Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Honor & Remember

Today I had the honor to accompany my oldest son Hunter to the Memorial service for his science teacher's Fallen Son Sgt Sean Collins. We woke up to a light snow dusting the ground & frigid temperatures. We had been told to expect some small groups of protesters outside the church so we grabbed our small American Flags & gloves just in case we needed to stand outside to shield the family. I was very happy to see the sun pop out & bright clear skies appear about thirty minutes before the family arrived. The Patriot Guard Riders stood at the entrance to the church with flags to greet all who entered. I was also happy to report that said protesters never showed up & we went inside to sit with many of Sean's friends, family, & military through out the community.
The Chaplain who spoke at the service did a great job relating Christ's birth & the Christmas story to Sean's life. They did a wonderful Mass which I had never witnessed for him along with the sacrament.After the formal religious portion his older brother spoke about Sean & his ability to test each of his siblings patience. But also his uncanny tenderness & compassion that he possessed.He went on to speak of how Sean knew from a young age he wanted to be in the Army & how he chose to be Infantry even though he had many options. How his blogs while deployed could be harsh about certain aspects of the Army life. But he wouldn't tolerate anyone's opinion if they weren't Infantry either, so you had to watch what you said. I know Hunter & I left feeling as though we knew a little more about this young man's life & sacrifice he made.I am glad that I was able to go & pay my respects with my son to another of our Fallen Heroes.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas 2010

Well Christmas 2010 has come & gone. It always amazes me how slow a year can go when Paul is deployed & how fast it all flies by when he is home with us to enjoy the Holidays. We all enjoyed our Christmas Eve day with Paul taking two of the boys fishing for Chum. They didn't have any luck but had a lot of fun with their dad. I enjoyed a nice quiet house with Hunter & Jeremy watching all kinds of Christmas movies & cartoons until late afternoon. Once everyone was under one roof again we put some pizza in the oven & everyone was happy to take a couple group pictures. Paul & I knew we would treasure these snap shots this time next year.  He even showered & smiled with out complaint. The boys did pretty good, the usual few goofy shots where taken, but it wouldn't be a photo session in our home with out them.We then ate some good pizza which was the request for dinner & the boys waited anxiously to open gifts.

In our home we do gifts from all extended family on  Christmas Eve. As well as a couple small items from Paul & I. This keeps the chaos of Santa gifts down a little come Christmas morning.The boys made out with a lot of great toys, books, art supplies, & video games. Paul & I had a great time watching them & their faces light up with each new present. The rest of the evening was spent playing with all the new gadgets & Paul putting together GI Joe vehicles. Thank goodness he was able to do that task this year. I am not as good at it when he is away & it can take forever.We finally got everyone into their beds around 9:30PM & waited patiently for them to all fall asleep. All of the boys but 1 know that Santa is mom & Dad, but they are required to "Believe" to get those big ticket items on their Wish Lists. It just makes it more fun for all of us! Jeremy was so wound up at 11ish I gave up & started sneaking around filling stockings & setting out the 3 items each boys receives from us aka Santa for Christmas morning. Then Paul & I headed to bed where I was to excited to sleep while Paul was snoring in minutes.
Christmas morning arrived around 6AM with Jacob the first one out of the bed rounding up all the guys with the cheerful "Santa came, WAKE UP!". I managed to rouse Paul dragging our tired selves to the living room to watch all the excitement of stockings & gifts being ripped open. I always love this no matter how exhausted I am from the late night before.Everyone seemed pleased & they where off to play all morning. We enjoyed our usual large breakfast & movie time later in the day. I managed to cook a nice Prime Rib dinner for the evening & we watched a little football. Everyone complained at the early bedtime but fell right to sleep out of pure exhaustion at the end of the day.
It was a very nice ,quiet Christmas & I wouldn't trade it for the world. I am glad we spent it in our home with just the kids & dogs for company. It will carry us through next year when Paul is away. Maybe next year the boys & I will venture someplace  else for the season so we can make the time go a little faster. I know not to wish my life away because each day is precious with Paul home. But it is hard when he is gone not to wish that year would move a little faster each day. A double edge sword is what time can be in my world.I hope everyone enjoyed their loved ones this Christmas as much as we did.
Merry Christmas to you all & may everyone have a very Happy New Year in 2011.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Heroes at Home...

