safe, we miss you and you are NEVER forgotten. God Bless You.

Posted by: barbi baby | October 18, 2006 06:06 AM

My son was just home from Iraq for a few weeks. To see him savor the feel of rain upon his face made me want to cry for all that the soldiers have to miss. He was so excited to just see the green of the grass and the leaves on the trees. I get so sad reading the rants of the anti-war people - to be so mad at everything is something I cannot begin to understand. My son is back over there now but with not so much time left to serve. The time goes so slowly for us as well as for the soldiers. God Bless you Bert and the 224th!

A Mom

Posted by: | October 18, 2006 10:05 AM

Bert,
Don't let the nutcakes get you down. Most of us at home fully support each of you, and what you're doing. You owe no one an apology. As a VN Vet, I watched Hanoi Jane and her ilk throw dog feces on the trucks hauling the remains of Vietnam KIAs out of Travis AFB, Calif. How comforting it must be to them to do the enemy's bidding so close to to the fires of home...
Stay SAFE,
John Hermann, Haymarket, VA

Posted by: John Hermann | October 18, 2006 10:21 AM

from a veteran, John Hermann welcome home and thank you.

Posted by: barbi baby | October 18, 2006 11:50 AM

Bert,
You have succinctly captured a thought and emotion that I, too, felt when I served my tour over there in '03. Well done and godspeed.

Posted by: rrhurst | October 19, 2006 10:18 AM

A young Iraqi Woman was gang-raped and murdered by five American soldiers in Iraq. The soldiers also killed her father, mother, and young sister in her family home south of Baghdad.

Read More ...

http://pakistan1947.blogspot.com/2006/09/war-to-colonise-hearts-and-minds_19.html

Posted by: Muhammad Azeem Akhter | October 19, 2006 01:04 PM

and muslem terrorist killed thousand and thousand of innocent people here in the states

Posted by: what's your point | October 19, 2006 01:14 PM

I have been enjoying your column, and pray for your safe return, and all American and Allied soldiers. I was sad to see the nasty rant from the poster regarding the war. I was strongly against going to Iraq too, and have sadly seen the situation become more dangerous since March 2003. But Patriotism is non-partisan, and I appreciate the dedication of our men and women there, and the sacrifices they and their familie have made, and continue to make. I wish for future decisions in our foreign and defense policy that will allow you to come home safely and soon. Please keep writing. Thank you for your service and for sharing your perspective with us.

I hope the focus can stay on YOU and your fellow members of the military, and that the feedback and comments will stay away from references to Jane Fonda or war criminals. There are plenty of other places on the web to give your thoughts on those comments. This shouldn't be highjacked into some partisan rant. I think most of us will agree on that.

Posted by: hucklberry friend | October 19, 2006 11:32 PM

Thank you for serving and sharing your thoughts and experiences. I too was at Al Asad and the sulfur smell is intense. The fresh smell from home sometimes made it their in care packages. I wish you a safe and happy homecoming. Don't worry everything will feel like new, yet very familiar. Iraq makes you different, but you're still you.

Posted by: Sally | October 20, 2006 09:31 AM

All you GIs in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing a great job. Be advised that the anti-war nutcakes over here are nothing more than shrill, naive children. They are not worthy to gather up the crumbs under your table. You have volunteered to sacrifice your life for your countrymen. They have volunteered to live freely under the umbrella of safety that you have provided. GBU.

Posted by: USAF Vet | October 20, 2006 11:15 AM

>anti-war nutcakes over here are nothing more than shrill, naive children

Is there any war that America has perpetuated that deserves criticism? Is there no way for a citizen to withold support for a war if they feel that it is unjust, without being accused of cowardice or weakness?

You may be a vet, but it's still possible that you're dead wrong about this war. Blind patriotism never did the world much good.

Posted by: Canuck | October 20, 2006 04:59 PM

Bert:

As an old soldier who has many times been a long way from home but has never heard a shot fired in anger, I am grateful for your service and your sacrifices. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and all your comrades. Come home safe.

