"OK. I'll go pick it up later." "Well, I can't talk now, Ma. I'll call you later. I gotta go [CTI?] [MTI?] [CIT?]. I got all my gear back from Iraq. Hey, you should see my IBA [Interceptor Body Armor]! The vest is just covered in blood, Ma. I mean covered... not a spot of green left on the front." The image flashes through my head of the last time I saw him in the vest the January night he deployed and I remember the green camouflage vividly. I conjure up an image of what it looks like now. I tell him, "Take pictures. You'll want them later. And I'm sure your Dad and brothers will want to see." I know I'm not really wanting to see it.
Then I'm up and out doing errands, including tracking down the Time Magazine. And, sure enough, there in the March 27, 2006 issue on pages 26-27 is a huge picture of 3rd Platoon standing in the mess hall (or rather what's left of it) in ar Ramadi. Of course, Noah's not in the picture; he was already home WIA. It bothers me a little that it's the poster for Time's "Was It Worth It?" story (Dear Time: Did you think to ask any Iraqis whether they thought it was worth it? I digress.) The guys in this picture were the recipients of 18 dozen of Melinda's (Most Certainly Not) world famous chocolate chip cookies this past holiday season.
He has fallen behind on some of his college class work because he hasn't been able to get computer online time, so he's now getting internet access in his room. We discuss his class selections, degree requirements, career paths, and at some point he says, "You know, Mom, I'm probably in this for the long haul." (He means the Army) and I say, "Well, you're 20 now and if you live to 90, you got 70 years ahead of you. Might as well fill it with good stuff."
We talk about the upcoming promotion boards, the benefits of being in one platoon over another, how each of Our Guys is doing. I tell him his brother has been selected as Lead Petty Officer on his boat, but when he asks I can't tell him what the Army equivalent is.
Yes, he plans to attend his brother's wedding in Virginia in June. He says he also has a wedding in New York in July. He's still waiting to hear if his and a few other soldiers' requests for 4-day passes in May will be approved. They want the passes so that they can attend the wedding in Alaska of one of Matt Bohling's best friends who has invited the guys to come in honor of their mutual friend who was killed in Iraq since Matt won't be there with her. She connected with Noah and Matt's other Army friends via my blog. She emailed me, I emailed the guys.
Noah has a block leave (vacation) coming up in the summer and we talk about his desire to spend it in Virginia Beach -- the scene of many happy family vacations in the past and near where his oldest brother is currently stationed. I tell him what a rental house costs for a week and I hear an "Oh." Then we review what it costs to jet ski, deep-sea fish, eat meals... and I hear another, "Oh." But then he mentions that maybe he can stay with his brother or with close friends of the family that live in the area. I suggest a trip out West so we can go riding and shootin' and stuff. We'll see.
He says he's contemplating a switch of cell phone companies as the one he has now charges him for every incoming call as well as outgoing and staying in touch just with his Team leaders and the others in his Company is costing him a small fortune. He's considering returning to the company that has a direct connect capability and we talk about one-year contracts versus two years and the approximate cost savings.
It was great to have a long, relaxed conversation with him when one of us wasn't doing something else or calling on the fly. I miss him. We haven't seen him since Tommy Byrd's funeral in November. I'm regretting a little not putting out the [big] bucks for an extra trip to Fort Benning for the Welcome Home 3ID bash tomorrow. It would have been nice to see the Guys, laugh and party and dote on them again, but I keep telling myself that I'll see them all WHEN THEY GET AROUND TO HAVING THE MEDALS CEREMONY... ggggrrrr.
Update: This was the Sledgehammer Soldier Salute from last night in Columbus, GA which was broadcast and hosted by WTVM. I didn't see Noah anywhere on first watching although he was there somewhere. The 2/69AR is covered at 21:30... and our good friend Lt Joe Walker is at 22:30 of the tape (he's the PLT leader for the guys that got the cookies)... at 32:00 the regimental commanders discuss MSM coverage of the war... at 35:20 when asked to describe their most memorable experiences of the deployment, 2 Lt. Cols. say it was the Iraqi people... at 44:00 on the tape, they cover the 29 dead of the 3 Brigade... the first soldier at 44:10 is Sergeant First Class David Salie, the soldier pictured above with his two youngest children... almost the full minute from 45:07 to 45:57 are the guys from Noah's platoon, including the 5 in his squad that died in the IED explosion in October. The 2-minute blackouts in the video where commercials were in the original broadcast are annoying, but at least you can manipulate the cursor to fast forward.
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