Saturday, August 07, 2004

97 Days and Heavy Hearts

August 7, 2004

Sometimes it’s not enough to say there is a tremendous amount of nobility in what we are doing. Sometimes it’s not enough to hear that we are heroes. Sometimes it’s not enough to sense we are here for a greater good. Sometimes it’s just not enough.

97 Days and Heavy Hearts.

For the 27 members of the 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment, it’s just not enough anymore. We know we’re noble, we know there is a certain amount of heroism in what we are doing (although we don’t feel like heroes), and we know there is a greater good in our mission. We’ve spent 10 long months ensuring all that is true. We can see the end in sight and it’s that vision that is pushing us through the last few months.

Driving On. Sucking it up. No Looking Back. These words are a great idea and 7 months into the mission, they motivated us to continue working hard to finish the job and to still feel good about our role in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“According to the information we have right now, the 222nd BOD is going to be extended in their tour of duty in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, from 365 days to 462.”

97 Days.

It’s not about what we are dealing with over here anymore. We’re talking about three additional months of what we are not dealing with at home. Here are a few examples.

Specialist Keith Gatlin, 24, has a nine-month-old baby at home. He saw his only son for two days before he left the states last fall. By the time he gets home in January or February, his son will be about 16 months old. He misses his first tooth, his first step, his first words. He misses the diaper changes (he might be okay with that), the giggles, the cartoons, the cute baby clothes. He misses invaluable bonding opportunities.

Specialist Jason Scott, 28, has been married less than three years. His wife, Lupe, who is also in the military, was deployed for a year before he was deployed. They have seen each other a total of about six months. When they saw each other over R and R, they had to reintroduce themselves. By the time it felt normal again, Jason had to leave. Now, these newlyweds have to wait even longer to start being husband and wife.

Specialist Abbey Cayanan, 21, has been away from home since April 2003. She enlisted in the military to get more out of life. Not for college or money or a way out. Simply because she wanted to give back. She left for basic training and the day after her graduation, she was ordered to Iraq for a year. Every day, she gets on the radio for four hours to entertain the troops to ensure their morale is high. All Abbey needs to maintain her morale is to know her 365 is coming to an end. Now she has to muster the energy for an additional 388 hours of music, laughter, and entertainment. That will bring her total to 22 months. 97 days is breaking her morale as she works tirelessly to ensure ours.

Staff Sergeant Ken Scott, 36, has been married less than a year. With this extension, he will miss his first anniversary, first two holiday seasons, birthdays and a chance to start a family.

Major Greg Gordon, Sergeant First Class Michael Sandknop, and Staff Sergeant Joe Williams. All three of these men have their own businesses that are crumbling due to their ‘part-time’ jobs as soldiers. Not to mention the families and wives they left behind and the daunting task of picking up where they left off – both financially and emotionally.

There are countless other examples but I think you get the idea. We understand we have a job to do so please don’t think we are giving up. I just want people to understand the very serious consequences to these extensions. We just want to know why. We need a ‘because.’ If we had those answers, we might be able to understand why it is essential for 27 broadcasters to put their lives and families on hold for an additional 97 days. We aren’t trying to secure Fallujah or train the new Iraqi Security Forces. We aren’t responsible for rebuilding homes or schools or hospitals. We don’t understand why and no one has an answer for us. Only to say ‘drive on, suck it up, no looking back.’

A year is a long time away from what is comforting, familiar, and normal. As soldiers, we understand our call to duty so we accept those sacrifices. There comes a time, however, when we stop throwing out words like ‘heroism, duty, and honor’ and we substitute them with ‘family, home, and career.’

The first three words are what get us through our intended tour of duty. The last three are what motivate us to finish the job.

Heavy Hearts.

The 222nd Broadcast Operations Detachment and countless other soldiers who have been extended ‘just because.’

With Love,


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