Posted by: Stephen | October 21, 2006 12:37 AM

Millions of people have been killed by the West around the world.

Here is a very short list for your review.

1- The Holocaust
2- Vietnam
3- Iraq
4- Afghanistan
5- Native American Genocide
6- Australian - Aboriginals Genocide
7- Japan - use of atomic bombs against civilians
8- Russia
9- World War I
10- World War II
11- World War III - The West is getting ready for the World War III but it is too late. Asia is too strong think of China, India, and Pakistan.

Read More ...

http://pakistan1947.blogspot.com/2006/09/war-to-colonise-hearts-and-minds_19.html

Posted by: Muhammad Azeem Akhter | October 21, 2006 02:35 PM

Regarding the last post, I have this to ask:

But other than that, we are OK, right?

We invented the high speed, digital computer for you to send your little love notes to the West as well. I will bypass your hate filled website, if you don't mind.

To Bert: When I got off the plane in Virginia, the smell of green trees carried on a spring breeze filled my senses. The simple smell of french fries at the snack bar was suddenly nostalgic and powerful. Not entirely for what they were, but for me what the smell of them meant. It is all here, just waiting for you all. It has never smelled sweeter, and will only be better when I know all of you are here too. Take care and be safe.

Posted by: CW2 Hill | October 23, 2006 08:43 PM

Hey Bret, It happens dear! But the way you expressed is very nice and touchy. Me too still in Kathmadnu, and each day i miss my mother who is very good cook and the very lovely mom of this world.hehehehe.... Sometimes I miss home very much, afterall home is home. A single room in Kathmandu where I live alone never can be home. No one is with me to ask weather I would like tea or milk in the morning. No one is with me to ask lunch at lunch hour. I have to wake up and prepare myself, it doesnt matter that I am very bad cook and the food which i make for myself always horrible to eat but I don't have any option. It's the life because we must work. We should work.
Anyway keep on writing, I really missed it.
CheerSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!
www.saynasomething.wordpress.com

Posted by: Say na Something | October 24, 2006 12:24 AM

Thank you CW2 Hill for your service and how you are still defending both America and our troops.I came across this blog in a google search looking for updates on something entirely different. However, it applies to what I hope everyone is concerned with.Last night I left 2 posts in O'er the Land of the Free...I hope all go and read them and will safeguard themselves appropriately.Our troops volunteer to protect us.They are our Heroes.They don't create conflict,they end it.I dismiss ANY opinion that blames our troops for going or that they are blindly obeying orders.A soldier is subject not only to orders,his/her conscience rules. Are all soldiers good people?They are people.Are all doctors, janitors ,csr reps,store clerks, good?So to take a bad apple to represent the bunch is wanton ignorance. Our soldiers as a group aren't good...They are the BEST WITHOUT COMPARE!!! They can't protect us from all threats though.Some threats we can't stop from happening.But we can choose individually to not get sucked in out of convience or fear.I honestly pray if you haven't heard what's being creeped into our lives that I left in those posts,that you check it out and consider the ramifications of where it leads. GOD BLESS.

Posted by: L.C. | October 24, 2006 10:37 AM

Muhammad Azeem Akhter:
The raping and killing of innocent victims is wrong, regardless of who does it. That is why there are laws that prosecute those who do these evil deeds. However, two wrongs do not make a right! Grabbing someone who has nothing to do with the crime and beheading them, putting a roadside bomb, or setting off a suicide belt in a market out of revenge does not do anything but make things worse.
I've heard many say that the people that are doing this are zealots, radicals or fanatics that do not represent the majority of Muslims. I'll accept that, but when I hear average Muslims trying to excuse these behaviors by saying they had no other option, or saying that its OK because they are infidels, I have to admit that it bothers me to no end.
How can we have any type of civil solution when we are told "you are not Muslim, so you should die."
At that point, civility goes out the door and it becomes a matter of you or me. The only way out of this mess is by talking and finding common ground, that is very hard to achieve if basically you want to see me dead, and you don't really care if I kill you because you want to be a martyr and spend eternity with some virgins.
While you ponder these comments, take a look at Japan, Italy and Germany. They haven't done too badly have they? It was a terrible shame that they were involved in a war that cost thousands upon thousands of lives, but ultimately they found that there are better ways of dealing with issues other than war.
America does not want Iraq, that country belongs to the Iraqis. I think we've demonstrated that. Iraq needs to help itself by setting aside their hate and learning to live with each other because if they don't they will die apart. One way or another, Americans will leave Iraq. It may be in a few months or a few years, but it will happen. If the people of Iraq don't get $#!+ together, they will go down in flames or be taken over by someone who will make Saddam look like a saint...

