Monday, January 24, 2011


All good things have to come to an end and it looks like the end is
coming. I'm supposed to to be on active duty not longer than 120 days
with 90 days "in theater" (don't you love this term).  Actually, I
arrived in theater 10/23 so I'm already over 90 days and it will be
about 100 days by the time I leave although I've been assured that I
won't go over 120 days by the time I get home.  It's useless to argue
with them anyway. I'm not allowed to say when I'm leaving because
troop flights are considered classified.

Unit begins to assemble for the ceremony
Colonel pins medal

My replacement, Major Andrew Altman,  arrived this past Wednesday.  He's from
the Tennessee National Guard although he now lives in Michigan but all
of us have complicated lives.  Major Altman was in the Marine Corp for
four years before he even went to college or medical school which I
find extremely impressive.  He says that after he became a physician
he joined the National Guard as an enlisted soldier just to give
himself something different to do one weekend/month. Then after a
while he told them he was a physician and they reclassified him. He
did a 90 day deployment at some remote outpost in Afghanistan and then
he did a double deployment in Iraq. That means he did his 90+ days and
volunteered to do another 90+ days so he gets out of having to go back
to the USA and go through all that travel and orientation.  He did
this to try to save himself the 20-30 days going back and forth can
take.  He was hoping to get double credit so he wouldn't have to
deploy again for a while because he was planning to move to another
community.  Guess what, he finishes the double deployment about 20
months ago and he's already back in Iraq!!  He said they told him
physicians are resigning (surprise)  and are in short supply so he was
told that he had to go back.  He has four kids and he's upset that
he's away from the youngest who is six years old. He says he's going
to get out of the army even though he doesn't have enough time to
qualify for a pension.  It would be an awful shame if the army has to
lose someone as special as him.  I tell him maybe he can come back
again when he's older like me.


I really did not expect something like this but this is a combat zone
and apparently the army takes your work out here very seriously.  Your
commanding officer has to write up a commendation reviewing your work
and citing your actions and accomplishments.  I do have to say that
even after being here this long I wasn't prepared to to be called up
in front of the unit and given a medal.  I was never even in the cub
scouts, boy scouts or even the Little League.  Plus other than the
Colonel the majority of these soldiers are younger than my son Eric
and many are younger than my older daughter Rebecca (many of them also
remind me of both of them as well).  Life is largely whatever you
choose to make of life.

Tomorrow I begin the ordeal of packing and preparing for military air
travel to Kuwait.  Travel is usually with a C-130 Hercules
and this is always an adventure.  You sit on these improvised straps
in the cargo bay carrying your weapons and wearing your flak jacket
and battle helmet.  It's actually a lot of fun.  I'm supposed to then
wait several days at this air base that is literally in the middle of
the desert in Kuwait for my flight to the United States but I don't
want to get ahead of myself.

The ceremony consisted of Physician Assistant Susan
Harcke being promoted to Captain and Major Martin Lesser
being awarded the Army Commendation Medal.
Colonel removes the Lieutenant insignia (velcro) and replaces it
with the Captain insignia.
Somebody told a joke (I think it was me)
Back at attention
Colonel pins medal
I thank the Colonel
Colonel (on my right), and Command Sergeant Major
(on my left).
Back to my formation. 
Colonel decides to tell a story
Captain Susan Harcke (Captain's insignia is the two bars) and Major Martin
Lesser (Medal is attached to the green and white ribbon)


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