Paul & all four boys took advantage of the Sears Heroes at Home gift card we received for Christmas this year. I dropped all four boys off with their dad yesterday after the dentist at the store. I got to head home & enjoy the nice clean ,quiet house for the afternoon. The boys where armed with a short list of things I told them I would enjoy & they headed off on a mission! Paul hates to shop so this was HUGE for all of them to go brave the stores days before Christmas!! I got one phone call home for a few further instructions but they did it all on their own.
A few hours later they came running in to go hide & wrap all the Christmas treasures before I could catch a glimpse-lol They had a lot of fun & are still talking about it today. So many thanks to all those who donated to Heroes at home & to Sears for helping my kids enjoy this Christmas shopping trip with their dad. The memory will last a life time- PRICELESS- even better then all the gifts under my tree!!!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A little background information....

I have a had few messages asking how Paul & I  met ? When we where married & how many times we have moved around. So I thought I'd give a quick recap of the past 17 years of our relationship for you all.
I met Paul through my brother who went to Basic with him at Fort Benning, GA back in 1990. Only speaking with those two knuckleheads over the phone for a few years while I was in college. I would send both guys care packages to Alaska when I was in college, but never met Paul in person until 1994 at my brother's wedding. I flew up to Fairbanks, AK for the wedding in July 94' . At a dinner I got a glimpse of my future husband leaning over a staircase to say "Hi"- he was NOT what I expected. My brother had labeled a picture wrong & Paul was a different person all together. I was hooked by the time the rehearsal dinner was over !! I had to go out with him again soon but we where both dating other people at the time.After the wedding I flew back to Nashville to finish college & he stayed in AK. We started our long distance phone conversations that led to me flying up to Fairbanks for Thanksgiving of 94' & the rest is ancient history as they say.

He put in for a transfer to Fort Campbell, KY in the summer of 95' & I graduated from Lipscomb. We where engaged by August of 95' & planning a wedding. We had hoped to have a Spring wedding but of course the Army had other plans. Paul was to deploy to Panama in April of 96' so we moved our wedding date to January 6, 1996 & our life has been an adventure ever since!
I have done several "small" deployments through out Paul's military career. Small to most Army spouses is anything under  3 or 4 months. The Army does training all over so Paul has been to Panama,Japan, Guam, Korea, Iraq & soon Afghanistan . The most stressful times for me where the Iraq deployments. So I can only imagine how hard him leaving for Afghanistan will be for the boys & me. 
The first deployment to Iraq was in Nov of 2003 from Ft. Lewis.I had 4 children & the oldest was only 6 years old at the time! I helped stay busy with weekly Bible study groups & helping be a Point of Contact (POC) for Paul's families.We got very few emails & fewer phone calls as it was still the early days of the conflict. I finally had Yahoo Instant Message towards the middle of the deployment. I would wait up until really late in the evening to hear that wonderful "ping" sound when Paul would log in to his account. Some nights it never came.He returned safely to us in Oct of 2004. We where lucky to move over to a new Stryker Brigade they had just started on post because we weren't suppose to deploy for at least 24 months! Little did we know how fast that unit would get certified & leave for another deployment to Iraq in April of 2007.

I think we both felt the second deployment would be so easy a piece of cake as we had survived the first relatively easily. Paul took over a new Recon Platoon two weeks before the unit deployed which was great but a little unnerving for us both. We knew the soldiers but he hadn't had the chance to train with them as much as he had hoped before he left.Off they went on April 2007.Little did we know that day he left our world would be shaken to it's core & our marriage tested for 13 long agonizing months.
Paul's dad had a massive stroke the first few weeks he was gone,so in June he had to fly to Wyoming because we weren't sure he would live. I flew out to meet him & the family- he had only been gone a few weeks.But the unit had already lost two soldiers during that time & I was feeling the stress already. He flew back to Iraq after twelve days & I never saw him again until  May of 2008.During that time he would loose four of his men & his best friend as well. I would attend many more memorials for our Fallen then I had ever done in my life. I cried myself to sleep almost every night due to stress & worry. It was a long 13 months & this was not the "piece of cake" deployment Paul & I thought it was going to be when he left. Finally on May 5th 2008 two days before his birthday- the boys & I picked our Soldier up from Post!! We all cried so many tears as we where just so thankful God had let him return safely to us one more time. Set out to enjoy a quiet reunion time & wait for the rest of his guys to return as he was on ADVON. After the Main body returned in June of 2008 we all thought we could rest & relax but that just wasn't in the plan.
 "The Surge" began & once more our guys where called up for a rapid deployment & got ready to leave for Iraq again.It fell in April again & off they went. (See pictures of the last moments before the leave) To say I was nervous was putting it lightly. Paul was now a 1SG & had a whole new job. He was no longer in charge of 37 guys but over 125 soldiers fell into his hands. I was the FRG leader & felt I knew most of the families this time as a lot of the guys had already deployed with Paul two previous times. This deployment started off with a bang as I received the first call of our wounded as I drove down the road. I had to pull over when I heard the names of the wounded as once more one of them was a very close friend to Paul & I. Thankful to God that they all recovered & weren't hurt worse. There was no R&R for Paul for 9 months as he waited to see if he could come home a little early & stay after he changed out of his job.The boys & I managed filling our days with school, friends,& FRG activities. Finally on May 3rd this time , four days before his birthday Paul arrived home to Seattle airport. We still weren't sure if it was for good or just R&R but we didn't care! He was HOME! Turned out he was able to stay & find a new Unit/job that we thought was undeployable. He made the transition & we started in a whole new job for the first time in 6 1/2 years. New soldiers , new families, NO Deployments!!