Posted by: James | October 24, 2006 12:22 PM

thanx for ur service and semper fi to u... i talked to ur folks and they are very proud of u as we all are of our "kids" in service to "old glory", neat pic of u on the MARINE CORPS web site,,,dadcahalan@yahoo.com

Posted by: charlie cahalan | October 24, 2006 08:13 PM

My husband was a 30 year veteran from Korea to Vietnam, and I being a military widow still have the feeling of being proud of all our men in a war that they didnot want I am sure of that, but have done what they volunteered to do. I feel very sorry for the anti-war people I hope they learn to appreciate the freedom our guys have provided for all, our way of life, and wonderful way of life...we have had our times that is sure but my respect for these men will never be lost to some who have never served a day of service for their country as we did 30 years of Airforce Service and very very proud of it, keep up the good work guys and GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU. GOD SEE ALL OF YOU HOME SAFELY.

Posted by: rita barrett | October 25, 2006 08:39 AM

Bert,

Like you, and for the many who have preceeded us, or who will follow in our paths, war is a component of our world. From VietNam to Desert Shield/Desert Storm, I have experienced what war does to a person. It changes us. We consciously took the oath of our profession, to honor and defend the United States of America. I am proud to say that "I am an American fighting woman, I am prepared to give my life for my country." If called upon to serve again, I will report without hesitation, my patriotism ingrained in me by my father, a survivor of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

I know what it's like to lose the power to recall those things we take for granted. What I missed most on my deployments, up to 2.5 years, was the fragrance and feel of crisp, cool mountain air during the autumn months, and the smell of a freshly baked MacIntosh apple pie.

Thank you for covering my back, and for writing. You bring a perspective to the table that only a soldier, sailor, airman, marine or coastguardsman on the front lines can.

Posted by: Donna de Wildt, USAF Retired | October 25, 2006 10:29 AM

Bert, Just stumbled on to your site and come away hoping more people do the same. What a great opportunity for folks to get a genuine image of a soldiers insight and incredible 24/7 story of survival in a surreal situation that no one should ever have to endure. I'm also struck by the mostly civil left/right dialogue that many chats don't enjoy. America is surely as divided now as any time since our own Civil War and unfortunately you and your brave brothers and sisters in arms are stuck in the middle of the source of that division. Please be aware that even the leftest of the Liberal side of this political division is firmly with you and is tirelessly working on your behalf to bring you all home ASAP. Voting this presidents neocon influences out this Nov. will speed the process and give the world a legitimate super power that can influence rather than threaten to achieve our goals. God bless you and your buddies and we'll always be with you.

Posted by: bill h | October 26, 2006 12:18 PM

Hi Bert,
I went looking for some fellow soldiers blogging and found you at my first foray! Thank you for your service. You make me proud to have served my country and proud that you are continuing that tradition. As a triple amputee saved by a bunch of flyboys, I envy you your service. I wish I could have done more myself, but that's the luck of the draw. At least I gave the Forces 6 sons and 3 daughters, 1 of my boys died in Iraq and another in 'Stan, but that too is part of doing my patriotic duty.
My wife has served the military by having babies, I continue to by supporting our troops by whatever means I can, wherever they have to serve. I hang out where other soldiers do and help cheer up those who are down.
You are now also in my prayers. No one wants to have war, but we must serve to protect that which we have, right? I pray for the protesters and now also for that Muslim guy who posted before me as well, that they may be saved by accepting Christ and His love in their lives. I pray that some fellow soldiers do not disgrace themselves and all of us.
Post again soon, I like what you write.
Be safe, may you come home and GBU.

Posted by: Rich from Nam | October 28, 2006 12:54 AM

Xenophobes do not leave any chance to criticise Muslims anywhere in the world, although, the overwhelming majority of the Muslims is not practicing Islam. Actions of the Muslims clearly show that they are not interested in following commandments of Islam as individuals or as a society.

Xenophobia is the driving force behind the actions of the West and its propaganda against the Muslims. The Western media is trying hard to imply that all Muslims are fundamentalist and extremists. The current increase in the vilification of the Muslims by the Western media and politicians is a proof of this.

Adolf Straw, Professor of Theology, Neo-Nazi University of Auschwitz spearheaded their attack. The xenophobes want to impose the Western values on the Muslims to control the political resistance posed by the Muslims around the world.

Read More ...

http://pakistan1947.blogspot.com/2006/10/myth-of-fundamentalism.html

Posted by: Muhammad Azeem Akhter | October 29, 2006 11:54 AM

Muhammad Azeem Akhter,

I must admit that I have been a bit too busy in the past few months to really focus on the news media and the anti-islam propaganda that describe, but I don't really see things the way you describe them. I have seen no one declare that all muslims are fundamentalists and extremists. I don't even know of anybody who admits publicly to feling this way. I think what is being spread in the Western mass media is that a few bad apples amongst the followers of Islam are creating trouble for the entire muslim world.
Is it at all possible that there are people in the East that spread negative propaganda about Western peoples and attempt to portray all Westerners as those who wish to destroy Islam in attempt to rally towards their own cause. What I am getting at is that propaganda is not a new tool employed only by the West.

Posted by: Bill | October 29, 2006 07:30 PM

I understand the smell of war. I was not in favor of this war,but I must still support the people who serve, because they must fight.
please come home safe.

Posted by: rimills@charter.net | October 30, 2006 10:11 AM

Che,

You still have not graduated to the world beyond cut and paste computer skills I see.

Posted by: Bill | October 30, 2006 04:31 PM

I am a Senior Citizen, Former Navy Wife, Air Force Mother but 1st & formost a Marine Brat.
I want you to know that I support you, my oldest son leaves in 2 months to go back to the "sandbox", this will be his 3rd trip to fight. Last yr my son missed the smell of Xmas trees, pumpkin pies, burning of leaves.
I will be here to support his wife & children here in North Carolina home to the Air Force,Army & Marine Corps.

I will tell you the same thing I tell his family each time he leaves- don't count the days - only the Sundays, makes the time seem shorter. Each time he leaves to do his job, I tell him "SEMPER FI"
Take care & I pray that you will be home soon to learn those smells again

Posted by: Marine Brat | October 30, 2006 05:26 PM

I just stumbled upon this blog and was compelled to comment. My brother was just recently deployed to TQ. He is with the 659th maintenance co. I pray for my brother who is related by blood but I also pray for my other more figurative brothers and sisters in arms who are all over the world right now.

I will be joining the ranks of active duty in a few years and I know that I will eventually need to fill very big boots of those great soldiers before me once did.

Posted by: Cadet | October 31, 2006 01:54 AM

Muhammad Azeem Akhter,

Are there xenophobes out there? Yes, there are. But there is also a lot of misinformation, misunderstandings, and lack of knowledge about the Muslim culture. I freely admit that I don't know a whole heck of a lot about Muslims, so for better or worse I depend on things like the evening news, NPR, newspapers, and documentaries to try to fill the gaps. Unfortunately, I can't say if the image formed by all of these sources are true to real life or not. But if they aren't correct, then I believe it's up to average Muslims to set the record straight. If the voice that is being heard and being interpreted as belonging to the Muslim community is that of radicals, then Muslims are guilty of allowing these radicals to hijack your religion as well as your culture. If beheadings, torturing, and bombings are not part of Islam, then the average Muslim should stand up and denounce these actions. If the Majority of Muslims frown on these radical actions, then take back your religion and your culture and show the world what it means to be a real Muslim.