Well as of last Tuesday  December the 14th that all changed again. Paul came home to let me know to prepare myself for another deployment but this time to Afghanistan. I didn't sob, but the tears slid down my face as I asked how we where going to tell the kids. He had only been home 7 months & I have to say we are still both exhausted. Not really physically but more mentally drained from the stress of back to back deployments. The kids are finally adjusted back to our normal routines & happy. This just wasn't fair!
I am normally the very supportive Army wife, never say " I can't do this" it's always "We got this!" & I move along. But I won't lie I had my moment of " I can't do this," "Why me?", & just flat out "NO!!". I cried all  night & got no sleep. Friends took me out the next day sleep deprived & helped me try to forget for awhile. With out these special Army wives who are more like family I surely would have sat in the house in tears all day. By the next day I was ready I could do this again because I had too be supportive for Paul & the boys. The press released dropped & I cried a little more. I still randomly tear up but I know we will be fine. I know the coming months will be filled with Paul training getting ready to leave. We still need to unpack his bags & boxes that sit in the garage unopened from Iraq. We will repack them change the labels to his new unit & kiss him goodbye. By the time he leaves he will know the boys & I will be fine. I can pay the bills, get the oil changed, help kids with homework, do the doctors appointments, meet his families, try to live my life for a year through pictures just for him.I can do all these things because I have done them before & his mind needs to be on his mission. Because the most important thing in my world & the boys world is him walking through those gym doors one more time at the end of 2012.I can do all these things with the help from God, my family, my friends, & because I know Paul loves me no matter how hard it gets!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Gold Star Spouses

Today we honor and recognize the widows and widowers of those who lost a loved one while serving their country. Recently a Senate resolution designated today as “Gold Star Wives Day” God Bless each and everyone of our Gold Star Families!
The families we know personally affected will always hold a special place in our families heart & lives. Never forget the sacfifice those left behind make for our country.
Alia Dahl  - Sgt Joel Dahl  June 28,2007 
Michelle Cooper - SFC David Cooper  September 5, 2007 
Courtney Kruse - Sgt Christopher Kruse  November 13,2007 
Courtney Runyan - Cpl Luke Runyan  February 17, 2008 
Stephanie Groepper- Cpl Chad Groepper  February 17,2008 


Friday, December 17, 2010

Let the insanity begin......

Well it's official we are jumping back on the deployment roller coaster. I am having a little trouble wrapping my brain around this new fact even though I have known it was a possibility for a little while now. This deployment feels different, a new unit, new soldiers I don't know. I have no role at present in the Family Readiness Group (FRG) for the first time ever that Paul has deployed. Which means I don't know any of the families that will be left here on Fort Lewis during this deployment,so strange. This was suppose to be our break time before deciding if Paul would continue his career in the Army or retire in the next year or two. 
Not sure how to tell my children, I know we are choosing not to tell them for the moment. Especially since Paul has only been home for 7 months from his last Iraq deployment.The boys are doing so well in school this year our main concern is to let them have a normal school year if  that is possible.
I am not going to pretend to be a writer during this time leading up to his deployment or during the duration. I simply thought this blog would be a good way for me to express my feelings & let civilians who have no idea what happens during a deployment get a glimpse of my world. At times it may be happy at others it may be sad or angry, so if you don't like what you see please feel free to not read.
For now we will go on with the childrens winter break from school and all the fun Christmas activities. We will not take one single second or tradition for-granted because we know next year Paul will not be here to enjoy them as a family. It makes everything a little bittersweet instead of joyful.I hope you all hug your husbands and children a little closer tonight- realize how lucky you are to have them home with you. Then please offer up a little prayer for all those serving who aren't that lucky this year & who make it possible for you to be home.