Personally, I don't consider myself a xenophobe. If anything, I'm trying to let you and other Muslims know what it looks like from someone who is on the outside looking in. I'm trying to find out what the majority of Muslims think about violent, senseless attacks on fellow Muslims, by Muslims, and all I hear is that "it's the fault of Americans." Quite frankly, it looks like some Muslims can't bring themselves to criticize another Muslim regardless of what they may be doing. If I'm wrong, please prove me wrong! I'd like nothing more than to see other Muslims stand up and say, "this is not what Islam teaches and it will no longer be allowed." I want to see the Islam that teaches tolerance and I'd like to see Muslims stand up to those who have stolen their religion and reclaim it. If there is a silent majority of Muslims out there, they need to speak up because right now the only thing most people are hearing is a very loud, very violent, minority...

Posted by: James | October 31, 2006 10:11 AM

Bert,

Its been a couple of weeks since your last post, I hope all is well. Be safe!

Posted by: Friend of a friend | November 2, 2006 10:30 AM

Che,

Are you telling us that a Republican congressman has personal troubles, which we all have from time to time, or that Democrats are muck rakers, which they claim not be?

Che, I hope your personal private troubles don't ever get you into trouble at work because I can only assume that if your boss started probing into your personal life that you would certainly call upon the ACLU.

Hypocrisy and self righteousness, the calling card of the Democratic party.

Posted by: Bill | November 3, 2006 11:02 AM

CWO-- thank you for helping us to know a little bit of how it feels being there at TQ. My son is there, also
Good luck and god bless.......take care!!
Navy CB Mom in R.I.

Posted by: NavyMom | November 3, 2006 03:08 PM

Bert,
WOW! I can't even imagine!! We, here in America take so much for granted. Do we race out the door in the morning and take notice of the fresh air we breathe, the blue sky, the bright sunshine, or the moon at night with the bright stars? Do we think about it when we walk out our doors and don't have to look around to see if we need to dodge bullets and run for cover?

Do we even give one thought and thanks be to God that we have soldiers and sailors protecting our rights not to have to think or be cognizant of those facts?

Do we thank God each day that we have people like you, Bert, who miss holding their loved ones in their arms, who miss the sweet smells of home, who put their lives on the line so we can hold our loved ones, can smell the sweet smells, can walk out the door in a peaceful atmosphere, can worship God and be thankful to HIm for what you all are sacrificing?

I pray that all of you will come home soon, to those sweet smells and memories that are still here, but are, at this time, memories to each of you. I realize that isn't going to happen as soon as would be prayed for.

Know that my church prays for all of you constantly. We give thanks to all of you and for all of you, and ask God to protect and bring you all home. There are several of our own congregation that are serving in Iraq at this time. One has already earned a purple heart and was sent back to be wounded again. He has never whined or complained. He and his family give thanks that God protected him and gave him the opportunity to continue serving his country.

My son-in-law was in Iraq a little over a year. His humvee was hit by an explosive device. By the Grace of God, he survived, the two other soldiers were blown out of the vehicle and lost their lives. He was sent home for surgery. He has never whined or complained. He is thankful to God that he is alive and well.

To all of those whiners and complainers,I would say, read your Bible; read the prophets. It's all there. It's God's way --not our way. It's not even President Bush's way -- He's just a pawn in the plan. We can blame whomever we want to blame, but unfortunately, someone had to take a stand and rid Iraq of Hussein's evil.

There are many people in Iraq who are thankful to have some kind of normalcy in their lives,and our soldiers are providing that for them. We pray that this will come to an end so that the Iraqis can live, as we do, without fear.

I would also say to the whiners and complainers, try praying. Pray for peace, pray for the soldiers,our brothers and sisters, who are defending your right to whine and complain, and all of our rights to pray. Try walking God's road to peace through prayer. He'll listen and He'll act, but God needs to get all of our attention.

And, if you don't have a job, get one. That will keep you busy doing something productive. You won't have as much time to whine and complain and protest things that you should be supporting, if for no other reason than human beings' lives are at stake every day -- for yours!

To all of you who are defending our country, I would say, may God be with you and He is with you. He already knows what is going to happen. May He bring you home to your loved ones' arms and the sweet smells of home. I am reminded of the song by John Denver, "Country Roads." John Denver always was a symbol of America and Apple Pie!

Thank you, Bert, for providing a touch of insight for those of us who care about all of you and support our country.

May God be with you and all of the sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, who are engaged in the battle for life,liberty,the pursuit of happiness, and freedom for all Americans, as well as people of the entire world.

We pray that we will eventually see, "One National Under God, with liberty and justice for all." May God protect all of you and bring you back to the sweet smells of home and your loved ones arms.

Posted by: Tricia P | November 3, 2006 03:19 PM

Hi, Bert---
I sometimes check in on your site, and I really loved this one. My sense of smell left, I think permanently, a few years ago when I had sinus surgery. Now that my husband is actually living with you temporarily, I sometimes take his clothing out of the drawers and bury my face in it trying to smell him there, and I can't. What I do miss in a sensory way (but you might know) is the sound of his guitar-playing coming from the bedroom while I am cooking dinner. One day I was listening to my iPod, just letting it play songs in alphabetical order, and it happened upon a recording of a song that he plays regularly; its unexpected start caused me to stop what I was doing and to stand motionless, to close my eyes and imagine him playing in the next room. It was like the unexpected scent that brings you to an exact moment. Listen for me until the tour is over.
Take care of yourself!

Posted by: your roommate's wife | November 3, 2006 08:21 PM

Correction to 11/03/06 comment if anyone is still reviewing. Sorry -- it should have said in the last paragraph, "One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all."

The old adage of "haste makes waste" still applies. I was rushing, as we do in America, to get ready for work. Something our soldiers and sailors are giving us the ability to do. Thanks and God Bless.

Posted by: Tricia P | November 5, 2006 06:18 PM

For all those like Che who believe that corruption is limited to the Republican party, its time to wise up a bit.

Posted by: Bill | November 6, 2006 04:18 PM

Hey, what happened to Bert? Does anyone have any news?

Posted by: E. Etage | November 7, 2006 01:19 PM

Bert--just want to say THANK YOU to you and all the men and women over there. I honour you all very highly. A salute to everyone and another thank you. Have missed a few off your postings, so was just trying to catch up with all of them. Bert I also live in a free country and so my fellow countryman has a right to say as he thinks but he should not purport to represent all us Canadians, certainly not we who have heard a few bullets fly past our own ears which I doubt he ever has. Maybe he enjoys a freedom he never earned personally. The beer is great in Canada Bert, and I'll be proud to buy you a few buddy. Now keep your head down and a tight (you know what) Just stay safe pal. Good Luck to you all and another salute.--Hap

Posted by: hapstokes@shaw.ca | November 9, 2006 05:10 AM

Bert won't be posting anything else while in country. He was ordered to stop writing his blog while in this country and while under the Marine commands control. I guess there will be more to read when we get home.

Posted by: Soldier | November 9, 2006 09:08 AM

That is a shame, Bert if you are allowed to at least read the posts, God bless you and all our troops. Thank you for your service to our country and those in Iraq. I pray God is our troop's first duty. And for all our troop's sakes, DON'T let the military give you a implantable chip in lieu of" dog tags". Please post when you get home so we know how you are doing. You've got a little of our hearts with you...

Posted by: LC | November 19, 2006 12:33 AM

Hello Bert:

Your letter about forgotten smells reminds me of recent thoughts. I was just reflecting on the all the details I have forgotten about my deceased mother.

If there is something I can send you from the States that smells good, please jot me a note and an address. I will try to mail it to you.

All here in my nieghborhhood are behind you 100%. Tell your mom we are very proud of you.

Sincerely

Matt Berry

Posted by: Matt Berry | November 24, 2006 02:10 PM

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